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Is this what men want?
Sally hitched her skirt up further, revealing a snowy barrel of thigh. She noticed a single blue vein, which trickled down her leg like ink.

Is this really what men want?
Nervously, she returned to the almost empty glass of pinot gringo sitting on the coffee table. It had left a faint round stain on the new maple surface which only heightened her anxiety.

The house. What a state. The kids had been at home this weekend and had left track marks of flippancy along the once cream carpet: green crayon, orange juice, red wine – no, she couldn’t blame that one on the children.

Sally sits, brushing Lego bricks off the weathered trunk of a sofa and suddenly regretted it all.

A knock at the door.

The regret progressed into a weighty anguish but knock continued and it her legs reluctantly quivered towards the front of the house.

“Hi.” Sally hiccupped before compelling her face into a neutral and relaxed expression. It was difficult. There was the sharp pain of a silence before the stranger spoke.

“Sally?” She was forced to look at his face and watched him paint a thick beige smile from the top of his left ear to the bottom of his pointed chin.

“Am I late?”

He was fifteen minutes early – according to the lonely cat clock at the end of the hallway. She had not even had time to clear out the aftermath of infancy left in the lounge.

“Come in,” she hiccupped. He was already half way through the door - it was like she was responding in slow motion unable to keep up with this unfamiliar man.

“Do you want to -“ there was no point asking, he had already taken a seat. She decided to sit opposite, the other side of the coffee table, to avoid intimacy and give her a chance to examine his complex features. They were moving rapidly: eyes blinking briskly, absorbing her life which was exposing itself all over the room. Photos with friends, her children, ex-husbands, ex-fiancés and ex-boyfriends scattered themselves in-between full ashtrays and empty bottles of wine.

This was getting awkward. Someone would need to start a conversation soon.

“So,” Sally whispered “What is it like?”

“Where babe?”

“In there, in - oh, never mind”

Silence again.

“Would you like a drink?”

That got a reaction.
“Yeah babe, brilliant, thanks. Some of that would go down a treat.” He pointed to the Merlot by the fireplace. There was only enough left for one glass and it was some of her best stuff but sacrifices had to be made to make the next few hours any less painful.

She poured herself a strong whisky and diet coke, hoping he wouldn’t catch the smell of liquor.

“Kids, eh?”


This wasn’t the first drink of the day, in fact, it was the third and she was starting to feel the impact.

“Twins. Girls. Five years old. Six next month. Beautiful.”

“I bet, with your genes.” He winked.

Sally involuntarily giggled like a school girl.

“I remember that laugh, you haven’t changed.”

But she had. Deadened by disappointment, Sally felt she had given up on life, lost the spark – the motivation and ambition that she had once been well known for. Sally stopped laughing.

“I really didn’t think you were going to let me in today, you know. Thought you were just going to slam the door in my face and tell me to bugger off.” A nervous laugh slipped out.

“Almost did.”

His nervous laugh deteriorated into another awkward silence.

“Why are you here Neil?” Sally finally gathered the courage to ask. “Why did you bother? After everything-“

“I needed to Sally, I’ve been thinking about you. A lot. I know what I did was wrong, but I need to see you.”


“Because I love you.”

The words were left to echo around the room. Sally didn’t want to speak, move, breathe in case they disappeared and became any less real. She wanted to pick them up put them in the palm of her hand and clutch tightly. However, she couldn’t help but let out a little gasp.

Neil’s eyes began to scan the room again in a frantic pattern, not acknowledging the true effect of what had just been said. Sally wanted more evidence.

“No you don’t. I don’t believe you.”

“Believe what you want.”

This was not satisfying, she wanted to hear the words again, slowly and look at his face, note every movement of his restless eyes, his deep fawn mouth.

“Muuuuuummy!” fresh young voices danced through the air, brushing through the tense atmosphere. The girls? They’re supposed to be out all day with Liz. A trip to the zoo with a sleepover afterwards, she was more than keen to get them out of the house if Neil was here.

“Hey, Sal, sorry I had to take them home. Jess has got a bit of a funny tummy and Katie wouldn’t stay without her. Think they had a nice time while they were there though, got to about the penguins when little Jessie decided to throw up on the glass window. Lucy’s a bit disappointed they couldn’t stay tonight but I think this little one needs to cut down on the sweeties. ” 

Neil became invisible.
“Thanks Liz. Erm. Yeah. Sorry about that. Erm.” Sally was finding it difficult to finish, she wanted to be alone with Neil, she wanted to hear that he loved her again. She wanted to kiss him. The girls would have to go to bed.

“No worries, Sal. Are you okay?”

Liz’s interrogating face suggested she had smelt the alcohol on Sally’s breath.

“I’m fine, erm yeah, fine. Tired, yeah.”

“Okay.” She cast one long look at Neil in an attempt to comprehend what was going on and then gave up. “Bye, Sally, see you soon yeah? We’ve not had a catch up for a while.”

“Bye Liz!” The door slammed. The girls dived onto the sofa next to Neil, pigtails bouncing. Neil didn’t seem to want to interact with them.

“KATIE, JESSIE! Bedtime!” This was the one area of the household where she felt she could regain control. The kids were young but knew when they were not wanted around and scuttled up the stairs. She began to follow, then realised she was leaving Neil on his own. “I won’t be a sec.” He nodded, and then made a gesture with his empty glass. “In the kitchen, help yourself.”

When she came back down Neil’s face was stitched into a confounded stare.
“Didn’t know you had kept hold of this babe.” He thrust an old photograph under Sally’s nose and she was forced to see a portrait of the past: a couple enjoying a holiday in Egypt. They were so young and optimistic, no idea about the distressing years that lied ahead. “Lovely isn’t it? Why isn’t out here with all these chaps?” Neil spat sarcastically. Sally glanced at the gallery of exes and began to feel a bit embarrassed.

“I didn’t want to throw it out.”

“What - like everything else?”

“Yeah.” Her mind cast back 15 years, just after Neil had been arrested, she got rid of everything – his shirts in the wardrobe right down to his toothpaste in the bathroom. He was still bitter but she hated him at the time.

“Shall I go?” Sally looked at his face again. 15 years of prison life had stained his once handsome face but she could not bear for it to vanish. Day release. Probably wouldn’t see him for at least that length of time again.

“Oh Neil.” With no restraint, Sally seized his jagged face and kissed him. She wanted to soak up as much of him as she could, so that it would last her another 15 years.

“I should go. This was a bad idea.”

No. He shouldn’t. Not now. She still completely loathed him for the murder and the web of lies and deceit he pushed her into: wakes up tangled in it every day, his fault. But she was still dangerously attracted to him.

“Sally.” He kissed her, and then wrote down a telephone number. “Wait three months. Call this number.”


“I’ll be in Spain, this’ll all blow over, we’ll start a new life, are you with me?”

“What –“ she didn’t quite know what he was planning to do but it was definitely quite criminal, he lowered his voice so that every word fell straight to the ground and she had to pick it up to understand.

“Just you and me. Trust me.”

“But the girls –“

“They’ll be fine here, your mum, she’ll love the company.”

Sally stared in disbelief. Then felt frustrated with herself for considering it. Could it really be possible to have a life with Neil again?

“Do you love me Sally?” she choked and swallowed her words.

“Do you?”

Silence. Sally looked into his piercing eyes and nodded gently.

“I’m going. Think about it, you have three months”

The door slams. Sally looked at the scrap of paper the number was written and knew immediately that she would be dialling it in exactly three months today.


1 mattagate | on 15 May 2009

Awesome piece of work, im guessing there’ll be more writing on Sally?

2 Howard | on 15 May 2009

Yeah, I like this. The opening is provocative and immediately draws you in

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