Pearl Lips

Anne’s husband, Barry, had fucked someone else. It wasn’t a one-time thing either. He’d been with the same women through Anne’s late pregnancy and early motherhood. He and his woman were both teachers at the local high school. Barry would tell Anne that he’d be staying late after school. Then, he and his satisfaction would head to a hotel instead. Anne would cook herself tea and put Barry’s up for him. He’d come back, tell Anne about his day at school and eat his tea. Just like the nights he would finish at normal time.

A few years after the affair, a friend of Anne’s, Marcy, asked if she could come round to Anne’s for a chat, tea and cakes. Anne thought it would have been about her having a child, there was some talk of it a few weeks before. But Marcy had been told about Barry’s affair.  The chat had started with Anne asking about Marcy and her husband and general everyday goings-on. Anne could see Marcy was uneasy. She fidgeted, she stroked the edge of her tea cup and the manner of her replies were unconfident and lacking in detail.
“What’s up?” Anne asks, leaning forward and putting her cup on the coffee table.
“Do you remember your pregnancy well?”
“Of course. Not only was it great having something growing in me but that’s the best I’ve looked. Ever. I haven’t found anything that makes me look like that,” Anne says.
“I remember you looking great. I’m looking forward to that. And the baby, of course.”
“So you’re pregnant?”
“Not yet,” Marcy replies. She puts her cup on the coffee table and slides her bracelet back to her wrist from her forearm. Marcy tells Anne everything she knew about Barry’s affair: the what, where and who. Anne starts to pick the nail varnish off her nails.
As Marcy finishes, she tells Anne that the why is something she needs to find out. Shuffling across, she puts her arm around her shoulder and pulls her close, “The truth of the why can only come from Barry.”
Marcy offered to stay and be there for when Barry got back. Anne told her it wasn’t necessary. Then, Marcy leaves. Anne struggles to keep herself occupied until Barry gets back. Hannah helps somewhat, pestering her mum to help her colour in her colouring book.

Barry walks in and Hannah greets him with an embrace. They exchange talk about how they were and how their days had been. Anne sits on the sofa putting lip gloss on. She rolls her lips together as she puts the lip gloss away. Hannah pulls her Dad to go up the stairs to show her days colouring.
“You go on. Daddy will be up in a sec,” Anne says.
Hannah bundles up the stairs. Barry leans his briefcase beside the sofa and sits next to Anne.
“What’s up?” Barry asks.
Anne tells Barry everything Marcy had been told. She never raises her voice or throws her arms about. Barry sits back in the seat and absorbs it all. His eyes skirt around Anne and he says nothing.
“Why did you do it?” Anne asks.
“I just needed something else in that moment. Not the mother of my child.” He winces as he speaks.
“And what’s stopping you from wanting that something else again?”
“Hannah. The idea of having a baby was far less appealing than actually having one. That’s why I wanted to leave and why I stayed.”
Anne puts her hand to her lips. A shimmery patch was left on her hand.
“Raising a child with you made me fall in love again. The second time felt more adult and more real.”
“I don’t think I can do any more at the moment. You can have the sofa for a while,” Anne stands and heads up stairs.

Anne sits at the dresser. It’s a white furnished dresser with an illuminated mirror. She runs her fingers along her cheeks and then through her hair. Foundation, blusher, eye liner, mascara, eye shadow and lip gloss sit on the dresser. A thick headband is hanging off a hook on the wall beside mirror, she takes it and puts it on. Her eyes become wide and her pale skin taught as her mousy brown hair is strapped back. She stands and pulls the curtain behind the dresser shut, bathing herself in shade. Her pale skin becomes darker. Anne pinches her cheeks. They redden and she smiles. Twisting her head, she admires herself from different angles. Natural, she thinks. The red starts to fade. She watches it go then opens the curtain again. Sitting down, she looks at the foundation and opens it. She smooths it over her face and her skin becomes a few tones lighter than it was in the shade.
A knock on the bedroom doors captures Anne’s interest. Hannah is coming down from her tip toes as she lets go of the handle. She drags a stool into the room. The stool has pink legs and a white, cushioned seat. It takes its place beside Anne. Hannah brings her knee up onto the seat and levers herself up.
“You’ve got jam around your mouth.” Anne takes a tissue from a box on the dresser. She licks it and wipes the jam from Hannah’s mouth.
“What’s next, Mummy?” Hannah asks.
Anne puts her hands together and looks at her make-up collection. “The eyes. What colour do you think I should wear today?”
“That one.” Hannah gets on her knees and reaches across her mum’s dresser for the single disc of green compact power. She tries to undo the case.
“Pass it here,” Anne says. “Good choice, darling.” Anne brushes the green to her upper eyelids. She begins to tell Hannah about the day’s plans as she takes the lid off the eye liner. Her mouth is held open as she draws on the rims of her eyes.
“Is Dad coming with us?” Hannah asks.
She stops drawing and says, “Probably not. It’s the weekend, he won’t want to walk around town.”
“Is Dad okay on the sofa?”
Anne finishes one eye. “His side of the bed is broken. We need to find someone to fix it,” she says.
Hannah looks at her mum’s reflection in the mirror.
Anne’s mouth is open again as she defines her eye. After finishing the second eye, she puts the top on the eye liner and picks up the mascara.
“Do you still love Daddy?” Hannah asks.
“What do you mean?”
“You don’t talk to him.”
Anne pauses. She pushes the brush into the mascara and pulls it out. “Don’t worry about it, sweetie. It’s an adult thing.”
“But it makes me sad.”
Anne looks at Hannah, who’s rubbing her fingers into her palm.
“Come here,” Anne says.
Hannah stands up on the chair and steps across to her mum’s lap. She sits it down and puts her arms around her mum’s neck. Anne wipes her eye with the back of her hand. Eye make-up is smeared across her face.

Anne comes down the stairs taking each step with both feet. Her green heeled-shoes sink into the shaggy carpet. She straightens her white, knitted mini-dress and fixes her hair in the mirror at the bottom of the stairs. Barry is still sitting on the sofa. He has his head back and his eyes closed listening to David Bowie, through headphones, on a tape player. Anne’s movement through the lounge stirs him.
He removes the headphones and asks, “Going out?”
“Yeah,” Anne replies. She opens up her bag on the kitchen table.
Barry wraps the headphones around the tape player and puts them on top of the rolled duvet beside the sofa. “Where are you off?”
Barry stands and plumps the cushions on his seat. “I can come.”
“It’s your day off. I’m sure there’s something on the television.” Anne pulls her purse from the bag. She opens it and checks the amount of money in there.
“Does Hannah want to spend the day with me? I can find something to do.”
“She’s putting her coat and shoes on now.”
Barry nods and adjusts his trousers. He walks through into the kitchen and takes his wallet from beside the fruit bowl. After taking out £10, he offers it to Anne. She looks at it and fiddles with the coins in her purse.
“Take it,” Barry says.
Anne closes up her purse and puts it in her bag.
“This isn’t healthy for any of us, Anne.”
Anne goes to the bottom of the stairs and shouts, “Are you ready, Hannah?”
“Hannah needs both of us. Kids need both of their parents. A father and a mother,” Barry says. He gets his coat from the hall and takes his shoes from the shoe rack in the hall.
Anne watches as Barry puts his coat and shoes on. Hannah comes down the stairs, “Mummy, can you do the zip? Daddy, are you coming?”
“Yeah I am, is that ok?”
Anne kneels and does Hannah’s zip up.
“Yeah!” Hannah says.
“All ready then?” Barry looks from Hannah to Anne. He unlocks the door and Hannah takes his hand.
Anne takes her pearly lip gloss from her bag. She stands at the mirror and applies it. Her pearl lips disappear amongst her skin.

By Tyler Bonson 2016©


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