Janet wandered slowly down the street; she had an hour before she had to meet Mandy for lunch at Sushi Supreme. Her eyes roamed over the contents in the window of what seemed to be an antiques shop. She leaned back and looked up. Yes, “The Antique Boutique”. Peering more closely, she caught sight of a flash of dark red and the breath caught in her throat. Was that Venetian glass? She had to go in and see.
A closer look inside confirmed her guess and she looked around the dimly-lit interior to find a shop assistant. Finally she spotted the figure of a man, bent over a carton near the rear of the shop. “Excuse me!”
He turned to face her with the grace of a cat and, as he approached her, she felt coiled, sensual energy radiating from every inch of his body. “Ah ̧ you’ve discovered my little treasure.” Janet just gazed at him uncomprehending until he gently removed the vase from her numb fingers and held it up to the light from the front window. “Yes, “she said, still looking at him rather than her intended purchase.
His eyes returned to her and, with a change of expression, he smiled lazily at her and said, “Perhaps we could go into my office and discuss this further.” Janet nodded. He reversed the “Open” sign on the front door, took her gently by the elbow and steered her into a dark, little room.
Janet rolled herself gracelessly off the Victorian settee, started collecting up her
clothing and applying it to various parts of the body which had just betrayed so much. “This was a mistake. I’m married. I love my husband.” Fully dressed, she turned to look again at the sexiest man she had ever set eyes on who was still lying there in the glorious altogether. “I mean, that was great but it can’t happen again!”
“Whatever you say, lady. By the way, do you still want that piece of Venetian glass that you came in to look at?”
“I think it might be best if we just forget about that. Sorry.”
“Jeez, no sale! Still, I’ve had worse days.” He smiled up at her lazily as she backed out of the office, turned and hurried out of the fatally attractive shop into the busy street.
I’m going to write this down as clearly as possible so I can get it out of my head. I only had sex with him once, so why can’t I forget him? We agreed we wouldn’t do it again. And we haven’t and we won’t. But, oh God, I want to so badly! It’s not as if I love him because I don’t. But every moment we spent together keeps replaying in my head, with variations on the theme.
Do you know how it feels to be obsessed? It feels horrible: absolutely, daily, hourly, and even minutely horrible. There is nothing you can do about it but to live with it, learn to keep breathing and eating and sleeping in spite of it. It’s very like grief only, with that, you have an object that’s socially acceptable or, at least, understandable. With obsession, people would be likely to tell you to get over it or to see a shrink. There are tablets you can take that supposedly take the edge off but, like tranquilisers, they probably take the edge off of everything and you live your life in one shade of grey and monotone sound. So, if you’re going to ride it out, like a bucking bronco, you learn to keep taking the deep breaths and are best advised to accept that it may last for the rest of your life. So, I have accepted it.
“Do you want me to set the table?”
Janet stared out of the kitchen window, her face tight-lipped and every muscle in her body tensed. I repeated the question and watched my wife closely, wondering yet again what she was seeing besides our back yard.
She gasped and turned toward me, released from whatever spell it was that so often held her lately. “Sorry, Jim. Yes, that would be fine. You were going to tell me about that problem you have at work.”
As I told her about the missing spreadsheets, it grated again that there was something keeping me at arm’s length. What I hated even more was that she never used any of the openings I’d offered her to tell me. Later I touched her and she relaxed against me like a drowning swimmer just pulled from the water, so I knew it wasn’t me that was causing her grief.
“Mom, thank you so much for helping me to pack up Janet’s clothes and things for
charity. I don’t think I could do it alone even after six months. I’ll just get her underwear drawer. Wait a minute, what’s this? My God, it’s a diary! I had no idea she kept a diary.” I sank slowly onto what had been our marital bed.
“Do you think you’ll read it, Jim?”
“I don’t think so. I mean it was not meant for me, only for herself. I want to honour that, even if I couldn’t do anything else to make her happy in those last months before she died.”
But I kept it - under my pillow - just to have some part of her close to me again. And eventually I did read it. The best and worst part was just at the end.
“One thing I am sure of: I must never let any of this show to my wonderful Jim. He’d never believe that he is still the only man I’ve ever loved, the only one who’s ever made me feel safe and warm and comfortable.
I know: I’ll make his favourite dinner tonight. I should have just enough time to get to the shops if I hurry.”
That hurried trip to the shops cost her life. But, at least, now she’s free of her obsession.
The rain pelted against the window of The Antique Boutique as Andre carefully
dusted the beautiful Venetian glass vase that Janet had not bought. He’d only found out her name when he saw the news report and recognised her photo.
“It’s the stupidest thing,” he mused aloud. “I thought Janet was just another lay but, ever since she died in that car accident, I can’t seem to get her out of my mind.”
Susan Cornford is a retired public servant, living in Perth, Western Australia. She has had pieces published or forthcoming in CarpeArte Journal, Cloudbank, Drabblez, Drunk Monkeys, Fewer Than 500, Fudoki Magazine, Medusa's Laugh, Mental Papercuts, Moonchild Magazine, Subtle Fiction and others.