You wake to gut-twist panic. Can’t remember why. Then you do.
You bury your face in the sleeping body beside you, breathing in Nick’s musk. It’s late; you need to get going, yet you linger, longing to remain here forever. Nick stirs; he rolls towards you, voice slurred with sleep. “What time is it?”
“Time to move.”
He groans. You could ring Mum, pinch your nose and claim a horrible cold. Likely everyone would be relieved. You could find more pleasurable uses for Sunday morning. But today matters. You need to see it through.
“Seriously,” you say, “we’ll be late.” Your limbs feel heavy with reluctance and it takes all your strength to push away the duvet’s enveloping warmth, to separate yourself from this semi-slumbering body and dive into the cold. You shower, inhaling tree-oil, and picture the thing you must achieve. Returning to the bedroom, you nudge your lover awake and step away from the arms intent on luring you back to bed.
He doesn’t fully get it. “How did it go?” he asked, that Sunday four weeks ago after you visited your mother. “OK,” you said. “She sort of knew already.” You didn’t add that sort of knowing is not the same as being starkly told. Nor did you describe her face caving in with dismay.
You dress, make tea and toast, gather your things and badger Nick. “Alright, alright!” You can’t tell if he’s amused or annoyed.
You run for the train, jumping through sliding doors, then sit breathlessly, Nick focused on his phone, you watching suburban golf courses passing by. Your gaze wanders over other passengers in reflection, couples sitting casually knee to knee, hand in hand. Or not. It isn’t a big deal for others. “Nick’s more than just a friend,” you told Mum, spelling out this unwelcome news. “Will it be both of you?” she asked when you rang to arrange today’s visit. “You don’t mind do you?” you asked Nick. He shrugged and said, “It’s fine.”
The train slows. You wish it would continue on. You elbow Nick. He smiles lazily and you melt inside.
You walk side by side, arm brushing against arm, your feet like lead as you lead the way. The sun lights up the reds and purples of the trees and catches the gold of Nick’s hair. He hums along to whatever he’s listening to. He and Mum have always got on well enough, but that was before. You track the countdown on a rainbow spectrum of painted doors. Your heart beat rises. You’d give anything to vanish.
As you ring the bell, your pulse is thundering in your ears and a sneaky voice is saying you don’t have to. Perhaps another time. But you want to mark the change in a simple, unavoidable way. Your mother’s shadow approaches, distorted by textured glass. Now! It’s now or never.
Nick turns to you, eyes serious, smile lopsided. The ogreous shadow stops. You reach for Nick’s hand, feel its reassuring warmth and grip. Legs planted firm, you wait for Mum to open the door, standing there holding your lover’s hand.
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