The last time they’d fucked, as she lay on her back, while he was inside her, he looked right into her face and asked ‘What colour eyes do you think our kids will have?’. It wasn’t such a funny question, between them they had the full range, one his being green, the other blue and both of hers being brown. Afterwards, when he’d gone, she curled herself foetal; and under the duvet, where it was hot, she fevered away, forgetting how to breathe.
It was late. She and a new he sat in the lounge, watching television, rolling spliffs. On the coffee table there was an unremarkable paperback, it’s spine broken. Around them the detritus of a lazy day, scattered across the floor and crumbled into the carpet. She was slouched in her pyjamas, eyes on stalks, hair all over the place, smiling, laughing, at new him, as he sat shoeless, legs stretched out on the sofa, right hand tucked into the waistband of his jeans. Outside it was raining. Inside the cat was curled on their unmade bed.
A knock at the back door called their attention. She stopped, mid three-skinner. He rose, long legs, big feet, a loping gait, and she watched his skinny backside disappear into the kitchen; she heard the door rattle against its frame, some mumbling, and then he came back into the lounge, his hand no longer in his waistband, instead it was passing through his hair and she could see his forehead and his frown.
‘It’s for you,’ he said.
‘Who is it?’
He didn’t look her in the face.
It was her turn to rise. She was barefoot. Her pyjama bottoms hung around her as if they were too tired to make the effort to cling. In the kitchen, right next to the door, stood the man who was still inside her. He held out a small package, something lumpy contained within a brown, manilla envelope. She took it.
‘What is it?’
He was crying.
‘What are you doing here?’
‘I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,’ was all he could say.
But she had heard it all before. The first time she thought it was an aberration. She didn’t understand. He explained. It didn’t help. The second time his father told her off and she felt like it was all her fault. The third time it frightened her, because he was so high, so massively high, and vital, full of adrenaline; he scared her.
She fought to remain impassive, the lumpy brown envelope in her hand.
He hunched his shoulders and turned away, opening the door into a flurry of rain, and she realised those hadn’t been tears on his face.
She stared after him, immobilised, trying to find focus, her gaze shifting from the wet footprints on the linoleum to the round handle of the back door. It was a strange maroon colour, too dark to be red, too light to be nearly black. She had bled once. With concrete feet she walked into the lounge. ‘They used to make plastic like that,’ she said, ‘brittle.’
New he was bent over the coffee table, licking another cigarette loose. ‘Yeah, out of formaldehyde, same stuff they pickle body parts in.’ He dislodged the tobacco from its paper case.
‘Why would anyone want to keep part of their body in a pickle jar?’ she said.
He looked up just as he twiddled the end into a perfect cone, ‘Because some things you can’t throw away’.