We had the fight moments after I slipped the robe off my shoulders into a pool around my feet. I had one foot on the shower base, one on the plush rectangular mat.
At that moment, my fiancé, Kristopher, knocked from the other side of the bathroom door, which I’d already locked for privacy.
He had this tendency often. The first word he would speak to me all day? As I stepped into the shower. Was it okay if he went out with his friends instead of the dinner reservation? As I stepped into the shower. His solution to cancer? As I stepped into the shower.
Clenching my jaw, I awaited the question.
“Aftershave, Amelia?” he asked.
I sighed. “You should have gotten it when I told you I needed to shower. Or while I collected my creams and lotions and make-up. Or while I sniffed around for a clean towel in your stash in the corner.”
The soap—as we both knew—was irrelevant in this argument. For a fleeting moment, I wondered if we stayed together out of laziness. And maybe we did. Because I hated many characteristics about my fiancé. Especially his ignorance of this anniversary.
It was September twenty-ninth.
This year I called my boss’s mobile at the crack of dawn to fake a sick day, playing up my groggy tone as a terrible sore throat in addition to a nauseous tummy. She told me to get well, and I swallowed the news with a lump in my throat, guilty for lying. I was an assistant for a medium-sized advertising business and handled paperwork, invoicing and calls all day long—it wasn’t like my absence would be of consequence to day-to-day activities. I’d pick it up tomorrow.
Last year Kristopher and I made dates apart with our respective best friends, and I’d spent it eating all the ice cream along a strip of shops down the coast. I’d thrown up once and then kept on going. Jaffa flavour, I remember.
I’d licked and slurped the drips down the paper cup, and only thought twice of the anniversary. Once on the drive down to the beach, and then once as I’d clutched the sides of a rusty public bin and spewed my guts up to the backdrop of disgusted gasps from passers-by.
I don’t know what Kristopher did that day, but he came back when the night sky was a deep sapphire blue, whisky on his breath as he climbed in bed behind me.
The year before I took a day off from work and spent $600 buying cocktail dresses I would never have occasion to wear. The next day I donated them to charity.
Six years ago today, I died. Hence, it was the one time of the year we didn’t forget the date. Unlike some years when we had to shop for Christmas gifts at two am on the twenty-fourth.
I stared down the white door of the bathroom, one foot tingling with the sharp cold of the shower base, hand clutching the knob. I stepped back onto the tiles, accepting defeat.
“Come on, Amelia,” he said in a low tone. “Just one Goddamn bottle of aftershave. That’s all I need.”
“No. Just wait till I’m done.”
“Amelia,” I said.
“Amelia, please,” he said, voice breaking. “I haven’t showered and I stink. I just need a few fucking sprays, and I’ll be out of your way all day.”
I gritted my teeth and hobbled from toe to toe, the cold seeping up my legs. If we kept going on like this staying out of each other’s way was pointless. We knew how to nip at each other’s sensitive spots in a way learned from several years of being together. I saw the forthcoming crash, clenched my eyes shut against the pain. My shoulders heaved, bracing for impact.
Was this what happened to me just before my crash?
Was there a moment of wide-eyed fear as my corded, muscled arms grabbed the wheel at the proper ten and two positions, and I flew through the air, reduced to a thin, crushed and crumpled body at the bottom of the lake?
Hot tears grew heavy behind my eyelids as something inside me snapped. I shut the gate to the horrific visions.
It was too late to shower.
Kristopher banged his fist on the door, the boom echoing. I bent and hurried on my new clothes folded on the counter.
“Come on. This is beyond a joke. It will take you a few seconds to pass it.” The door rattled, the handle jerking, but I’d locked the door already. “Amelia.”
I slipped my arms into the cardigan and threw open the door, despite the bags under my eyes and the chill settling over my chest because of the unbuttoned front.
I said, “Have it all,” pushing the aftershave bottle into his chest, then rushed past him.
And I didn’t look back.
I woke to star- and heart-shaped glow-in-the-dark stickers radiating in neon green from the ceiling. A ceiling I’d never seen before in my life—typically, I wasn’t the
sort of man to befriend the fancy sticker type of person.
It was pre-dawn, barely so, the sun a tiny orb just under the horizon through the crack in the curtains.
My world swayed as I tilted my head. I held my ears in my palms, and my fingers weaved through the messy state of my bed hair. Under the purple sheets, my stomach churned, and farther down, morning glory unstuck from the aforementioned undelightful purple sheets. I crawled out of the bed.
What the fuck was this? I thought. And where the fuck was I?
I remembered flashes from the previous night. A club, a slime party, and breathy kisses with the girl who lay splayed under these purple sheets beneath her stars and hearts glow-in-the-dark ceiling.
Viol … Vick … no, it was Vivienne. No, wait, Vivienna.
I smiled, proud of my achievement. But that dropped into a wobbly set of lips. My stomach churned again. I lurched into the attached bathroom and retched, wiping myself clean with water.
Even though I was ninety-nine-point-nine per cent certain I fucked Vicky (or Vivienna), I shivered at the thought of sharing her toothbrush, so I used the handy finger-stick in lieu and then the mouthwash beside the basin.
Feeling somewhat refreshed, I let out a deep breath and looked around the bathroom, not much of a better sight than the bedroom. The towels were white and pale purple, the soap purple, and more stickers dotted along the corners of the mirror above the basin.
I stared at my reflection, disgusted.
My hair Mohawked, askew to one side, a chunk plastered across my forehead in a teenage boy-crush style. I fussed it around with my hands. It looked as if I just had sex, which was better than it had moments prior.
I stepped back into her bedroom, peering amongst the sheets and all her hair. I sighed upon seeing her, confirming one thing. She had the youthful expression of someone I hoped was legal. I was twenty-eight, she perhaps twenty or twenty-one. I hoped.
Since she was still asleep, I returned to the bathroom and looked around for supplies to make myself appear more human. But I caught my reflection in the mirror and stalled. My tan skin and dark hair vividly contrasted against my steel-blue eyes. Most noticeably, a bloodshot glare, lined with purple bags, rolled lazily at the reflection.
I didn’t suspect my pick-up techniques from last night would have worked if I’d looked like this.
Just twelve or so hours ago, one look at Vivienna and she was under my arm, my lips near her ear telling her things she wanted to hear.
I wished I’d had the foresight to stop drinking and pick up her nuisances: the squeals I thought made her sound cute, the frilly neckline of her dress more girly than sweet, and the bright purple shoes. The poor woman had a young girl trapped inside her body.
I looked through the doorway and whispered, “You’re a little crazy, Purple Vivienna.”
I never should have—
Stop, Harry. I told myself. Find some deodorant, get some clothes on, and get out of here.
So I did just that. Then I walked out of her bedroom without a note or text. I didn’t have her number, plus she didn’t care for me.
The others didn’t, either. They thought they cared.
But they wanted the thrill of a night with the Harry Jamieson.
A night of passion and drinking with the idea of love.
One of us had to have our heads screwed on.
With mine teetering on the right side of sanity, I dashed out and found my car parked by the kerb outside her house, hoping she’d been sober enough by the end
of the night to drive it. I knew with absolute certainty I wouldn’t have gotten behind the wheel.
I didn’t drive after drinking. Not anymore.
I travelled home, which took an hour—a long way for pussy, even by my standards—and did the whole routine: shower, force down some hangover-cure food, spend the rest of the day watching TV like a zombie. Late afternoon, I got onto all my emails, responding to meetings, questions and other ad hoc business, then prepared some training sessions for my swimmers.
When I woke the next morning, I stumbled drowsily onto my front lawn in just a pair of sleeping pants and retrieved the delivered roll of newspaper. My neighbour, having noticed my exit, darted her eyes away and scurried inside her house.
I never claimed to be a sight for sore eyes in the morning. But what the hell was that about?
Five minutes later, as I tipped a steaming cup of coffee to my lips, I saw the headline and cursed, spraying coffee all over my granite countertop.