Goodbye (349 words)
After she said goodbye to John for the fourth time, dizzy with unlooked for joy and a night of no sleep, Gutter began to wonder if this was really just a fling. A palate cleanser, her sister called it. Something to refresh you before you moved on to the next course.
Gutter thought of John’s pale face on the pillow just before his alarm went off, of his shy smile when she fed him poached eggs, and couldn’t think of him as just a mouthful of sorbet or a mint that would melt on her tongue. He was a thing that she wanted to get her teeth into, to savour.
Marina had always meted out her affection a little at a time, and only once he had ‘earned’ it, as if loving someone could be like paying them a salary. John lavished it on her. Sad, shy John had shown her more kindness in an hour than Marina had in the past five years.
She started to make the bed, but a scrap of white caught her eye – a note, left on the upturned chest that made a bedside table. For a moment, she couldn’t breathe. He was saying goodbye, she was sure of it. The shy smile in her head turned; she saw now that it was guilt, that he couldn’t tell her straight. She finished straightening the sheets, before she sat down and picked up the note. Her chest was tight; she shrugged off the tatty dressing gown that constricted her. Maybe she just wouldn’t read it, rather than give him the satisfaction. She crumpled it up and threw it across the room. It skittered through a spider web and rolled under the heater.
Gutter glared across the room at it. A tiny corner of it peeked out at her. She had to know. On all fours she scrambled across the room, dignity forgotten, and retrieved the note.
I finally feel like I can breathe. You’re the most beautiful
person I know, inside and out. I want to leave her for you.
Gutter refolded the note.