We came downstairs to the hotel dining room. Our hair was wet. We smelled of shampoo and soap and we-got-out-of-bed-for-dinner. The waiter said the kitchen was closing.
‘It’s only eight thirty,’ you said.
The waiter said, ‘Closer to nine, sir.’
You gripped my hand and we left, you muttering, ‘I knew we should have stayed somewhere else.’ The carpet beneath us was swirled darkest pink and red, the colour of an open mouth.
We stepped out into the cold night and the orange lights along the beach glowed and flung light up into the navy sky. The sea was black ink. I thought of the creatures underneath the water, their fins, tentacles, teeth.
We found a cafe a few doors down that was still open. I ordered the quiche and you ordered the steak pie.
‘Christ,’ you said. ‘This isn’t the meal I’d planned.’
‘It doesn’t matter,’ I said.
I bent towards you, across the table, took your hands and pushed my forehead against yours.
You closed your eyes. ‘It does matter,’ you said. ‘I want this to be good.’
I pulled back and sat hard in my chair. ‘Stop worrying,’ I said.
The food arrived – the quiche yellow-green, almost neon, and your pie with its top singed black. There was a bowl of iceberg lettuce too, large enough to feed a crowd.
You said, ‘Now I know what despair looks like.’
I didn’t tell you that it was beyond good – the meal, the weekend, us – it was beyond everything. At least it was to me. I wish now I had said it.
In bed, you pulled my hair around your face, my face, so that it fell around us. Your fingers were soft and hard, sometimes at the same time. Your tongue too.
In the crucial moments, my hands shake – using an eyelash curler, drinking a cup of tea, watching you shave in the bathroom mirror, pulling your jaw this way and that, the razor sweeping against your cheek, your throat.
In the morning, I woke alone, the sheets cloud-white and smelling of us. The note you left on your pillow – gone for a swim. I wanted these things – your endorphins to go through the roof, your wide smile, your laugh.
I went to the window and saw you swimming, your long body moving in a line out to sea, the swell of the water around you, pushing against you with its weight. You were silver, gleaming. From where I stood, you looked like a sword, cutting through the blue.
MELISSA GOODE’s work has recently appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, WhiskeyPaper, New World Writing, Split Lip Magazine, matchbook, Blue Fifth Review, (b)OINK, and Jellyfish Review, among others. One of her short stories has been made into a film by the production company, Jungle. Her novel manuscript “What we have become” was selected by Random House in 2016 for a fellowship with Varuna, the National Writers’ House in Australia. She lives in Australia. You can find her here: melissagoode.com and at twitter.com/melgoodewriter