Naked Goodbye: An Extract

I am bad at endings. Really bad. I don’t want to burn bridges, but nor can I sit quietly and ride out the pain. So the bridges burn and I burn with them.

Endings are part of what makes me wary of the way erotica has shifted as a genre. I’ve never wanted to write happy endings (this makes my Dad snigger every time I say it) but the move towards erotic romance has made it the most commercially viable path.

So when I successfully submitted my first short story to the For Book’s Sake anthology Tongue in Cheek’ in Spring this year*, I was sort of amazed that the longest short I’d ever written turned out to be about an unhappy ending that turns happy.

Here’s an extract, and if you want to read the end of the story, you can buy the anthology here.

*I meant to write this post way back in May. This week’s #WickedWednesday prompt has finally spurred me into remembering to!

Naked Goodbye

I can’t remember our last time.

If I’d known it’d be our last, I wouldn’t have gotten so drunk. Wouldn’t have let him order that last bottle of red, that last plate of cheese. I’d have dragged him home while I could still match key to lock, still walk in my heels.

Instead, we grappled against an office block wall while waiting for the taxi, his kisses wet and his hand up my skirt. We stumbled through the door and I sat cross-legged on the bed, whipping off my bra with a wine-fueled flourish. And then… nothing.

We might have done it, we might not – I have no idea. The wine, and the resulting hangover, are a heavy fog that stifles my memory, letting me see details from that night, but not the bigger picture.

And now, it seems, we’re done.

It’s only ever been a sex thing, so I shouldn’t be surprised. It was never going to last forever. Yet,my hand trembles as I thumb through his text: “Met someone Friday. Don’t know where it’s going but thought I should give you a heads-up.”

It would be wrong to wait and see. I could sit tight, knowing that at this stage he has no way of knowing how promising this encounter is likely to be. But I don’t like loose endings. Plus he’s already dropped the kiss from the end of his messages. This is no time to be sentimental, but I wouldn’t mind making a few last memories. I text back: “Goodbye fuck? x”

If he’s surprised, he doesn’t let it show. His reply is brief. “Sure. Saturday? Your place? x”

By the time Saturday comes, I have to change the sheets. My pillow is streaked with mascara, and I’d rather he didn’t realise I care, not now it’s too late to do anything about it. So I switch pink cotton for blue striped flannel and hope that by later that evening, I’ll have replaced one set of salty stains with another.

We don’t make it to the bedroom.

It doesn’t feel like he’s gone off me. His cock is still rock hard as he manhandles me up against the kitchen worktop, sweeping my hair to one side and biting my neck, making me slosh wine over the side of the glass I’m filling. There’s no dithering or uncertainty in the fingers that push my knickers to one side and thrust deep inside me, a little too much a little too soon. The way I’ve begged for in the past.

Just as I start to sink in to it, knuckles whitening on the worktop, his name crystallising on the tip of my tongue, he pulls his fingers free, takes my hand and leads me to the living room. He leaves our glasses behind, and suddenly I’m longing for a mouthful of cool chardonnay to dissolve the lump at the back of my throat.

More than the chardonnay though, I want him inside me. I don’t care where – for all it matters to me right now he could bend me over the arm of the sofa, grate my knees against the carpeted stairs or have me on all fours on the wooden floor. But no. He unbuckles, frees his cock and makes himself comfortable amongst my scatter cushions.

“Come here …”

I want to, really I do. It’s just that there’s no blind on my front window and, well, it’s a sunny Saturday afternoon. Anyone could look in. I dither. Apparently I do care where, after all.

He holds out a hand, and a promise. “It’ll just look like we’re kissing.”

Oh, fuck the passers-by.

***

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Endings

I’m so bad at putting a stop to things that aren’t good for me. Friendship not working? I’ll be the bitch from hell in the hope you’ll just stop trying to arrange stuff, but I’ll never do the grown-up thing and just have a sensible conversation about why doing stuff together is no fun anymore and maybe we should just stop.

And with boys, it’s worse still. A few years back I had an extremely close bond with someone whose behaviour subsequently began to hurt me quite a lot. I let that carry on for over a year: half-heartedly applying for jobs that would allow me to move away from him, but not able to cut him out of my life while he was still in the vicinity. I was on anti-depressants, in therapy. And so, so unhappy.

The current situation in my life is not dissimilar. Unusually for me, I have tried to draw a line and end it twice, but both times he got back in touch and I got drawn back in to a situation that was great for my confidence at the start, but now just corrodes it. I need a guy who ‘s monogamous, who cares about me beyond when I’m next available to fuck and I’m just too weak to cut him loose and stick with my decision. It not only makes me hate him, it makes me hate myself , too.

I tried to end it again this week – or rather, I didn’t – I asked him to end it. Apparently, he won’t take that responsibility for me. I can see that he shouldn’t have to, sure, but I just don’t trust that if I do find the inner strength to do it that he won’t contact me again – there’s nothing I hate more than that moment when you can feel the misery of having lost someone you care about begin to lift only to have them pop back into your inbox. So I stick with what we have – a situation where the pleasure and the pain are constantly jostling for superiority – and meanwhile I halfheartedly trawl Internet dating sites looking for a reason to break it off for good, but not really wanting to find someone else because I’m convinced that ultimately they’ll just hurt me too.

Sometimes I think I should swear off men for good – that I’d be more emotionally secure if there was nobody in my life. I’ve never been that bothered about getting married, after all – I just want to be a mum one day, and we all know that there are other ways of going about that.

In the meantime, I guess I’ll stick with what I have and keep trying to find the resolve to do what I know I need to. Because sure, loneliness hurts, but so does hating yourself for constantly swimming back out into the rip tide.