White Flecked Tie
So we’re getting on well. Like really well, and I’m thinking that maybe things will be different this time as we’re doing normal stuff like going for walks and talking (yes, talking), and not having sex or doing anything remotely physical, at least till we’ve got to know each other properly again. And I think, this is how it should be. The walks, the talks, the naughty gulps of booze in secluded nooks of the common, the surreptitious honesty.
Then one day outta the blue he says, ‘I’ve had the test, I’m okay,’ so I figure I must be okay too as I’m not seeing anyone except him, and so I let him in, and he's brought wine, which we drink at the kitchen table, and then he kisses me and we move to the sofa and kiss some more and I tell him to be quiet as my neighbours will hear, and they don’t know he’s had the test, and he shouldn’t be here anyway, but I can't help thinking that just this once it’s okay.
The next day he’s back, and up the stairs again with wine, and we're drinking from the same, (newly-washed) glasses, and then he says, ‘I’ve got some gear. Do you want some?’
I haven’t done that stuff in years so I’m not really bothered, but then I remember how fun it used to be, plus we’re in lockdown and not much is fun any more, and so we do it.
The whole two grams.
He was only nipping out for a walk, he told his family, and now it’s almost 8 and the sun is slipping down the wall, and I’m thinking I should put on the light only I don’t want to as the scene will change and I don’t want it to change. But eventually he leaves and wanders off to buy food for their dinner.
‘They’re not happy with me,’ he texts me later. ‘I bought duck and made a stir fry but no one is talking.’
And the next day he’s back with more wine and more gear, but this time, when he asks, ‘do you want some,’ I think of my yoga, my work, my mindset, and so I say no, and stick to the wine.
So he chops it up just for him and snorts and talks, and tells me a lot, so much, and I feel happy as I think he means it and then he asks, ‘where’s that tie I left here the last time I stayed?'
And my mind reels back to a year before, to the last time I saw him, before he went AWOL, and I remember the carrier bag he left in my cupboard, with a scrunched-up shirt and a pale blue tie with white flecks, and I remember washing them and sticking them in a bin bag with some stuff I didn’t want and dumping it outside a charity shop five minutes from me.
‘I didn’t think you’d be back,’ I say, 'Besides, it was only a shirt and tie.'
But then he tells me he was left the tie in a will, and regardless, why would I get rid of someone else’s stuff without telling them?
‘I’m really sorry,' I say. 'I truly am, but I never would have done that if only I’d known.'
He laughs and says, ‘come here and show me how sorry you are,’ and so I do.
And the light slips down the wall once more and then he leaves, and I lie there on the sofa in a cotton kimono and think about everything except the tie as I assume that's the end of it. But the next day he texts me and says he can’t stop thinking about the tie and how could I have done a thing like that? And I can’t say anything as I don’t know what to say, and he’s telling me I must have been so angry to have done that, and how he always seem to attract women with issues, and I try to remember the last time I was angry but all I can remember is the beautiful smell of his tie, and how much I needed that smell out of my room, out of my flat, and someplace else, and how he would never, no matter how much I tried to explain, ever understand that.
Mary Thompson works as an Academic English tutor in London. She is a winner of two BIFFY 50 awards. (Best British & Irish Flash Fiction 2018-2019) and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her story, 'Ladybird' was selected for inclusion in Best Microfiction 2020 and her first flash collection was Highly Commended in Ellipsis Zine's 2020 competition. Mary tweets at @MaryRuth69