‘…and so, that’s kind of what I’m thinking for this story,’ she says, her voice lit up with excitement at the idea, her hands wild and expansive, in this small room that smells of other people’s bodies, with the duvet wrinkled over the bobbled grey sheet, her hair loose around her shoulders, slightly matted still. She pauses and wrinkles her nose. ‘I just can’t think of an ending for it, though. You know?’
She looks up at him, her eyes still dancing with the happiness of moments before, and the before that, keen for his answer, for his voice.
‘You’re not very good at endings,’ he says, looking at his hands. ‘Are you?’ he adds, looking up at her.
He sees, half horrified, the shutters came down behind her eyes. Her hands drop, and she starts making those silly, compulsive movements – woman-y movements that irritate him. He had noticed them yesterday when they had met up again; when she was nervous, before he had stripped her nerves away, to reach her.
‘Thank you,’ she said, her voice tight as a high-pitched drum. ‘For that.’
She starts to put her hair up, jabbing kirby grips in to hold herself in place, putting herself back together. She pushes flat the creases in her skirt, rubs her fingers together as though she wants to roll a cigarette between them.
He wants to kick himself. Why does he do this? Why does he give in to this desire to say something cruel, to jab at and cut down her happy chatter. Why does he need to pierce the bubble that lifts her up; prick her with reminders of where she is, why this is. He wants her lively eyes back – the eyes of a moment ago, or for her eyes to melt again into pools all damp and dreamy, the eyes of before.
And yet, he needs to remind her. It’s not fair of her, to pretend that a reality outside this small room and its wrinkled duvet doesn’t exist beyond the insistent drone of traffic. It’s not his fault that the reminder hurts her. It hurts him too.
‘Sorry,’ he says, his hands clumsy as he pulls her shoulders towards him. She is stiff, unwilling, and he can feel a tremor there, so that he knows she wants to cry but is too stubborn. He can’t see but he knows she’s biting her lip. Like before.