A short story inspired by August’s Visual Verse photo prompt.
When Cilla saw the ad, she recognised the cottage she and Jason had invented. It was exactly what they had talked about owning one day, when his divorce came through. They would lie in bed, in her bed, and talk, dream, pretend. The asking price was far more than she thought they’d be able to afford, but on a whim, she phoned up about it. The estate agent told her it was probably sold, the couple who were interested wanted just one last look before they agreed on the price, but if she liked, he would squeeze her in that afternoon before they arrived. You never know, he’d said, hedging his bets.
It was perfect, old red brick with roses round the door, stone flagged floors, mature cottage garden. The visit was rushed; she was shuffled out of the kitchen door as the couple arrived ahead of time, striding in a proprietorial sort of way up to the front door, happy, smiling, enchanted. He picked a rose and handed it to his wife. She smiled and kissed him on the cheek. They didn’t see her, but Cilla saw them, and the fabricated yarn of divorce unravelled into a shoddy tissue of lies.
That was two weeks before the holiday—he had told his wife it was a business trip—a week in the Greek islands. She kept the image of his wife in her head though it made her sob in hopeless fury. She saw his gallant gesture repeating over and over, their smiling faces. It wasn’t going to be enough to confront him with his lies. She wanted to make him feel as much pain as she did.
Jason took her hand and showed her the island, as if he owned it. Praised the scenery, the locals, the wine. There was magic in the islands, he said. He said a lot of other things too. She talked about the house they would buy after the divorce, described the brick cottage in detail, the roses round the door, the stone flags in the kitchen and smiled to herself as he shuffled and his gaze drifted uneasily. He had wanted to eat out that first evening. She insisted on cooking at the rented apartment. Just a simple meal, she’d said, stuff from the market and a bottle of wine.
He didn’t guess, she was sure of that. He lacked the imagination, but he was worried. She smiled a lot, more than usual. She was aware of it, the euphoria going to her head more than the wine. She wanted to laugh. Afterwards, she insisted they go down to the sea. It was evening, almost dark. He probably thought it was the uneven path making him stumble, low branches making him bend almost to the ground. By the time he was running on all fours, he had no idea who he was anymore. She picked up a stick and whopped him on the back end, laughing as he squealed and trotted off in terror into the wine dark sea.