She’s in the doorway of the cheap motel bathroom, her mouth open with surprise, her eyes are bright and scared. Hesitant. She’s wearing her luxurious peach satin slip, the one that’s split all the way up her thigh. He knows that slip, and the silken smoothness of the thigh below it. He remembers the slip of his palm from her knee, to her thigh and further. At that moment he wants her. Wants her and hates her and loves her.
“Helen.” His voice breaks. He tries again. “Helen.”
“Oh god, Stan.” Her voice shakes and she is absurdly silhouetted by the bathroom light behind her. Beautiful and frightened, an adulterous angel. “What is this?”
“You know what it is, Helen”. He does not let indignation slide into his reply. His eyes drop to her left hand. There’s a faint imprint from her wedding rings there. He hasn’t worn his for ten years or more. For some reason, that makes him incredibly sad.
“Blame?” Angry tears are in her voice. She’s incredulous and she feels ridiculous. “Deflect and blame? Is that what you’re doing?”
“Helen, no. Just surprised.”
“And I’m not?” Her tears are falling silently now. Freely and silently. “Oh god, what are we doing?”
Silence. Then: “How many times?”
“What’s the point?” He says “Why does it matter?”
She interrupts him, shouting. “How. Many?”
“Four,” he says. “Four. Or five.” He doesn’t know why he adds ambiguity other than to wound her. She lets it slide and answers his return question before he can verbalise it.
“Not one.” She corrects herself. “This one.”
Helen retreats into the bathroom and he hears frantic packing. She’s back in the doorway, clothed now, bag on shoulder. She approaches him. He’s petrified in this second, before the inevitable occurs. Stopping in front of him, she takes his hand, opens it, kissing his palm. She places an object in it and closes his hand. He can feel the shape of two small golden rings in his hand, smells her anniversary perfume.
Her footsteps fade as she walks away.