124. They Never Leave Their Wives

Photo by Plann on Unsplash

This, like all my short stories, is a work of fiction. It was inspired by a newspaper headline prompt on the theme of lockdown in a creative writing/flash fiction zoom class hosted by the author SJ Bradley. Thanks also to Comma Press and North West Libraries Reader Development Partnership.

Photo by Malik Skydsgaard on Unsplash

It’s not limbo. It’s purgatory. No, it’s hell. He’s all I think about. I should be baking sourdough or banana bread, or getting through that pile of hardbacks, painting watercolours, or even doing jigsaws like every other saddo, but I can’t focus.

Every day it’s the same. I start getting properly ready about 4pm. At 5:30, give or take, he goes for a run and rings me. I imagine him all hot and sweaty. If he doesn’t ring me on time, then I know he’s not alone. He says he sometimes pretends he’s listening to his voicemail, so I only get a breathless “hi”. Then I have to wait until he gets home. That’s the best bit of my day. The muted zoom call while he’s in the shower. We have about fifteen uninterrupted minutes to watch each other.

Oh God, what if he’s recording those and putting them on the internet!

I don’t think he knows that I activated his find my phone app, or he’d have said something. I keep thinking that I might drive to that woodland area where he runs, just so I can bump into him accidentally on purpose, but what if he’s got his kids with him? It would be just my luck to get questioned by the police for going out of area to exercise.

It’s not fair. He’s stuck in a loveless marriage with two ungrateful teenage kids and a fat nagging wife, while I’m here all alone, in this flat, wasting one of my hot years. Every other woman stopped wearing a bra months ago, and slobs around all day in pyjamas, eating what they want. Not me. Full make-up and matching lingerie, just in case he facetimes me from the supermarket car park.

I can’t stop worrying about whether he’s cheating on me with his wife.

Photo by Ross Sneddon on Unsplash

54. Simple Things

The boyfriend used to live in the States, so whenever I phoned him, I would get that familiar American single long ringtone, not the quicker double ringtone we have in the UK. He’s long since moved back to Blighty, but every time I hear that tone, in a tv show, I get the same apprehensive, heart-thudding feeling all over again. Evoking the anticipation of joy. I’m pensive. The next ten minutes has to last me all week.

Like an old dial-up tone. Have I got an email? Are they in the chatroom?

I cannot wait to hear his voice. 11am there, 4 pm here. I’ve busied myself all day to pass the time until I can ring him. If he’s not expecting my call, what if he’s out, hung over or just woken up?

This was in the embryonic Internet days, not the immediate, free luxury of communication we have now. It was still more than my parents had. Whenever Dad was working abroad, he would arrange to ring Mum at a local phone box or friend’s house on a certain day and time. Kids looked after by a friend, she would wait. If he didn’t call, the next letter would have the revised time and date of when they could possibly next speak.