Annie realized that she would have to divorce her husband, Richard, on the day of her little sister’s wedding. That was in July. Now, it was the middle of September and she was lying in bed next to him, looking at pictures of days she’d never get back.
The first photo—what used to be her favourite—was of Richard sitting on their leather couch, gin glass in one hand and one half of a torn Christmas cracker in the other. An obnoxious wreath of neon green tinsel was wrapped around his shoulders. He was laughing. His laughter, when he threw his head back like that, never failed to make her laugh too. It was one of the big reasons she had proposed to him by putting the ring in a handmade Christmas cracker.
She pinned that photo back onto the corkboard above her vanity. There were others there too—snapshots she’d taken of their holiday in Spain three months ago, mostly—but they were dotted around the apartment like scattered leaves in autumn. Annie imagined grabbing a broom and sweeping them out of the front door, only to have them push back inside with the breeze.
‘You coming to bed soon?’ Richard asked.
‘In a min.’
Richard turned off his bedside lamp. His phone kept some light in the room for a moment. She glanced over the corkboard again. Annie had taken a lot of bad photos. Objectively speaking; blurry and shaky shots from when she’d had too many shots, photos with bad lighting and worse—tired make-up artists, she’d just kept those out of her portfolio. But, by far, the worst photo was another of Richard.
Richard, sitting in the pews, holding Lily in his arms. The little flower girl was still tossing the few rose petals she had left onto the grass, although the wedding was over. The dimming sunlight of the August afternoon fell beautifully on the scene. Maybe if she could ignore the smile on Richard’s face then she wouldn’t hate it so much.
‘Goodnight, then.’ Richard sighed.
She wrapped her nightgown around her. It lacked the warmth of his arms, but at least she could breathe. In and out, steady now. But that face! It crept in on her mind, like spiders, it wouldn’t leave. The cobwebs it spun couldn’t be swept away with his reassurances, instead they trapped her thoughts constantly until they were consumed when she closed her eyes.
‘Would you want a boy or a girl?’ she asked.
‘Oh, are we talking about that now?’
She dug her nails into her arms. ‘I’m trying to imagine it. I really am.’
‘Well, I’d want a boy. Name him after my dad—Liam. You’d be a good mom, Annie. I don’t know why this is affecting you so much.’
Annie sat on the bed. It was good that it was too dark to see the frown on her face.
‘I just—we said at the beginning, right? Neither of us wanted kids. And it feels like, out of nowhere, you’ve changed your mind,’ she said.
‘It’s not out of nowhere—’
She interrupted, ‘And what about my work? I can’t just take all that time off. I wouldn’t even want too. And all the money—childcare isn’t cheap. God, Richard, what if the kid is sick or something?’
He reached out and took her hand. ‘You worry too much. See? Already a great mom.’
‘You’re not listening to me at all, are you?’
‘Look, he said, squeezing her hand. ‘It’s not out of nowhere. We’ve been together for over ten years now. We’ve grown so much together. I thought you would have changed your mind by now.’
She pulled away. He couldn’t mean— ‘This whole time? And you didn’t think to say anything?’
He reached for her hand again. ‘We should have a kid, Annie. We’d be great parents.’
‘We should get a divorce,’ Annie said.
Richard sighed. ‘You know if you stopped and just thought this through—’
‘I am thinking it through,’ she mumbled. The cobwebs spread out and out, across their bed and through her memory, spinning threads out of his white lies.
He turned on the light. There was no glint in his eye that she could see in the low lamplight; in a way that was a relief.
‘You won’t change your mind?’ he asked.
‘No.’ She rolled over and faced the vanity. ‘And clearly you won’t either.’
He pulled her back, just a little closer, into his chest. His hands were shaking but became still when they linked with hers.
He leaned his forehead against her shoulder and took a deep breath.
‘Let’s talk about it in the morning, Annie,’ he said. ‘We should talk about it in the morning.’
‘Goodnight, then,’ she whispered.
Annie turned off the light, then closed her eyes and wondered how much it costs for autumn leaves to be swept away.
Kelsie Colclough holds a BA in English & Creative Writing from Staffordshire University. She has been published in Palm Sized Press, Corvid Queen, and Variety Pack. She can be found on Twitter @klcolclough.
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