I love the back to school feel of September. Because I’m neither a tidy person nor an organised/neat one, it’s one of the few times that I relish the chance to start afresh. And so I tried to capture that feeling in a story.
It’s become a tradition, taking their summer holiday in the last week of August, just before the kids go back to school. Traditional too, the way she waits with them in the Arrivals Hall while he nips into WHSmith and buys a three pack of black Sharpies.
They don’t celebrate Valentine’s, so this is their equivalent – when he leaves for work the next morning, the pens will be on the bedside table, along with a note in his bold, scrawling script, telling her how much he loves her, how good a mother she is, how proud he is of her. There’s no mention of all the things he plans to do to her, despite the fact that she’s the only one who will read these words. This is the public facing side of their marriage: the affection they have for each other which shimmers so brightly people still comment on it, even after ten years.
There are two days before the children go back to school, but this is deliberate – a kind of extended foreplay, although they don’t call it that. They don’t really talk about – or need – foreplay in the traditional sense. Even now she’s wet as soon as she thinks about fucking him.
She jokes that she’s a slut in more ways than one – she knows other mothers who still buy old-fashioned name tags and spend hours sewing them into their children’s clothes, but that’s just not her. Instead, she uses one Sharpie to mark their names on the labels in block capitals and then slips that pen into the kitchen drawer for the other day to day realities of her life – helping with school projects, dating containers of leftovers, making christmas cards.
The second pen goes in her handbag, for book signings. This is new, this level of success. She’s always written and had a couple of short stories published long before she met him, but this, her first novel, has actually made the bestseller list (albeit the bottom of it) and brought her a certain level of fame in the book world. She credits him with creating a life in which that’s possible – before, she liked to write, but had little faith in her own ability. He loves her words and through him, she’s learned to love them too,
The third pen goes in her bedside drawer. On the first day of term, he takes holiday, and under her school run clothes she slides into her best underwear. For her, more than for him, although she loves that he always notices.
When she returns, there is tea on her bedside table, although the bed is snug, as if he’s been keeping it warm for her the whole time she’s been gone. He lays propped up against the pillows as she strips for him and then curls into the familiar planes of his chest and drinks her tea. This may be their return to routine but she’s never wanted the kind of scenes that begin with her kneeling by the bed, waiting for him. She likes it to start from a place of obvious attraction.
He always marks her before anything else, the same way she was taught to do it at school. Always label your books (neatly) before writing inside them. Black ink, best handwriting. He does it on her ankle – a subtle enough spot that she can keep it there for a few days if she doesn’t scrub too hard in the shower, but also somewhere she’s always wanted a tattoo, but has never quite dared to get one.
The words don’t change from year to year. Always his name and, underneath, the number of years they’ve been together. This year is double figures for the first time. She can hardly believe her luck.
When the ink is dry, they fuck, in the way they haven’t really, all summer. Partly because of the kids always being around, partly because going vanilla for August means she knows this will always await her in September. He pushes his cock into her mouth as deep as she can take it, her eyes watering, the wet black smudginess around then contrasting with the crisp letters on her leg. He pulls her hair. Fucks her with her legs over his shoulder until she gushes everywhere, until she’s stunned by the intensity of it all. And then, when she’s lying there exhausted, his cock still buried inside her, he slaps her lazily across the face, just testing. Her cunt twitches instantly and she moans ‘Oh god, again, please do that again.’
He times the slaps to match his thrusts, not stopping until she comes apart underneath him, screaming his name.
Later he takes her for lunch and, as she dresses and smooths foundation into her flushed cheeks, she marvels that always, with him, there is something new to learn.