Please support literary journals by buying the issue that feature’s Sandra work (see her CV page for details), but several short stories are also available online:
The Bird at Hobart
La Llorona at Cezanne’s Carrot (first published by Versal)
The Promise at The Irish Times
The Good Wife, War and Square Root at The Drum (audio fiction, first published by AGNI, Sou’Wester and Prism Review, respectively)
Sunrise Café at Verbsap
The Psychology of Crime at Per Contra
First published in Fleetings, UK.
I’d study my naked self: small-bodied and cross-legged on his sex-wrinkled sheets. I was less than two-thirds husband number three’s weight. Welterweight, just like husband number two, who’d danced slippy-skinned and knee-high with the great Nureyev. A real shit he was, husband number two told me.
So there we are, in husband number three’s glorious parquet-floored bachelor pad, bay windows opening to a friendly expanse of green, dog walkers and maples a month away from turning leaves. Husband number two ducks and dives, wonders where to take off his leather jacket, decides to leave it on, hands patting himself down as if he’s frisking for knives, guns, a shield. He wears fingerless leather gloves, curling at the edges from wear. His best jeans. He’s dressed up for it. I feel a little ill.
Sit, husband number three says, gesturing apologetically at the bed. I’m curled on the single easy chair by the window, an antique, not well preserved, his grandmother’s. Husband number three is standing, towering really, Praxiteles would be moved, and then, when husband number two lowers himself gently to the bed, those inseminated sheets now well covered with a pretty blue and red print, he turns and busies himself by the cooker, making tea. Husband number two’s eyes slide past mine like a shadow in a mirror. He grins, not to me, not to anyone really, not even to the beautiful room: it’s a smile you’d give to the thousands you could not see for they were sitting fidgeting in the darkness and you were standing there, blinded by a spotlight. Still you smile, because you know they’re there, because you know they can see you.
Sugar, asks husband number three of husband number two and I stop myself just in time. No, no sugar, thank you, he says, and then he says it again: Thank you. If you want to be treated politely, invite a boy from the projects. Hot mugs of tea in all hands, steaming into the already steamy room, and I’m thinking: I’m so stupid, so stupid to have invited him here. I wanted to show each to the other, I want them to understand, to love as I do. As I still do. But they are chalk and chocolate, the wrong sort of party guests and I’m straddling tracks, about to split in two.
Husband number three makes small talk. It’s like a prison visit: what do you say to a lifer? But then husband number three makes a statement that’s not small talk at all, it’s as real as the swollen feeling at the back of my throat: You two have been through a lot, he says. Husband number two stares out the window. He takes off his leather jacket and puts it on the bed beside him. He straightens the edges of his white t-shirt, arms and collar ripped off as always, but so neatly they look designer. I can see the wings of his collarbone, the milk-coffee smoothness of his skin, the dagger tattooed to his bicep. I twist about, trying to get comfortable but a spring is poking me in the back and my leg has gone to sleep. I know, husband number three continues quietly. I was worried before, but now I’m flat out bothered.
Husband number two slicks a hand over his almost-shaven head. The attack is too direct, unexpected, he’s not in close enough for elbows and knees and he’s left his shotgun at home. He must know by now, by the resonant weight of husband number three’s voice, that I’ve told all: the secrets, the perversions, the little and not so little transgressions on both sides. We were evenly matched, perfect for each other.
I untangle my pins-and-needle leg, about to give him an escape route. I’m about to say: We can walk you to the subway if you like, I know you’ve got class to teach. But husband number two is cracking a knuckle and I think it’s too late to escape but then he flops backwards onto the bed. It gives a little creaky bounce. He lies there awhile on the African print, his legs dangling. I haven’t seen him this relaxed in how long? I don’t remember. Yes, he says, we have. He stretches, a lick of pubic hair escapes the top of his jeans. I try to focus on the sparky prickle in my calf.
Husband number three sits down and asks me if I’m alright. I lie.