20:42. He checked the clock on the dash again, 20:42. The green numbers hadn’t moved, he stared at them; they had to move soon, if he watched them he might see them click over. He watched. They didn’t, he stared, they still didn’t, he stared not wanting to blink wondering if he was quick enough to look in the rear view mirror and back to the clock before the numbers changed, he must be.
His eyes flashed up to the mirror, nothing there, back to the clock, 20:43, damn, he checked the mirror again. Still nothing there, she was now thirteen minutes late, unlucky for some. He shifted in his seat and it made a noise like it was breaking wind, he cursed it and sighed. Still 20:43.
He decided not to look at the clock and ran his hand through where his hair used to be, he’d not noticed it going at first, and then, as if it was offended by his lack of interest, it had stormed off in a huff, never to be seen again. It had behaved a bit like his ex wife, all he had was the odd reminder of its presence, instead of a scarf in a wardrobe, he’d find a strand on his jacket. At least his hair hadn’t thrown a glass of wine over him in a restaurant.
He drummed his fingers on his scalp, and then opened his mouth to see if it changed the sound of it in his head, it didn’t.
20:44. He checked the mirror again and watched some headlamps approaching, they looked round, although it was hard to tell. Hers were square; he’d watched them pull up behind him so many times now that he knew them from miles away. He always got that tingle when he saw them, knowing she was sitting a few feet behind them, checking her makeup and fixing her hair, he shivered. It was getting cold.
The round headlamps passed and lit up inside his car for a moment, he turned his head away as they ran along the roof, and then looked back as the red rear lights faded in the distance. He sighed, 20:44... 5.
Their lane was dark, very dark. No street lamps to give away their secret, only the odd fox or hedgehog that might pass, stopping and staring, and wonder what he was doing, what they were doing. Their lane was quiet, very quiet.
And then, there they were, square headlamps, he knew them, knew her. His heart skipped, properly skipped, they way people talk about, that little hiccup in the chest followed by the squirt of adrenalin. He smiled and ran his fingers over his scalp, force of habit. He looked over his shoulder as she pulled in behind him, hoping to catch an early glimpse of the face he’d wanted to see all day.
The headlamps blinded him but he didn’t look away, he squinted past them until they died and he could just about see her moving about inside, a shadowy ghost adjusted the mirror and flicked at its hair. He smiled.
He turned back to the front and wiped some imaginary crumbs from his shirt and then fixed his tie in case its bunching up made him look like he had a beer belly, he looked down at the tie, frowned and then quickly pulled it from around his neck and stuffed it down the side of his seat.
She opened the passenger door and got in. They stared at each other, smiled, or at least he did, her lips looked thin and worried, like two worms forced to share a bed. Suddenly the funny excited feeling he had became a funny nervous feeling.
“Are you okay?” he asked, knowing the answer
“No, no I’m not okay”
“You look tired”
“Thanks” she replied and looked straight ahead out of the windscreen
“I didn’t mean that, you look great, but you look tired”
“I am tired”
He reached across and placed his hand over hers and squeezed it. At first she didn’t respond but it softened and her fingers parted ever so slightly so that his could find purchase.
He turned in his seat towards her,
“What’s up?”
She looked at him, her face so beautiful and sad, watery eyes and tilting head so powerful he wanted to cry, just to save her the trouble.
“This has to stop, I can’t keep doing it”
“What’s happened?”
“Something must have...”
She shook her head and somehow slid her hand from his without him feeling it.
“I had to put the baby to bed before I came here, I told Alan we needed milk and I wanted some fresh air,”
“Do you think he knows?” eyes flicking to the mirror, nervous this time
“He doesn’t know”
“Well what’s the problem?”
“I love him”
“I love you”
“I love you too”
“So what’s the problem?”
“I love him more”
Those eyes, those beautiful eyes, so sad, so honest, so weary with pain, he couldn’t look at them, but he couldn’t look away. They blinked in slow motion and when they opened they’d changed, changed forever.
She touched his cheek, finger tips like ice picks sliding down a glacier, unable to hold on, then she opened the door and was gone.