A Wayward Game
mine. I drag my finger out of his mouth and
trace the shape of his lips. I kiss him, tasting him, wanting
    “How perfect
you are,” I whisper. “I want to know every part of you. I want to
lose myself in you.”
    I don’t really
expect him to reply to this, and so when he remains silent I feel
only a slight sense of disappointment. We know the rules of this
strange, wayward game, he and I. We never speak of love. We never
say “forever”.
    Or so I think,
anyway; but later, when we’re lying on the bed in the dreamtime
that follows sex, he suddenly says, “We’ve been foolish, haven’t
we, you and I?”
    “In what way?”
I ask.
    “We thought
that none of this had to matter. We thought we could have our
little bit of fun, and then walk away and be none the worse for it.
But these things change you. The person you become is not the
person you were.”
    “Everything you
experience changes you,” I say, cautiously.
    “Some things
more than others.” He looks up at the ceiling. “I’ve never been a
very honest person, you know. Not with other people, and not even
with myself. I’ve spent years lying to myself, telling myself that
I was just another ordinary bloke, content with an ordinary life –
or what we’re told is ordinary, anyway. But there was always this
secret side. A dark stream flowing just beneath the surface.”
    “That. And
other things besides.”
    “Such as?”
everything I’ve ever felt. Do you know the first time I wondered if
I’d made a mistake in marrying my wife? On our honeymoon. God, I
remember it so well. We were staying in this castle in Scotland,
and we’d been out somewhere, and something had gone wrong – it had
started raining, or we’d run out of money, something like that. And
she was furious. She didn’t bother to hide it, either. We got out
of the car and started to walk back to the hotel, and she was
stamping away, a few feet ahead of me, face like thunder. I just
followed her; I didn’t know what else to do. And all the time there
was this scared little voice whispering away in my mind: You’ve
made a terrible mistake. You’ve been married for two weeks, and
already you want a divorce. And then I thought: All right, it’s
bad, but it’s not a calamity . We’ll just get a quick divorce
and go our separate ways, and everything’ll be okay. And do you
know what happened next?”
    I smile, a
little bitterly. “You ended up staying.”
    “Right. We made
up that evening, and I thought, God, it was just an argument, don’t
be so bloody melodramatic. I think I knew otherwise, though, even
if I didn’t want to admit it. But I stuck around anyway – stuck
around for years, pretending that everything was all right, and
having a couple of kids as if to prove it.”
    “You can’t
regret that, surely.”
    “No, of course
not,” he says quietly; and then we fall silent for a little
    In many ways I
love this quiet, shadowy time more than anything. Neil is at his
ease, I am no longer his Mistress, and the games are forgotten.
Now, we are just a man and a woman, lying down together among these
tangled sheets, and perhaps attempting to forge a deeper connection
than just sex. He’s never spoken so freely before, though, or
hinted at so much, and I don’t know whether to be pleased or
    What he says
about his marriage reminds me of some of my own past relationships.
That sick feeling that you’ve made a mistake, and hoping that it
isn’t true even though you know that it is. The way you can waste
years pretending that everything is all right. And the way that,
when the grey shadow of normality and respectability steals over
you, you can either submit to it or turn your back on it.
Normality, though, is only a loosely defined set of averages, and
averages are a poor fit for any individual. No average takes
account of an individual’s bumps and irregularities. If you’re
lucky, it’ll fit well enough not

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