The last tiny ember flared before it died completely. It was a fitting metaphor. A wispy tendril of smoke tried to make its way skyward but the murmuring winds of change gently puffed, and it too was gone.
Her eyes were wide and her smile, fake.
“Ryan! You caught me out. I was just having a puff.”
She had stopped smoking months ago. I kissed her lips lightly, a gossamer touch. There was no trace of smoke on her breath or lips. A second too late, she knew what I knew.
“Smoking kills,” I said softly.
Indeed it did. I heard the car as it crept past my home, and I knew from the rhythmic beat of the engine and the brand of cigarette just who had been here.
“I need a shower,” I said, as I walked into our bedroom. Her look of fear intensified. We both knew I’d find the crumpled sheets and inhale the smell of recently had sex. I played at being oblivious, and walking through the connecting door to the bathroom I ran the shower. Instead of getting in I walked back into the lounge room. She was busy texting.
Ten minutes later I was clean and dry, and strangely calm. I knew what I was going to do next.
“Let’s do some shopping for dinner, okay?” I said. “I don’t feel like cooking what I took out of the freezer.” Relief flooded her face. I could see she’d have agreed to just about anything if it meant getting me out of the house.
We drove past the shopping centre. She didn’t question why. She sat there, looking like a statue. As we drove into the street our dear friends, Terry and Barbara, lived in, Carol looked panicked.
“Why are we here?”
“I just have to drop something off to Terry,” I said.
I pulled into the driveway and said: “Come and say hi. This won’t take a minute.” Carol’s look changed from panicked to stricken, but she silently got out of the car.
“Barb, how are you, Lovely?” Her smile was genuine. “I brought something over for Terry. Is he here?”
He emerged, looking shaken. “Terry!” I beamed. “Here’s your fuck buddy!” I turned, walked back to my car, got in, and started it. Then it occurred to me there was one more thing left to do. I wound down the window and called out to Carol “Never come back!” My voice was strangely calm. “Oh, and Terry? Smoking kills.”
I had her things packed and sent the following day. She’d tried to call, and text, and even knock. I ignored them all.
She thought she knew me so well. She didn’t know me at all.