excerpt three

‘Simon Holt.’

There is a crackle on the line, and then Annette’s familiar voice comes through, sure and disinterested, like always.

‘Hi Simon, listen, I’m going to Abigail’s tonight, her and Rachel are going over the seating plan for the meeting and I think I should be there. So you and Alice can just get takeaways or something, okay?’

He listens quietly, and responds as he knows he is expected to. ‘That’s fine honey, you enjoy your night. Thanks for letting me know.’ He knows what she will say, that she has already tuned out, focusing on something else now that she has said her piece.

‘Great. Say goodnight to Alice for me, I’ll be home late.’ The line goes dead, and she is gone.

Simon exhales as he replaces the receiver into the set, listening for the click. He revolves in his chair to watch the window. There are birds flying past, up here. Images from last night shower through his brain, ecstasy mixed with a frenzied thrusting, a scrap of black lace draped across the arm of a wooden chair, and those slim thighs, smooth and taut beneath his hands. He smiles to himself as he remembers, and rubs his jaw again as he watches the birds fly past, their wings dipping and catching, like sails in a high wind. He reassures himself that everything is fine between them, as though sex is the glue that will hold them together.

Annette is driving far below, two suburbs over, unaware that she is in Simon’s thoughts. She is speeding through the traffic, and it takes a while for me to catch up to her. Inside her small car it is hot, the sun beaming off the black leather interior. Her window is lowered just a few centimetres, and the music plays quietly through the front speakers. She is wearing a violet dress in the summer of the day, and the thin fabric flutters occasionally in the breeze. Her hair is up in a casual bun, loose waves threatening to escape.

There is a different energy coming from her today. She is vibrant, less disenchanted with the world. A blue sedan pulls out of a side street in front of her, and red brake lights loom up in Annette’s windscreen. Her reflexes are fast though, and it is less than a second before her hand is on the horn, her palm pressing against the black leather, angry blares issuing from under the bonnet.

It is clear from the energy in the car that she loves driving alone. She likes the space, the anonymity, the selfish recklessness of it. She maneuvers the car around the standstill blue sedan and her hand is on the gearstick, deftly cycling up through the gears, the engine revving anew at perfect intervals as she speeds through the city streets. In her mind she is celebrating something, but from all the surrounding energy in her space I can’t quite see what. She pulls up at a light and the heady sparks in the car drop to the ground, clearing the air. Her hair rests back against the seat, and from the backseat I get a sudden slice of her thoughts. She is also thinking about last night, relishing in her small victory. Alice wants to go to Jackson Hill. Although she may be unsure herself, Annette knows that she does. What twelve year old girl wouldn’t want to go camping with a boy that she has liked since she was nine?

Annette is smug in these thoughts, knowing that she has caused the right thing to happen, set the right wheels in motion. A hidden thought surfaces guiltily from the dark of Annette’s mind. A realization, or perhaps a premeditated motive, that the absence of Alice from the house may free up the weekend for other activities. This causes Annette to grin, her white teeth gleaming from under her lipstick. The man driving the Audi in the next lane catches her smile as he checks his side mirror, and snaps his head back in an obvious double take. He watches until Annette looks over, and tilts his head admiringly, his left eyebrow cocked with intrigue. She smirks back at him, biting her lip, as the light shines green and her foot pushes down on the accelerator, flooding the engine with petrol and shooting the car forward.

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