She was in full opinionated swing as I began to clear up around her, her arms folded, her manner resolute as usual.
“I just don’t get it…”
I turned, the empty coffee cups in my hand. I had my back to her now. I opened the tap and the water began to hit the base of the sink. She raised her voice slightly so I could hear her and I heard every word.
“I just don’t buy into the myth that women don’t know when their husband is sleeping with someone else. I think they just lie to themselves because they don’t want to know.”
She was fond of making these big statements in her lazy, southern drawl.
I shut off the tap and stared at the empty cups, not wanting to turn just yet.
I waited for it.
“I’d know if he was fucking someone else. I just would”
Pause. Breathe. Turn.
I looked at her. She is a long leggy woman, tall and elegant, feline, complacent almost in her manner. We were not alike. I am sharper in my manner. Small, petite, shorter, we were never friends who shared clothes. I looked down at my hands.
“How would you know?”
I placed emphasis on that first word. I was genuinely interested.
“Well I’d smell her on him for a start….”
I glanced up . She wasn’t smiling. She never smiled that much. She just raised her eyebrows to indicate a statement of fact. Her arm released itself from the fold and she reached down, fumbling in her bag. I quietly observed, not yet sure of my response. She produced a lipstick and, with the skill of many years of experience, she deftly removed the shiny lid, twisted it and began to smooth it over her mouth, no mirror required.
Our friendship could be measured out in lipstick stains, on numerous coffee mugs and wine glasses, on my cheek at a party or dinner, on the lips of my husband when she kissed him in a moment of shared friendly intimacy, always in my presence, never for too long.
I gaze at the ‘barely there’ sheen on her lips, a thought developing in my mind.
Her mouth…..that colour ….his mouth…..my mouth.
Had she applied it on the morning of that first unplanned meeting, kissing his mouth as he left? And later in that stolen lunch hour, emboldened by wine, when he pressed against me in that City doorway and he desperately sought my lips with his, my permission, my implied consent, did some of that soft colour transfer from her mouth to mine via his?
Or the next time, as we lay on my sitting room floor, after his hand had found my skin because the underwear I’d deliberately chosen allowed him to do so with such ease. When he traced his finger along my thigh so that I giggled, when he moaned between my legs ‘my God, you’re so wet and swollen’ making me blush. And then come. Was there a faint slick of colour left behind in between my legs that I didn’t notice?
Or that snatched afternoon in his kitchen, when he pressed his cock into my mouth, had she left her mark on him at the tip so that it smeared across my face as I yielded to his insistence? Or was it left there, around the base, where I’d struggled to breathe, eager to impress a new lover?
Or the most recent time, when we didn’t even make it passed the hallway, when he grabbed and pushed, hastily lifting and ripping, fucking me so hard from behind as he reached round and thrust his fingers into my mouth. Did those fingers still have the vestige of their last encounter, the colour from her mouth painted on to mine?
I stared at that mouth. The lipstick was a soft inconspicuous shade. It was probably called something like ‘Illusion’ or ‘Whisper’ or ‘Myth’. Lipstick names making promises that they can never keep.
Still staring I realised her lips were moving. She was talking. She was saying something to me, her arm outstretched.
“Do you want to try it?”
And there lay the lipstick, like a bullet, in the open palm of friendship.