She’s at the bar down the street, laughing about the new Bond movie, taking shots with this guy and his friends from Columbia because she can’t think of anything else to do. They are debating the merits of Brosnan vs Craig, and she is holding the news of her husband’s affair in her cheek, sucking it like a lozenge. Earlier in the evening, his phone had flashed on the nightstand next to the bed, then a millisecond later the message appeared on his iPad, propped on her stomach.
Bed’s still warm. Got something u like. R we on again for Wed?
She was reading a murky translation of Beowulf. Men dragged from the hearth against their will, torn into pieces by a mysterious force, ancient and impossible. But this was stark. This was clear. She didn’t even wake him. She found she couldn’t move. Instead, blood pumping, head spinning, she continued to read about the severing of arms and legs in Heorot Hall. When she got to Grendel’s mother—that scaley, bereft beast—she powered down and slipped off her nightgown, left something of herself right there in the bed, got dressed in the dark and slithered down the stairs. She was out the door into the cold-clean-air, in something short and shocking.
Really, her dress is very, very tight. And now she’s seated in a real mead hall, smack dab in a group of loudies, who laugh when she mentions Roger Moore and laugh harder still when she brings up Connery. That cocksucker! They are fresh out of grad school—former frat boys, all popped collars and MBAs. One of them points to her ring and asks if she is married. The truth, 12 years. Over half of it spent a world away in North Africa—a cultural diversion she thought served as glue.
“Not anymore,” she says, and clenches her jaw. She forces a smile, puts her hands in her lap and nods like this is a good thing.
They nod back. Everyone agrees. This is great news. Then they announce it, make it a whole big thing. They are gonna hit the club next door. She is welcome to come with! The dark-haired one, she forgets his name, he is tall and standing right behind her.
“Ready?” he asks. He slaps his palms on her shoulders, squeezes lightly.
She’s not ready, but she stands up. He reaches for her hand, a balled fist, and works his fingers in, fans hers wide. Now they are woven together and she follows him out the door.
He pulls her into the club and hands over a twenty. They stop for stamps on the backs of their hands and her cheeks flush, sweat already beading her upper lip. He is exceptionally cute, but a little dumb, or maybe that’s not fair. Maybe he’s just twenty-six and she’s the stupid one. He hands her a shot of something cinnamon, and she decides she’s fine with it. Her own stupidity—she doesn’t really care.
They shuffle past the crowd piled up by the bar, bottles lining the walls in neat little rows, lit jewels. He looks back and squeezes, two quick pulses, then moves his grip upward, pulling her by the arm toward the strobe of the dance floor, the throb of warm bodies pulsing within. And then she is smashed against him, his hands ringing her waist, forcing her hips against his. She’s all arms, loose and flingy. He jockeys behind her, bumps his pelvis hard against her ass, and she laughs—pushes back until he lets go. Then she spins around, faces him, and plants her forehead on his shoulder. Thud. He rubs her back, slow circles, and they stand there like that, in a hex of tangled bodies, until he places his hands on the sides of her cheeks, tilts her head up.
“You okay?” he asks.
“Mmmm,” she says, and nods.
“Good,” he says.
She closes her eyes, waits for his mouth to meet hers, and there it is. She leans in tight against him. Then they are back to dancing, when she feels his palm go flat and rigid against her stomach. He snakes it down past her crotch until he reaches the end of her skirt, and before she realizes what is happening, he has pulled her underwear aside, dipped two fingers in, his thumb slipping easily over the front of her again and again. The music is loud, the beat thumping in her own chest. He yells into her ear.
“Come on my hand,” he says.
She nods, moves against him.
When she is done, she goes still, and he is smiling.
“Fun?” he asks. Her hair is in her mouth.
“Yeah,” she says, and he reaches up to pull it from her lips. He smooths it back, places both his palms on the side of her head. They cover her ears and it sounds like she is safely underwater. She pushes away from him and grins. He grins back, sticks his finger in his mouth and does that popping thing with his cheek. She laughs and points to the bar like that’s where she is going. She turns and waves over her shoulder. He’s still smiling, but now his eyes are closed and she is thinking, sleep.
Woozy, is how she feels—aching for air and a quiet bed. But she knows that back at home another part of her is waiting, a curled and coiled thing. She works her way through the crowd to the front of the club, shouldering her way past the bar and back into the street. She is very drunk, but the cold air pierces her lungs, and it’s enough to produce in her a foggy kind of clarity.
She’d been close to indiscretion once. Back in Egypt. A restaurant. A handsome waiter. A tunnel that ran beneath the kitchen in the back. He lit a match and showed her. In the end, it was nothing. But maybe it should have been a white-hot streak of lightning. A dicey hieroglyphic, cloak and dagger, cryptic kind of thing. She tips her face to the sky, registers the tall buildings that wall her in from every side, and tries her very best to focus on the small square of pure night high above her head.
But dense clouds have already begun to converge, to edge their way in. She’s back in the muck. A grungy epic still waiting to be finished up at home. She will enter the scene in medias res, sword drawn. Because, what horror has come calling on this dark and dreary night? An affair. In a plain old bed. The banality. The gall.
Sara Cappell Thomason holds an MFA in fiction from Sarah Lawrence College. She was the winner of the 2022 New Flash Fiction Review Prize. Her work has previously appeared in Electric Literature, Tin House, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, SmokeLong Quarterly, and The Citron Review, among others. Currently, she lives on Isle of Palms, SC where she is working on a novel about prehistoric monsters. She can be found on Instagram @saracthomason.