He groans loud when he releases himself inside me, biting down into the pink flesh of my neck. His weight collapses atop mine, the ground holding us both in our sin. But trees can’t talk like motel staff and bored housewives and the congregation, so this is the safest place we’ve known.
Cal’s breath starts to steady with mine, his heart slowing now that the thrill of fornication, the thrill of being here, the thrill of me is done. He kisses at my cheek and rolls onto his back, freeing me to sit up and look around at my happiest of places.
‘I wish my life looked like this all the time,’ I say.
‘Like what?’ he replies, thick brows furrowed as he looks up at me. He’s tugged his over-worn blue jeans up again. The afternoon catches the gold of his wedding ring for half a second, long enough for both of us to come back to reality.
‘Free,’ I say, once again resigned. ‘You shouldn’t wear that.’
He knows what I’m talking about. Twists the band of gold around his calloused finger a couple times before he throws the whole hand out of his sight, resting the back of his head on it instead.
‘You know I have to,’ he says to me.
‘You think you have to.’
I wipe away the beads of sweat and the strands of hair that have clung to my forehead. The shade of the trees is almost useless at cooling the summer sun here. Everything is harsher outside, especially him.
‘Kitty, don’t,’ he begs.
‘You think you have to, you don’t know,’ I persist.
‘I got a wife.’
I can’t help but laugh at that. ‘You’re hardly a husband.’
‘She’s… we ain’t going over this again.’
‘We’re always going over it, Cal,’ I say, collapsing back onto the grass and staring up at the nothingness. I can feel him watching me, squinting down at my still uncovered skin. ‘And we’ll keep going and fucking and going—’
‘Enough,’ he says. Cal looks away from me, as if the mention of what we do makes it more real than the marks he leaves on me, more concrete than the deed itself.
‘Of this?’ I tease.
‘What if I want it to be?’ I say, all stupid and proud the way he likes.
He snickers in response. ‘You don’t.’
I can’t answer that one. Not really. A breeze coasts through the leaves and over the surface of the creek before us, brushing against my bare chest before I sit up, covering myself with my bony knees and breathing in again. ‘What if I decide second best ain’t enough for me?’ I settle on saying.
‘I thought you liked being the secret.’
‘Everyone likes being a secret at the start.’
‘My cousin’s getting married this weekend. Big church wedding, nice man, good family. Maybe that’s what I want. Something I could actually have.’
He shakes his head at me, a hint of amusement on his face. ‘You’re no wife, Kitty.’
‘Only ‘cause you won’t leave yours.’
‘Georgia’s pregnant, Kit,’ he announces.
No emotion, no change of tone, no warning. He just says it. States the fact and lets it sit between us. Perhaps I’d be more upset about it if I didn’t already know. Town’s small and the circles are smaller. Georgia and I haven’t a thing to do with each other, but the giggling blond and her sister could hardly contain themselves in the diner. I saw the sonogram on the table, took my time placing their drinks down while I searched for a sign that it was the sister’s.
And there laid the final nail, in bold little letters on the bottom right corner.
Hadn’t said nothing ‘cause I wanted to hear it from Cal, but the outcome was gonna be the same, wasn’t it? Oh, this lover of mine who I can only call as such in our fleeting moments of lust and love and where is this going? I don’t know. Nowhere.
Cal doesn’t believe in divorce. It’d be against the Catholic upbringing he’s happy to grip back onto after each time he’s done with me. So leaving his perfect, little, now-pregnant wife? Not a chance.
‘How long you known?’ I ask, picking at the dry grass beside me.
‘What do ya think?’
‘I think you’ve never been unhappier.’
He furrows his dark brows at me, really looking into me for the first time today.
I don’t hesitate. ‘And I think you’ve only got you to blame.’
Cal unwraps my arms from each other, taking one of my dainty hands in his and kissing it. But it doesn’t feel the same now. It hasn’t felt the same since I saw that stupid sonogram.
‘I love you, Kitty.’
It starts to sink in now. I can feel it, my shoulders becoming stiff and my heart beating hard. I’m angry at him, angry at his perfect wife, angry at the child in her womb, at God, at our world, at me. I don’t know if it shows yet, my expression still blank as I keep my eyes on the quarry. I’m not reactive like Cal. Not impulsive and foolish and selfish. I’m in love, of course, but I don’t think we love the same way.
‘Not enough,’ I reply.
As much as I want to believe different, Cal’s a lover too weak for a love so strong as mine, as what ours could be. I drop his hand, letting go of him and what’s already lost between us.
‘It don’t have to be like this, baby,’ he says, his frustration leaking into his tone. ‘We can make it work.’
‘I know.’ I give him no more than a gentle smile. ‘But you won’t.’
I rise to my feet then, stepping out of my skirt and into the still water before us until, at last, I find my quiet underneath it.
Zali Meredith is an almost-graduated Creative Writing student at QUT currently serving as an editor of ScratchThat magazine, while also balancing multiple unfinished manuscripts, a sleep schedule that revolves around the Formula 1, and maintaining her impressive Duolingo streak.