Alicia sobbed as Leven pulled his last suit from the rail. Cloth hangers swung back and rattled against the rear of the wardrobe. He stuffed the suit and hangar into the open foldover case.
‘You’ll be in touch?’
‘No’, he answered, curtly. He emptied a drawer by upending it over the case. Socks and shorts scattered across the dark jacket. He snapped the case shut, pulled aggressively at the zips.
She sat on the bed, turned the flattened, plastic tube in her hands, tried to hide the telltale colour change. ‘I thought you’d be pleased.’
His mouth set even tighter as he carried the case into the hallway. ‘I’ll get the rest later.’
‘You’re not just going abroad, again?’
He glanced at her, frowned. ‘Don’t be stupid.’ He stalked into the guest bedroom – the study – and pulled out his files from the filing cabinet. He dumped them into his briefcase. When that could barely click shut he grabbed a sports-bag into which he stuffed the remainder.
Except one file was left.
Alicia followed him in. ‘You’ve been away so much.’
He ignored her. ‘I’ll be back for my printer. It’s for work.’
His face twisted and she thought he was about to cry. Instead, he pulled open the bottom guest room drawer and lifted out a bodice; bizarre, irregular shapes were cut from its fabric – perhaps it was meant to be revealing or erotic.
‘Because I found this.’
Guilt showed briefly, was masked. ‘But that was to be for you.’ Even Alicia thought she sounded false.
Leven stared at her, incredulity in every crease of his brows. He pulled a letter from the remaining file, shoved it into her spare hand. ‘Read it.’ He carried the bags back into the hallway.
Alicia scanned the letter, collapsed onto the bed and dropped the betraying tube. ‘It could be a mistake – the tubes may have grown back.’
‘Check the date.’ He paused for a moment whilst she glanced down. ‘It’s not the original. I got another, in case.’
There was nothing to say, but she tried. ‘It was a mistake.’
‘Such a mistake that you never got rid of the evidence? A mistake that happened every time I went away?’
She remained silent, eyes now dry. Tears were pointless.
‘I was doing it for us, for a better place than this!’ Leven waved his arms vaguely around the hallway, gesturing to the doors and the rooms beyond. He took a deep breath, checked his pockets – phone, keys, cards – and opened the door. He threw his bags outside, stepped out and was gone. The door slammed shut behind him. Again.
The flat became empty, quiet and lonely once more.
‘Just a simple mistake’, she whispered. ‘I just wanted you to stay.’
The flat did not answer.
She reached for the phone, pressed recall a couple of times. ‘Come over’, she said. ‘Please come over. I’m alone. Again.’
* * *
[Lonely Day by Ben Raynal (C),
https://www.flickr.com/photos/zubrow/6277170943/ flickr, Creative Commons]