She rolled over, her cheek soft against the back of her hand. Feeling the bed yield against her weight, Charlie turned his head.
She's so beautiful...
His eyes were glassy but he cast them down. He touched her waist, brushing the honey-toned skin. Smooth and sweet. Charlie ran his hand along the curve, touching her pelvic bone and finally, the softness of her thigh. She drew in a sharp breath and simpered, their eyes meeting this time.
I miss this...
Suddenly, something cold seared her leg. She winced and a flash of silver winked back at her. Charlie recoiled, puzzled by her reaction. He'd barely touched her and even so, he was a strong man, but never rough, not even with his wife. She'd be thrown onto the bed or pushed against the wall, but his love was gentle, tender... back then.
"Sensitive?" he said, smirking.
"Why'd you still wear that?" The girl dismissed his hand, her tone positively toxic.
"Anna," he sighed.
"Well why do you?"
"I don't know." Charlie closed his hand. Half of him wanted to cut it off.
"I don't like it," she snapped, then she moved to turn away but Charlie caught her shoulder. His mouth opened, but no words came out. Anna held his gaze, poised like a cobra.
Charlie condeded, yanking the ring off his finger. He set it down on the bedside table.
"Thank you," she purred, playing a hand over his chest. He pulled her close so that she rolled onto her front, growling playfully. Soon Charlie was on top of her. Parting her hair to one side, he kissed the back of her neck until it tickled. She wriggled beneath him, kicking the sheets off the end of the bed. A warm ache stirred in Charlie's loins and he traced between Anna's shoulder blades with the tip of his tongue.
"I can feel that," she whispered. Was she talking about his tongue or something else? The girl looked down him and grinned. The soft lamp-light smoothed over his muscles and the fine lines on his face. Sometimes Anna forgot how old he was. Suddenly her mouth connected with Charlie's. She ignored the ache in her neck as they kissed and he stroked himself against her.
The girl kicked her legs idly, knocking the bedside table. It bumped the wall and Charlie started, climbing across the bed.
"What're you doing?" Anna seethed.
Charlie was bending down on the floor, picking up his wedding ring. Relieved, he ran his thumb around the silver curve.
"That's it, I'm done."
"No, don't go," Charlie insisted, but Anna said nothing. Within minutes she'd pulled on her clothes, put on a fresh coat of lipstick and strutted out. Charlie followed her down the hall. "Come on, don't do this," he tutted. "Don't be so melodramatic, Anna!"
"I can't believe you," she muttered.
"Don't, please," he said, clutching her hand as it came to rest on the doorknob. She sighed.
"Gimme a ring somewhen, okay?"
Charlie watched as Anna stepped into the cool darkness. He listened to the sound of her heels, each click a little more distance between them. Then the light came on at the gate. Charlie waited for her to turn around; of course she didn't. She didn't need him.
Trailing back to his bedroom, Charlie didn't bother to dress himself, but he slipped a robe on. Then he slumped onto the bed, smelling Anna's scent in the rumpled sheets. Turning onto his back, Charlie stared at the chandelier above. What was once an elegant product of his money now reminded him of a horrid spider, residing in the web of misery he'd created. Though he wasn't the only designer of his turmoil of course. It takes two to tango.
The aged front door shut. Charlie heard the sound resonate down the hall. He scrambled around on the bed, twisted still in the covers. With a wild curse, he finally jumped to his feet, almost tripping over himself. Flying down the corridor, Charlie called, "Anna?"
"No, not Anna," came the silky tones of his wife.
Charlie halted a few metres away from the front door. The lights on the walls flickered on, weak and dim. It created an ambience once upon a time. His wife, Claudia, was struggling with her suitcase. She yanked it through the threshold with a bitter 'phew!' then went about unstrapping her shoes.
"You're not supposed to be back for another four hours."
"No? Well the trip ended early so I came home. I thought the lobster looked suspicious. Marline insisted it was fine. Of course the diddy bat got shellfish poisoning. Ruined the whole experience. Now I can't look at tomalley in the same way again." Claudia shuddered, but this went unseen under her thick fur coat. Charlie looked off elsewhere, tonguing his teeth in annoyance.
"So which little vixen has defiled our marital bed this time?" Claudia asked, slipping off her coat. "Anna, is it? I think I saw her when I drove in. They're getting younger."
Charlie didn't say anything, he merely tilted his chin up, bored with Claudia's mantra. He had his hands stuffed into his pockets. When she finally turned to face him her eyes went south and her eyebrows north.
"You might want to put yourself away, darling."
Charlie looked down and saw his robe had nearly come undone, exposing his nakedness. With a fierce scowl, he knotted the tie and pulled so hard it pinched his waist. "What're you doing back here? Couldn't you go out for dinner?"
"After witnessing Marline? No thank you. I think my appetite has shrivelled up and died," Claudia huffed, dropping her keys on the side and sweeping past him.
"I don't care. Go out and do something."
"Why? Your friend's gone home now, in a bit of a rush I might add. Didn't you do it for her?"
"Oh shut up," he spat.
"Don't fret, dear, I know how absolutely ravishing you are in the sack." Claudia half turned her head, but kept her soft tread down the hall. She entered the lounge and snapped her fingers, the lights gradually coming to a glow. Dropping onto the plush sofa, she set her handbag aside. He stood over her, fuming.
"What? This is my home too, Charlie."
"I paid for it," he said pettily.
"Are you still sulking over that tart? Dear me, you're getting soft. Come here," and Claudia waved him to sit down. He furrowed his brow, bewildered.
"Sit down, sit down," she said, her usual genteel tone now imploringly sharp. Charlie sat down next to her, seeing no alternative way to spend his evening now. The bottle of wine on the coffee table was also quite inviting. To his surprise, Claudia gazed at him and smiled fondly. Her eyes were dabbed with cream-coloured dust and pink lipstick coated her mouth. She snaked an arm behind his head and stroked his hair.
"What happened to us, Charlie?" she asked. He couldn't answer her, but he rested his head on her shoulder. Her perfume was strong and sickeningly sweet. She still saturated herself in it then. He heard Claudia sigh from her nose and she took his hand onto her lap, holding it tight. He noticed a vein protruded on the back of her hand now.
"Where's your wedding ring?" she asked, more curious than concerned.
"Anna made me take it off," Charlie murmured, staring at the blue vein running underneath her skin like a river in the desert; bringing life to the barren land.
"That bitch," Claudia hissed. "If she's gonna screw my husband she could at least let you keep a little bit of what's left of us."
"Clearly there's nothing left," he pointed out lowly, more depressed than defensive.
"Well you're still married to me aren't you?"
"I suppose," he sighed, looking down at his own hands now. There was a pause, and Charlie and Claudia continued to hold each other.
"I can smell her cheap perfume. It stinks," she remarked, turning her nose up. Gently pushing Charlie away, she turned to him and said, "how about we crack open the wine?"
Charlie nodded, sullen.
"And I'll put on that tune we used to dance to all the time. I was never much of a dancer and Elvis isn't to my taste, but you always had me swaying to it underneath the misletoe--"
"Yes, that's the one!" Claudia laughed, delighted he remembered. Her wide smile pinched the wrinkles in her eyes. Charlie's own mouth tugged a smirk.
"I'll go and put some clothes on," he said lowly, rising to his feet.
"Yes and for god's sake, wash that heady scent off you."
Claudia had poured two glasses of blood-red drink and already downed half of her's by the time Charlie was dressed. The stereo was playing quietly. 'White Christmas' had long since finished, but Claudia was staring vacantly into space as she listened to the current song that was playing.
Don't look so sad, I know it's over
But life goes on and this old world will keep on turning
Let's just be glad we had some time to spend together
There's no need to watch the bridges that we're burning
Lay your head upon my pillow
Hold your warm and tender body close to mine
Hear the whisper of the raindrops fallin' soft against the window
And make believe you love me one more time
Charlie stood in the doorway, clad in a magenta shirt and dark trousers. His hair had been smoothed back so it curled behind his ears and the spritz of cologne pervaded the air like a fragrant aura.
"For the good times," he said solemnly. Claudia started, closing her eyes with a dramatic hand to her chest.
"Sorry?" she said.
"It's the name of the song."
"Oh, I see," she said quietly, sipping at her wine again. Charlie sat down next to her and they clinked glasses awkwardly.
"You look dashing, Charlie," Claudia said, grinning over her glass.
"Thanks." He avoided her and gazed into his drink, sloshing it around.
"Shall I change the song back?"
"No, it's okay," Charlie said, glancing up at her. "I like this one."
I'll get along, you'll find another
And I'll be here if you should find you ever need me
Don't say a word about tomorrow or forever
There'll be time enough for sadness when you leave me
Claudia stared at Charlie as his lips moved with the song and her eyes started watering. She took his hand again, which surprised him this time. Then she set her glass down on the table.
"Charlie, will you dance with me?" she asked, devoid of her usual venom and weighed with a sincerity that was now unfamiliar to him.
"Dance?" he echoed dumbly. He laughed a bit. "I might have lost the rhythm now, it's been years."
"I don't care," she said lightly, shrugging.
Charlie narrowed his eyes at her, a broad smile crossing his face. "Alright," he said, lacing their fingers together. The pair stood up and moved to the center of the room. Claudia placed a hand on his shoulder and his own slipped around her waist.
The two made their gradual way around the room, pacing here and shuffling there. Charlie was still an excellent dancer of course, but Claudia couldn't bring herself to say it. And she was still as graceful as ever, but that remained a thought in Charlie's head.
For the good times
For the good times