Tag Archives: marriage

excerpt four – a little heavy

At home Annette and Simon are eating dinner, a rare moment of relaxed solitude. It is as though the absence of Alice lightens the atmosphere, changes the feeling in the air, retrofits it with the reminder of the way things used to be.

As though it all never happened. Far from Simons mind are the hospital visits, the smell of plastic wrappers, disposable syringes and the copperish, sickly smell of blood. Annette’s mind has blocked those smells out, as though the threshold was passed back then, when too much had been had.

Whenever she thinks of that time her mind blurs into a hazy indistinction, interspersed with snapshots of little Alice growing older, getting bigger. Getting further away from a normal sibling age.

They never speak of them, the miscarriages. They never did. Only a brief sentence, a deadening of Annette’s eyes, always followed by that resolute statement, we will try again. They tried five times, and five times it failed to take hold, failed to stay in her body, to clutch onto life.

Each time Annette curled further and further in on herself, something like stone creeping through her body, stopping her organs, stopping her heart. She would sit alone for hours, her young healthy body hunched as she watched the world out of the window, the lines etching deeper around her twenty five year old eyes.

Simon tried to reach her. He tried to unthaw her body, using words, using his hands, using anything that he could to shake out some response, some sign of life.

He was broken too, and unable to help. He hated it. He hated watching her, hated seeing the hope in her eyes each time she found out, the terrifyingly hopeful way that she would track its progress, this tiny embryo buried deep in her body, as though her coveting knowledge would save it somehow.

Sex became mechanical, a disgusting process stripped of all its previous delicate intimacies, just another way to make it happen, to create another little baby, a little brother for Alice, always to try again.

It happened after the fifth time, when the fifth baby had been lost, the blood spilled dark and sticky on the carpet. Annette was twenty-six then, and something snapped.

It was as though she had curled too far, gone too deep inside herself, out of reach. Something inside her seemed to realize that it would never happen, and she decided almost stubbornly that they would no longer try. Simon was alerted to this decision by a subtle push, a resigned denying of his trained advances one night.

His body sighed relief, and though he felt a certain loss of the children that would never be, the siblings that Alice would never know, his overwhelming relief for Annette was bigger. He thought that that would be the end, that she would come back to him, in time seeking solace in his arms.

But she never came back. She slipped further and further away, wrapping herself in gym classes, home decorating, wine bottles. Her life became a search for perfection, a never-ending race to be flawless. The flawless, barren mother.

It became harder and harder for Simon to talk to her about it. He could not address this issue that caused her to cry in her sleep, could not comfort her. She would not speak about it, her face freezing if it was brought up, leaving the room as the forbidden tears began to prick at her eyes.

So Simon stopped trying. And soon the years passed, and the heartrending memories were covered in Christmases and forced smiles, P.T.A. meetings and baked cakes, all in an effort to forget, to push it all back under the surface.

But she never came back. She was never the same girl. Something was gone, some warm innocence, some happy expectation that life would be wonderful. She was harsher now, hard around the edges with realism and toned muscle, harrowed by the world.

Her smiles were shorter, her laughs didn’t linger like they used to, and Simon missed her.

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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.