Fiction · 11/27/2019

Door Jamb Armor

Every Friday afternoon at 12:15 p.m., Chanda retrieves the Yale key from under the reclining green-hatted gnome, lets herself in the window-paneled pine wood door, strips on the way upstairs (unlike at her place, there’s no significant other or sticky five-year-old to necessitate picking her clothes up) and gets into the Egyptian-cotton sheeted, king-sized bed with Kieran.

Every Friday, she unlocks, she undresses, they unmake each other, she returns to the bank, leaving her ex-pottery teacher in his place. Until, mesmerised by the way his pink neck curves into his pale shoulder, she accidentally asks, Do you ever want anything to change?

The next Friday, a day of sleet and suspected head lice, the key is not under the gnome. Unsure if she put it back correctly, she searches all the ornaments he inherited from his sculptress grandmother. Gnome holding flower, gnome holding toadstool, gnome dressed in blue Hawaiian shirt. It’s resting against the cheery smiling embracing gnome couple.

On successive Fridays, it’s in the bird bath, in the unseasonably radiant orange and white split-corona daffodil bed, on the cracked and peeling living room windowsill, a room she’s never been in. The investigating outside means less time for their explorations of each other inside, but somehow the slow Friday afternoon queues seem to move quicker.

The sixth Friday after she spiked their formula, the key is not anywhere in the handkerchief-sized garden. It’s been a morning of broken things: cash machines, scooters, heels. She manipulates the useless wooden shoe-remnant to lever her way in, breathless in case the neighbor across the road is practising using his binoculars again. Kieran pulls the sheets over his face when she leaves, mentions he’s been looking at something to reinforce the front door, the hinges, the lock. Even the door jamb.

It’s Saturday, crisp and clear and smelling of the sun after rain. She hauls herself through the open living room window into a musty, furniture-stuffed room. On a dark wood sideboard, every pot she made in class is lined up in a dust-free row. The first one, the one she had smashed, the one that turned into a blob marked with her handprints, is glued-together and gleaming. She climbs into the bed fully clothed, rolls into the middle, touches her smooth fingertips to the cracked skin of his palm.

You’ve found me, he says.

+++

Anita Goveas is British-Asian, based in London, and fueled by strong coffee and paneer jalfrezi. She was first published in the 2016 London Short Story Prize anthology, most recently in OkayDonkey, X-Ray Lit and New Mag. She’s on the editorial team at Flashback Fiction, an editor at Mythic Picnic’s Twitter zine, a reader for Bare Fiction and tweets erratically @coffeeandpaneer. Links to her stories can be found at https://coffeeandpaneer.wordpress.com.