Scarlet trails across his shoulder gave him away. Perfectly spaced, and almost healed completely before she caught a glimpse.
He never even knew it was there, so her sudden coldness, her abruptness, her shut down from him was a complete surprise.
She turned from him in bed, curled tight into a ball, her skin as icy to touch as she felt inside.
Over and over she replayed time. When? How? And mostly why?
And then who?
She watched him as they watched television together, and didn’t recoil when he took her hand. His touch still had the power to thrill her, and she took some comfort in the knowledge that he still wanted her. It warmed her heart a little, until the memory of the scratches reared their ugly head.
Jealousy settled onto her shoulder and prodded her confidence- you never had it that good – so good that you left your mark on his skin.
Shock ebbed and flowed leaving her cold and shivery.
He asked if she had a flu, was she feeling ok? Maybe she should see a doctor because he’d scrapped yet another meal untouched into the bin.
Yes, she looked fine, he said, a bit too thin now & tired but always beautiful.
Did she want an early night?
Yes. She replied and went to bed quickly, eager to be asleep before he came to bed. Hopeful that he meant the other type of early night, so she could at least refuse him.
Then he asked her to take a walk with him. He wrapped her scarf about her slender pale neck, wincing at her jutting collar bones. He pulled her hat down gently over her brown curls, his fingers lingering on her cheek.
He sat straight, on the edge of the seat as he drove, his fingers tapping on the wheel.
Pulling in he turned to her and took her limp hand in his rough warm one.
I don’t know what’s going on but I love you.
Opening the car door, he took her arm and brought her along the small country road, where the hedges crowded in, forcing them to walk closer to each other.
They rounded the hedge and he smiled tightly, his breath in is throat.
A small whitewashed cottage stood before them, with red woodwork and scarlet geraniums tumbling from the window boxes.
Dry mouthed he tugged up his jeans leg as he got down on one knee and took her other hand.
She stumbled back a step, pulling her hands from his.
Get up! She whispered. Don’t ask me now.
His face flamed as he stood, his lips a white line. Nostrils flaring he took a deep breath before speaking.
Let me show you what I’ve been up to.
Unlatching the door he hunched over and turned to switch on the lights, catching his jumper on the nails jutting from the wall.
Four evenly spaced nails.
Cursing he tried to rub his shoulder – I’m always doing that!
He didn’t notice her expression change from the closed pinched little face to one of comprehension. Her mouth smiled and then she was crying.
And saying yes