The appointment

The light was starting to fade when I saw her crossing the road towards me.

The marketplace where we’d first met. That’s what she’d said in the message left for me at the office, and I’d never tell her that it took me a moment to recall where it was. I don’t think, in fact I’m pretty sure, we’ve never been there since.

Three years. Three years of secrets. Three years of lust. Three years of what-ifs.

And then, this morning, the simple message to meet where we’d first encountered each other. Once I got there, I remembered it all: the softness of her skin when I’d turned away from the groceries and had walked straight into her without seeing her; the mumbled apologies and the sharp blue of her eyes that had faded into the soft azure of acquiescence when I’d offered to apologise with a coffee; even the hard crash of the coffee-shop door as it had slammed shut in the wind.

She slowed as she approached me, the warring emotions on her face flitting through mild pleasure at seeing me, and ending with a poker face of blank stone.

I moved to kiss her and as she offered her cheek, my lips touched granite.

We walked to the place in which I’d bought her that oh-so-strong sweet smelling beverage and, without slowing, walked straight past it.

She did most of the talking; I listened most of the time. But the words were practiced and were no more than I’d expected: words like “betrayal” and “dishonesty”, “disclosure” and “deception”.

I’d been sleeping with her for three years, and still the words hurt more than I’d expected. And my features showed it.

At one point she stopped, suddenly slapped my face, put her hand to her mouth, then cried a little, and then we continued walking.

When we’d circled the block, and we were back where we’d started, she pulled out an envelope, and handed it to me.

She didn’t insult me by expecting me to open it, and I didn’t insult her by opening it in front of her. I just slipped it into the back pocket of my jeans.

“Monday?” she asked, quietly.

I nodded and she turned and walked away without looking back.

Off to her husband, the man who’d been paying me to sleep with his wife for three years.

She’d found out about it within three months and I’d honestly thought that was it, it was over. But no, we carried on, me earning my money from him, and an annual bonus from her, suffering only watching her once a year tear herself apart in front of me.

I sometimes wondered whether she’d ever confronted him, but I’d been too much of a coward, and too greedy, to ask her outright up until now.

With one hand on my cheek, softly rubbing where she’d slapped me, and the other on my back pocket, I knew I’d never ask.

There are always questions unanswered in any relationship; hopefully, only from those unasked.

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