It’s dark when I pull into my ex’s driveway, his multi-coloured Christmas lights blinding me even though it’s May. He’s the last man to have touched my breasts and I’m concerned about a lump-type-thing I felt in my armpit when I was showering, so I drove over here on a whim but now that I’m here, I’m sort of regretting it.
What used to be my dog, but is now fifty percent his dog, just like our fifty-percent-kids, barks like I’m trying to break in. I push the front door open after a cursory knock and find my ex standing on the landing with a bottle of wine in his hand, looking surprised I’ve gained entry on my own, despite this being half my house until last year.
“Hey,” I say, unzipping my hoodie and pulling up my t-shirt. I don’t want to be here any more than he wants me here, but he knows my breasts better than anyone and right now that is the super-power I need.
“What are you doing?” he hisses, slapping at my hands.
“I felt a lump…,” I start but stop when a mess of blonde hair attached to a pretty-pretty woman’s head appears over the banister.
“Hey,” I say toward the head. “I’m…”
“Lisa,” my ex says. “Lisa, this is Jane, Jane this is Lisa.”
The hand attached to the pretty-pretty waves like a stutter.
“I felt a lump…” I start, holding onto my ex’s shoulder for support while toeing off my boots.
“I’m busy,” my ex says at the same time pretty-pretty says, “where did you feel the lump?” and moments later they’re sitting squished side-by-side on the loveseat with my dog and I’m perched on the coffee table in my grubby sweat pants and hideous bra, facing their awkward faces. Part of me wants my ex to remove my bra like he used to with one hand and a twist and part of me never wants him to touch me again.
“The lump?” he prompts but I’m frozen by pretty-pretty’s half smile and the sound of the playlist I made five years ago ejaculating from his speaker.
“Are you sure it’s not that fat tissue thing from when you were nursing?” he asks, snapping me back to reality, so I ask, “where are the boys?” and he and pretty-pretty stare at me, him with the bottle of wine in his hand, her with the half-smile, until he says “Dave’s” at the same time she says “my brother’s” and the six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon is too much for me so I unclasp my bra and display my tiny tits for both to see.
“Here,” I say, pointing at the spot still rubbed red from my preliminary investigation.
His cheeks flush a similar shade. “Why don’t you just go to the doctor?” he asks.
Me and pretty-pretty stare at him.
“May I,” she asks, offering out her of-course-perfectly manicured hands, and my ex and I stare at them like they’re secret weapons and I try not to imagine the things they’ve already done to him.
I shrug and he bites his lip.
“Can you bend your arm like this,” she asks, gracefully arcing her arm over her head and I comply.
My ex actually gasps when she touches me, her fingers cold on my skin, and I’m reminded how my ex’s mum used to clasp my always-cold hands in hers and say cold hands warm heart and I realize I miss her a bit.
“Could you pour us some wine?” pretty-pretty asks my ex and he stares at me like he wishes I would hurry up and leave already.
Pretty-pretty massages my breast in a circular motion, starting in my armpit and moving clockwise which is inline with what my doctor told me when I was thirteen and finally being told it wasn’t bad to touch yourself. I try to distract myself and end up wondering if pretty-pretty would make a good mum to my kids if breast cancer does indeed take me down and decide I don’t have enough information yet. Willingness-to-touch-breasts isn’t really kid-raising criteria.
My ex reappears with three glasses of wine, his glass obviously drunk from, and pushes the other two toward us.
“Well?” he asks and I raise my brows, say, “she doesn’t really know the baseline,” to which he rolls his eyes.
“They feel different than mine,” pretty-pretty says, and I look at her perky-much-larger spread, wonder if a child has ever sucked on her nipples and decide probably not.
“Could you just…” I say, widening my eyes at my ex like I used to when I wanted to communicate needing something without words.
“He knows them better than anyone,” I say towards pretty-pretty who nods like she gets it, and it occurs to me how sad it is that I don’t have somebody anymore. Somebody to check my breasts when I’m worried about random changes, somebody to notice if my shoes aren’t at the door when I’m meant to be home, somebody to set up the coffee for the next morning when I’ve forgotten.
“Last time, I promise,” I say, jutting my chest in his direction.
Pretty-pretty looks at my ex who hesitantly reaches out like he did during those last few weeks of our marriage when I was like yes-no-yes-no-maybe-so, because sometimes it’s hard to end something that was, at one point, magic.
He sighs, extending his hands forward and I don’t know what I’m expecting when his skin touches my skin, definitely not spontaneous combustion or butterfly metamorphosis or a tidal wave, but something, and when he says, “I don’t feel anything,” I say, “me neither,” and I mean it.
Jennifer Todhunter’s work has appeared in The Forge, Hobart, River Teeth, and elsewhere. Her work has been selected for Best Small Fictions, Best Microfictions and Wigleaf’s Top 50 Very Short Fictions. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Pidgeonholes and founder of Trash Mag. Find her at www.foxbane.ca or on Twitter at @JenTod_.