Watching You Sleep
A deliciously dark short story compendium.
We met at the supermarket. How clichéd is that? We both reached for the last box of my favourite ginger tea at the same time. Always the gentleman, you smiled and let me have it. I remember thinking you had cute dimples, and stubble, and wore a rumpled lumberjack style shirt as if you’d only just got up. I now know that was probably true. I’m a morning person, but you rarely rise before 9am on a work day – the perks of being freelance. And you don’t get up until 11am on Sundays! I’ve already been up for several hours, been to the gym, walked the dog – often wearing that same lumberjack shirt, got takeaway coffee, put a round of washing on, and made breakfast before you’ve even stirred. But it works well like that. We don’t crowd each other. It’s important to retain your individuality in a relationship. To have your own space. Or at least that’s what I thought.
I saw you with her that first time by accident. I wasn’t supposed to be in that part of town, but my bus broke down, and it was raining, and there was a long wait for a taxi. I just wanted a hot drink. Something to take the chill from my fingers. The café looked nice, independent, the type that might serve decent herbal tea, instead of the wet grass stuff the chains hawk. I guess you thought the same. I caught sight of you through the window and initially I was delighted. How wonderful to discover you there! But then I saw how close you were sitting to the blonde next to you. How you were looking at her. And I sort of froze in the drizzle, on the other side of the road, staring. You reached up and gently tucked her hair behind her ear, and she looked up at you through mascara-thick eyelashes. I thought you didn’t like girls who wore lots of make-up. But then she wasn’t like me at all. She was curvy, with cleavage that she obviously liked to push together for maximum impact. She seemed to be laughing at everything you said. I find that irritating, false, but you lit up in a way you never had with me. When I saw you kiss her my heart broke. I ran all the way home. My feet were blistered and bloody that night, but I didn’t show you. I kept my pain hidden. In the café the next morning, your first latte, my second of the day, we smiled at each other as normal. Both of us with our secrets.
I didn’t know what to do to begin with. But watching you sleep, the gentle rise of your chest, the way your skin grows soft, almost childlike, in slumber, I knew I couldn’t let you go. What we have is special, and I had to fight for it. So I began to plan.