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The End of Nothing

The woman sat on a foldable chair on the corner of Drew’s street, a stack of magazines in her lap and a cardboard sign propped up beside her.

The Weekly

2-50

A laminated card pinned to her clothes read:

Arta Orsos

Licensed vendor #415

Ms Orsos was old and draped in a mass of shawls and blankets. She looked up warily as Kaia halted in front of her and then looked away, apparently satisfied that there was no way she’d be able to extract a sale. Kaia frowned. She’d been down the street countless times but had never noticed the magazine seller before. In fact, she probably still wouldn’t have if it hadn’t been for the picture of Drew and Alana on the top magazine cover. She looked in her bag for change and found nothing smaller than a ten.

“Hi,” she said, and held out the money.

The woman eyed her hesitantly before taking the cash. She seemed confused for a second but came to soon enough and went to extract a magazine from the plastic packet in her lap. There was something remarkably gentle and graceful about the way she slid the magazine free and yet Kaia somehow knew it wasn’t something she did very often. Or at least, often enough.

“Thank you,” Kaia said and took the magazine. She looked down at the cover, then folded it in half and stowed it into her bag. Arta Orsos didn’t look for change and Kaia didn’t ask for it. She stood there awkwardly a moment as both of them avoided looking at each other and then she turned hastily, heading for Drew’s building. Once safely past the doorman and inside the elevator, she retrieved the magazine.

Childhood sweethearts to power couple.

The front page picture was airbrushed perfection; Drew helping Alana out of a sleek, black car. She wore a deep blue, knee-length dress, her blonde hair lifted by the wind, her smile as flawless as the rest of her. Kaia stared. She looked closer at the magazine, wondering numbly how one woman could be quite so beautiful. It almost made her panic. She opened the magazine. Andrew Sanderson: the person behind the politician. More pictures. Too many pictures. Laughing faces and diamond jewellery, champagne and suits and his hand on Alana’s waist and then on her neck and then in her hair.

The elevator stopped and the doors slid open. Kaia walked the few metres to Drew’s apartment and pushed hard on the buzzer. The door opened almost instantaneously and he stood in front of her, his belt undone and his shirt nowhere in sight.

“I thought you weren’t gonna show.”

He looked at the magazine in her hand.

“Where the fuck did you get that?”

“A woman on the street.”

He took it from her, tossed it onto the floor and then kissed her hard enough to take her breath away.

“It’s been too long.”

He always had the same line but it always felt appropriate. He pulled her through the door, closed it firmly behind her and then pushed her up against it so he could kiss her. Her mouth opened instinctively and his tongue pushed in, searching urgently.

Nothing ever felt like it was enough.

His hand went between her legs and pressed hard enough to make her moan. Kaia’s eyes closed. She pushed back at him, the pressure almost too beautiful. His fingers moved beneath her underwear until skin met wet heat. She bit her lip hard and he let out a long breath.

“You wanna come? So soon? I’ve hardly even touched you yet,”

“I know, I know,” Her words rushed out breathlessly. “But it’s been too long.”

His fingertip had pushed inside her, his thumb pressing hard against her throbbing clit. The sweat felt like it was evaporating from her heated skin.

“I fucking love you,” he murmured. “Every millimetre of you. I just want to be inside you all the time.”

“You talk too much,” Kaia whispered but she didn't mean it because every word from him hit her like a sugar rush, sweet and addictive. He knew how to talk. He knew the words, the things to say, the way to make her insides clench and her snatch drip around his searching fingers.

She couldn't look at him. His forehead was pressed to hers and if she'd opened her eyes, she knew his would be there; the ocean blue dimmed to a rainstorm as he watched what he was doing to her. It was almost unbearable. Too much. She knew what she'd see and yet seeing it in her mind was almost as bad. The clench of his jaw, the way his dark brows would be pulled together. She saw his face in every fantasy she ever had. The same expression. Heat and urgency.

“Look at me,” he murmured, like it was simple.

She didn't. His fingers slid inside her, curling into the tight heat of her entrance until the heel of his hand pressed against her. He pulled her towards him with his fingers inside her like it was a decent thing to do. Kaia gasped. Her snatch leaked copiously around his hand.

“I feel so numb without you,” he said. “But when I push my fingers inside you, it's like I'm alive. Like life is in colour again.”

“Save your bullshit for the voters,” Kaia whispered and she felt his whole body smile.

His fingers were moving inside her, coaxing her towards a release and though it took everything she had, she reached down and pushed his hand away so she could drop to her knees before him. When she looked up at him, his fingers were already in his mouth. Her hands moved hastily to undo his pants. The hardness beneath them seemed glaringly obvious, dangerous almost in its demand for attention.

"I really thought you weren't coming," he murmured.

"Why wouldn't I?" Kaia looked up at him, her hand wrapped around his throbbing cock. There was something beautiful about feeling him shudder under her touch.

"I dunno," His voice was a rasp. "Just - life, y’know?"

"Life." Kaia repeated the word softly, her hand stroking the length of his hard cock. She looked up at him, extended her tongue very deliberately and circled the pointed tip around the head of his cock.

"Does Alana go down on you?"

Drew exhaled carefully. His hands were clenched into fists.
"Like hell she does,"

Kaia closed her lips around his cock, her eyes never leaving his. It was just a moment but it hung between them, so familiar and yet not familiar enough.

"You are so fucking beautiful," Drew hissed. Kaia almost rolled her eyes and then realised the effect might be lost with his cock in her mouth. His hand gripped her hair hard as he pushed further along her swirling tongue. His hand tightened the more she took but there was a perfect pressure in the pain; the press of his fingertips and the pull of her hair felt somehow cathartic. She wanted to ask him to pull harder even as her eyes watered.

"All I do is wait," he said. "It's like I'm just doing things to fill all the empty time, going further and further for the tiniest buzz. I just wait. For this. For you. It's the only thing that makes me feel alive."

He pulled her up so he could kiss her again. His hands fisted in the skirt of her dress, pulling it up. They broke apart long enough for him to drag it off her and then they were kissing again. His leg was between hers and she could feel his cock trapped between their bodies, hard and insistent against her stomach. She wanted to touch it again, hold it in her hand and feel the way he throbbed for her but he caught her wrists before she could, holding her arms back so her body arched harder into his. 

He bent, kissed down her neck, along the flow of her collarbones until he was too low and dragging her down to the carpet with him. He let go of her hands to fumble through his pockets for a condom and she untangled her damp panties from around her legs before moving on top of him.

He looked at her like she was delicate. Feminine and soft and beautiful, like a summer cloud or some form of spun sugar. His hands fumbled between their bodies as she leaned down to kiss him and then he was pushing, pressing his cock against her until the moment hit and her body lowered against his. His cock stretched her so completely that she couldn’t tell who was throbbing harder. Kaia pressed her palms flat against the carpet either side of him and pulled back until he was barely inside her before moving down until he was buried. He pushed back, making her take it deeper until their bodies ground desperately against each other.

“Jesus,” His hands went for her, pulling her down urgently so he could kiss her, his fingers sinking into one of her breasts as though kneading the weight of it could vent his frustration.

“This is everything,” he hissed. His hands slid over her body, digging into anything he could hold onto as she rode his cock and moaned into his mouth.

“Harder,” his voice groaned. “Just – do it harder.”

She did. She met his thrusting hips for every packing stroke. His hands dug into her ass and he moved suddenly, rolling her onto her back so he was on top. Their eyes met. He kissed her with his hand around her neck until she thought she might never breathe again. But she did. The air felt crisp and quenching as he pushed inside her until her eyes watered. He fucked her hard, driving each thrust into her like he was trying to knock the air out of her lungs. She was breathing so hard, her head spun. Her nails dug into his back, her ankles crossed at his tailbone. There was nothing like being under him.

Her body took all he could give until she came, writhing beneath him on the carpet. His cock stilled momentarily inside her and when she opened her eyes, he was looking at her, his jaw clenched.

“I fucking love watching you come,” he rasped and his hand went between her legs as he thrust hard again, bottoming out inside her. The weight of his body trapped his hand against her clit and he rubbed it as he ground his cock inside her. She came again, her lithe body gripped by pleasure and Drew came too, his body like an earthquake around her as he jerked repeatedly. For a while, everything was pleasure until it ebbed away and all she wanted to do was hold onto his warm body until she fell asleep. But she couldn’t. He moved off her reluctantly and they lay there, breathing hard.

She never knew what to say when it was over. Two people and reality and a whiter than white ceiling. Outside the windows, rain had accelerated the sunset. Streetlights glowed in the drizzle. She felt Drew look at her.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

Everything, she wanted to say.

But why ruin the silver sliver of time with him? Why fill the seconds with fighting?

Instead, she smiled.

“D’you remember when we were like seven, and we took your bed sheets into the garden to make a fort?”

Drew laughed. “God, how could I forget? My dad was fucking livid.”

Remember when? Remember when? It was all she did anymore. Hanging onto lifeless memories, even as they faded like old newspaper. Remember when. And she couldn’t remember anything new anymore. She’d find herself repeating the same things she’d said last year and one year later didn’t have nearly the same effect as twenty years later. It’d become stale; forced, desperate conversations to fill the aftermath. Sometimes she thought it’d be easier to walk out straight after. Would it? Instead of staring at the ceiling and hating her own voice as she tried to make him laugh.

Remember. Why live in the past? Because the present was unbearable. She could hardly face herself in the mirror anymore. Things had gone too far, farther than either of them had ever planned.

She stood up and put on her dress.

“So – next week?” she asked.

Drew sighed.

“I wish. I’m not sure. Everything’s about the election right now.”

“I still can’t believe you’ve become a politician.”

He smiled as he stood up.

“What, don’t I look the part?”

“No, you’re perfect.”

He laughed, stretching as he headed for the bathroom.

“I wouldn’t go that far."

She left while he was still in the shower, picking up the discarded magazine she’d arrived with and stowing it in her bag. She’d learnt long ago that attempts at goodbyes only felt self-servingly awkward.

Back on the street, it was dark and busy. The magazine seller had disappeared.

“Excuse me? Kaia Porter?”

She stopped en route to her car and turned to see a dark-haired man. He extended a hand. She didn’t take it.

“Can I help you?”

“I’m Matt Gold, from The Era. I’m writing a feature on your friend, Andrew Sanderson and was hoping-”

“Andrew Sanderson isn’t my friend,” Kaia interrupted. She frowned. “How do you even know my name?”

“He’s not your friend?” Matt’s eyebrows went up a fraction. “What, so you work for him? ‘Cause you just came from his place, right? And you were both at Waterstone High? You grew up, what – four blocks apart?”

Kaia blinked. The man smiled innocuously.

“I don’t know what you think you know about me,” she said, haltingly. “But you’re wrong. I don’t want to talk to you.”

He nodded like he’d been expecting it.

“That’s absolutely fine,” He dug through his pockets. “But wait – one sec – here’s my card. You just call if there’s anything. Anything.”

Kaia looked down at the card, put it into her purse and walked quickly away.

***

She read the magazine she’d bought from cover to cover. She even did the puzzle page Sudoku and made an attempt at the crossword. Every so often, she found herself flicking back to the piece on Drew and Alana. She couldn’t help it. She stared at the pictures until they blurred into pixels and then she blinked and stared at them all over again.

Alana Redgrave. His wife. His ‘childhood sweetheart’. Kaia rolled her eyes at the headline. Childhood. Kaia was the one who’d known Drew since childhood. Alana had arrived ten years later and she was only ever meant to be a temporary part of his life. Something about getting her big shot father to drop a lawsuit against Drew’s parents. Kaia could hardly remember the reason now, only the way life had played out since.

Alana was the kind of girl who spawned insecurities in every other teenage girl. Blonde and bronzed and beautiful. Chemically beautiful. She smelt like strawberry flavour. Not real strawberries but a confectioner’s idea of strawberries, beautiful for the most part but with a manufactured over-sweetness. Kaia barely knew her beyond the crowded school corridors. She wasn’t even vaguely interested, at least until Drew was.

“It doesn’t mean anything,” he’d said, “It’s just something I have to do. It’s not as though I actually like her.”

They were skipping gym class, killing time behind the science block. They never had anything to do. No money. Nowhere to go. Just bodies and conversation.

“She likes you though, doesn’t she?” Kaia said and it was true. Alana had always had a thing for Drew, inviting him to her birthday parties even though the rest of her friends were repulsed by his social circle.

“Look, I wouldn’t go near her. You know that. You’re the only girl I’ve ever wanted. It’s just to help my parents. I mean, I go out with her, she gets her dad to drop the case, we’re done. That’s all, Kaia. You get it, don’t you?”

“Of course I get it,” Kaia said, and she did. “It’s just – she really likes you.”

“Not really,” he’d said and the faint uncertainty of those two words was all it took.

The weeks played out. Kaia would see him and Alana together, holding hands, and talking with their heads tilted in private conversation. But afterwards he’d laugh, tell her about all the mind numbing things Alana and her friends talked about; movie stars and matte lipsticks and how many washes a temporary hair dye actually lasted. Alana was a means to an end but the end seemed to extend, going further and further into the distance until there was no closure in sight.

Maybe Kaia should have stopped it; extracted herself from the situation in the early days but it never seemed like Alana would last. Her and Drew were so fundamentally different. Alana’s parents were rich, her father a lawyer who owned his own firm. Their family came from the side of town Drew vandalised. And yet, day by day, that side of him seemed to fade. Teenage dreams gave way to real plans; to college applications and internships at law firms. He had an image to keep up, people to impress, places to go. Kaia saw less of him but it only made time together more thrilling.

Months wore on. School became college; classes and days interspersed with stolen phone calls and painstakingly planned hours together. He always said the right things. Always put a time limit on whatever he had with Alana but as spring spilled into summer and the semester ended, he seemed further away than ever.

He played golf and tennis and spent long summer Saturdays at garden parties and even longer evenings at dinner masquerades. He wore suits and combed his hair and ate at the right places so as to get photographed at the right places. After university, it didn’t stop. His graduate job was at Redgraves - working under Alana’s father - and to anyone but Kaia, he looked like he fit right in.

Was he still there? Under the Savile Row suits and clean-shaven smile? Of course he was. He’d come over, drink milk straight from the bottle, straight from the refrigerator, and when he laughed it was the same laugh it had always been, the one that made Kaia feel as though living had a reason.

Around her he was the same. Endless phone calls. She couldn’t remember how many nights she’d lain awake, phone clutched to her ear as they talked about anything and everything for hours on end. School and dreams and music and movies and books and parents and ways to meet up and steal time like they were doing something wrong. Was it wrong? He’d been hers far longer than Alana had been around. And yet, Kaia was the secret. Drew would pick her up at midnight, headlights off and radio turned down to a whisper.

Sometimes they just drove. Aimlessly and endlessly. Smooth black tarmac. Inky blue sky. On a clear night, they’d walk on the beach, long after the surfers and joggers had gone home and the sand and water were open and serene and the world looked like it stretched on forever. The thought scared her as much as the mass of words tumbling out of Drew’s mouth the fateful night after his engagement hit the local paper.

“It was just something I had to do. If I didn’t, it’d have looked like I wasn’t committed and you know I have too much riding on this. I need the money, Kaia. My dad’s medical bills are through the roof.”

“But you’re not actually going to get married, are you?” Kaia felt colder than the October ocean. “Can’t you just – find an excuse? We’ll move away. We can go anywhere we want.”

“And do what? I’m making good money here. I won’t get another break.”

“Money’s not everything, Drew.”

He ran his hands through his hair and exhaled.

“I know. I know, okay? But – it makes everything easier. If you don’t have to think about it, you can live, y’know?”

“And this is living?” Kaia looked at the deserted beach. “This? Lying and hiding? This is what you want from life?”

Drew exhaled. His hand felt warm around hers.

“Of course not. It’ll work out, okay? This isn’t forever.”

“But it feels like forever. I don’t want this. I’ve spent the last five years waiting for you to end it and you’re just taking things further. I mean, you must like her, obviously. Do you?” Her voice carried in the wind. “Do you love her?”

Drew scoffed. “Alana? Of course I don’t fucking love her. She’s like glass.”

“But you tell her you love her?” Kaia persisted. “You lie to her, and you fuck her, and you live with her, and now you’re gonna marry her. I can’t deal with it, Drew. I can’t do this anymore.”

She’d meant it. She’d left him on the empty beach and walked the three miles home in the dead of night and when he called the next day, she didn’t pick up. She deleted his voicemails without listening to them and then lay awake night after night, wondering what he’d said. Life became emptier than ever and a month later, the inevitable arrived in the form of a gold-embossed ivory envelope. She opened it, extracted the wedding invitation and stared at it until even the hollow shell of her life cracked and fell apart.

***

She made a decision not to go to the wedding, then changed her mind and bought a dress more expensive than her car. She took hours to perfect her hair and makeup. As though it mattered. As though she had something to prove.

The wedding was an exquisite midsummer affair; the ceremony took place outdoors on the beach and the reception in an enormous marquee strung with hundreds of fairy lights and filled with hundreds of guests. Kaia knew maybe a dozen of them. The rest were from Drew’s other life; people who called him Andrew and drank champagne like it was water.

It went on late into the night, dancing and drinking in a riot of champagne and confetti and wealth. She shouldn’t have stayed so long. She should have made pleasantries and left before sunset. But she didn’t. She made the wrong decisions that she always seemed to make around him and at a quarter to midnight, they were alone on the outside of the marquee, inches away from the music and laughter and it felt like they were in a different world altogether.

“You came,” Drew said.

The way he said it opened the door for a joke, an icebreaker, but Kaia didn’t take it.

“I guess I should congratulate you,” she said.

Their eyes met and he held her gaze unashamedly.

“Look at you,” she said softly. “All dressed up. You’ve been with these people so long you’ve just become one of them. And all this time I thought you still got it. But you don’t. You don’t care. You just got married. To Alana fucking Redgrave. I can’t even – you’re such a liar. You actually married her.”

“Like it fucking matters,” Drew said, “She’s just a woman. Me and you are more, y’know?”

Kaia stared at him incredulously.

“You are so full of shit.”

“I am? So what are you doing here? Did you dress up like this for anybody but me?”

His dark eyes went down her, hard and hungry.

“I could fucking eat you up.”

“You can fuck off.”

He caught her wrist before she could walk away.

“Easy, princess.”

White-hot anger flared behind her eyes.

“I’m not your fucking princess, okay?” She jerked free of his grasp. “It’s pretty obvious, Andrew. You’ve got your fairytale. You act like your hands are tied but somehow it’s all worked out. You’ve got your beautiful fucking wife and your money and your life and your penthouse castle, okay? Alana’s your goddamn princess, not me.”

If only she’d ended it there. If only she’d held tight to the rage, stalked away and left him alone. But the anger tripped, faltered, wavered on the cliff-edge and before she could help it, she was hurtling down into pain. Pure pain. The pain of ten years of secrets, of being nothing in the daylight.

“Baby,” Drew’s voice spilled into her. “Baby, I’m sorry.”

“I don’t care!” Her voice broke like a chain stretched to its last limit. “I don’t fucking care.”

But she cared. It was blindingly obvious. He pulled her to him and his arms went around her and he felt so warm and familiar that she couldn’t even pretend to fight. His mouth crushed hers desperately, as though he needed her. Did he? Why would he fake it? She bit his lip until he bled and even then he didn’t stop kissing her.

“I missed you,” he hissed against her mouth. “You can say what you fucking want but I’m dead without you. And you’re the same. We can’t live without each other.”

“You’re so full of yourself,” Kaia said, but saying it to him made her want to cry even more. “I don’t need you.”

“Yeah? You don’t?” His hands had slipped beneath the skirt of her dress and dragged a path up to her ass. His fingers dug into it hard. “So where’s your date? Why’re you here alone, baby?”

He kissed her again and she kissed him back, half drunk and fully desperate.

“I hate you,” She poured the words into his mouth but as clear as they were in her own head, all either of them heard was gasping.

There was nothing to lean against, nowhere to go. They fell onto the sand, almost fighting each other in their haste to feel skin. Her hands dragged his shirt from the waistband of his pants and pressed against the smooth muscle underneath. He always felt so warm. Inches away, the party went on; music loud and shadowy silhouettes moving and dancing. Laughter and alcohol.

Drew moved between her legs, dragging her dress up around her waist. He didn’t kiss her again. He fumbled with his pants, freed his hard cock and pushed her underwear aside so he could push into her. He groaned even louder than she did, his face pressed into her neck.

“You feel like home,” he said and his voice ached.

She wished it wasn’t so easy. Sometimes she wished her body would take over and reject him but it never did. His cock made her fit around it and it felt like all she could ever want. He ground harder, his hand going down to grasp her leg and pulling it wider so he could get deeper and then he was stroking in and out of her until she didn’t want it to end.

She didn’t look at him and he didn’t look at her. She clutched at his shoulders and tried to push her body back at his. But he was going too hard. Each thrust felt like it could push her through the sand. She reached for him instinctively, sank her fingers into his damp hair and kissed him like it could ever convey what he did to her. He groaned even as his tongue curled against the wet heat of hers. His cock moved harder and deeper. His teeth bit her lip as if to return her earlier favour. Kaia moaned.

“Aren’t you gonna come, baby?” His voice was desperate enough to push her over the edge. She clenched around his thrusting cock, her eyes closing tight as her body shook with rippling spasms. Drew jerked moments later, his mouth still on hers and it felt as though he’d never been closer; almost as though he was pouring his soul into her body. For those few moments of frenzy, it felt like all was right with the world. But then she opened her eyes. The night sky was dark and starless. Sand was stuck to her arms and legs. Drew’s weight was heavy above her, his breathing loud. Inside the marquee, the wedding party went on, clueless and jubilant.

Drew shifted. He moved back, rearranged his clothes, dusted himself off.

“I’m not doing this again,” Kaia said.

Drew looked at her, sand in his hair and resignation in his eyes.

“Like either of us can help it.”

***

It had been crazy at first. Day after day, lies, excuses, endless risks. And then gradually, it had quietened off. Every other day. Every week. Every other week. Still an addiction, but a sensible one, kept at bay, far out enough for nobody to notice.

But it was too far out now, in danger of drifting away altogether.

Drew hadn’t texted for weeks. Kaia scrolled back through their conversations, played his voicemails on loop. She typed a text. Backspaced. Tried again. Threw her phone down and stared at the ceiling until her eyes watered. How much hurt would it take for her to stop? To walk away? Why couldn’t she?

The buzzer sounded and she sat up. A delivery? A friend?

Neither.

“Hi,” Matt Gold said, when she opened the door. His eyes were gold, she thought distractedly. Like his name.

He smiled. “Can I come in?”

Her hand tightened around the door handle.

“You’re harassing me.”

He frowned.

“I’m sorry.”

“No you’re not.”

“I am, actually,” He looked down at the scratched laminate floor and then directly at her. “I’m very sorry for you, Kaia.”

His presumptuous use of her name felt indecent.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

He shrugged, a frown creasing his face.

“What does he give you? It's not money. It's not love. What is it? Empty promises?”

Kaia swallowed hard.

“You don't know anything.”

“Maybe I don't but sometimes it's good to get a fresh perspective, isn't it? And the way I see it isn't all that pretty.”

“Nothing's pretty,” The words came out unintentionally wistful.

Matt’s eyes flickered over her. “He just doesn’t like you very much. At least not as much as you like him.”

His opinion hurt her more than she could stand. She tried to feign disinterest. She looked out of the window at grey snow drifting down. Her head hurt. Her eyes hurt. Everything inside felt out of place, uncomfortable and twisted.

“I’m sorry,” Matt said. “But it’s true. Why else would he do this? He doesn’t care, Kaia.”

She stared at him. He looked back undeterred. He was a stranger. A journalist. A stalker, practically. Why hadn’t she shut the door in his face?

“You think you and him are ever gonna live happily ever after?” he asked. “That’s a joke, Kaia.”

“How would you know?” she said and immediately regretted it. The words were practically a confession.

But Matt merely shrugged.

“It’s pretty obvious the way I see it. Sometimes if you step back, things are really different.”

Kaia didn’t look at him. She couldn’t look at him for fear she might just fall apart.

“You just want an article,” she eventually said and shut the door before he could protest.

Could she suffocate from loneliness? She leaned against the door and looked at her neat apartment. Pieces of her life. It looked so empty she could hardly breathe. One crazy part of her wished she’d invited Matt in and made coffee for him and talked to him about his life and his job and his name and anything and everything to kill the crippling silence of solitude.

She escaped from nothing and stood in line at the supermarket checkout, lost in other people’s conversations. The girl in front of her was texting; the guy behind her soothing his tantrum-throwing toddler. Everyone seemed mildly irritated at life, at the indecency of having to be alive. Campaign posters were plastered everywhere. She stopped at a lamppost and looked at the airbrushed picture of Drew. Vote Sanderson.

Back in her dented car, she looked blankly out of the windscreen at people heading to and from their vehicles; harassed-looking parents shepherding children, carts overflowing with toilet paper and fruit and cereal boxes and tabloid magazines. People reading stories of other people when their own lives were spilling over with meaning. So many lives. So many crushing stories.

She found herself driving down Drew’s road, knowing it was crazy but unable to help herself. The traffic moved in a loose queue and on the sidewalk she noticed the woman she’d bought the magazine from almost a month ago.

Unthinkingly, she pulled to the side of the road and bought a magazine for no good reason. She only had a twenty and the vendor looked in her small cross body bag for change but Kaia stopped her.

“It’s fine.”

Arta Orsos looked faintly insulted.

“Not charity,” she said. Her accent was Eastern European maybe and her voice soft.

“It’s not,” Kaia said. “I don’t like carrying change.”

She wasn’t sure if Arta understood but she seemed satisfied enough to stop rifling through her tattered bag. A cat was with her today, sitting beneath the chair and eyeing Kaia with sea green eyes. Kaia wanted to touch it. She also wanted to go over to Drew’s place, press his doorbell and see the look on his face when he saw her. She didn’t do either. She crossed the road, got back into her car and drove home.

***

He texted eventually. Twenty nine days since they’d last met.

Tomorrow 4pm?

The words captioned a slightly blurry but very graphic picture.

He sickened her. But even more sickening was the rush of relief flooding her body. Beneath the hatred, beneath her furious glare at the screen was the rush of warmth she always got from his attention.

She raced through the next day, leaving work perilously early. She put on a new sleeveless dress, did her makeup like a Maybelline tutorial and layered up edges of perfume clouds. She felt giddy. Nervous. How could she get nervous about seeing a man she’d known for twenty years?

As ever, she parked her car a good few blocks from his place, and walked the distance. On the way, she suddenly remembered the magazine seller and rifled through her purse, relieved to find a twenty. She found herself wondering what the woman did with the money. Food? Rent? Did she even have a home? Children, maybe? All of a sudden Kaia wished she could give her more but it was too late to find an ATM and besides, she doubted the woman would even accept anything over a twenty.

But in the end it didn’t matter, because Arta Orsos wasn’t there. No magazines. No chair. No trace. Kaia looked around, did a three-sixty right there on the sidewalk, scanning endless pedestrians for a face that matched. Nothing. The cat she’d seen last time appeared from beneath a parked car and mewled pitifully. The sound made her ache.

“Kaia?”

She turned to see Matt Gold smiling lopsidedly.

“You look nice,” he said.

Kaia rolled her eyes.

“Looking for Arta?” he asked unexpectedly.

“You know her?” Kaia frowned.

“Of course. I've been parked out here tryna dig up dirt on Sanderson for weeks. She sold me magazines. Told me when the parking inspector was coming.”

“So where is she?”

Matt shrugged.

“Maybe you should ask Andrew.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Kaia snapped.

Matt shrugged again. He crouched down to stroke the cat and it purred with delight. Kaia glared at how beautiful they looked, then turned and walked quickly towards Drew’s building.

When he opened the door, he was drafting a speech. Sheets of paper were scattered around the living area.

“It’s kinda the final rush,” he explained. “Another week and that’s it.”

Kaia took off her coat and glanced down at his scrawled handwriting. It was as indecipherable as it had been at school.

“I saw the polls,” she said. “You’re way ahead.”

He moved past her to shut the door.

“It’s been too long since I saw you. You okay?” His voice dipped like he really cared. Did he care? Kaia watched him pull off his t-shirt and almost felt ashamed of herself but before the thought could settle, he kissed her. His teeth sank into her lip and tugged until she opened her eyes and looked into his. His hands were at her waist. The same hands that’d been touching her all her life and yet they suddenly seemed like something woefully precious. Something she wanted to hold onto and examine until she’d committed them to memory. She pressed her mouth harder against his so he released her lip and kissed her properly.

His fingers found the zip on the side of her dress and he tugged it down until the material hung loose and he could push it down to fall around her ankles. His thumbs hooked into her panties and eased them over her hips until they dropped free. He broke the kiss, his eyes darkening as they flickered down her naked body. He swallowed, his Adam’s apple moving in his throat, just below where his dark stubble faded out. It looked like the most masculine thing in the world.

“Do that again,” she whispered.

“What?”

“Swallow.”

The needlepoint of a smile threatened but he obeyed and she felt like she could come just from watching him.

“Again,” she whispered.

“Fucking hell, Kaia.”

He spun her around and slapped her ass, startling her. She almost gasped but caught it in time. His fingers sank into her cheek, kneading the firm flesh before he spanked her again. Kaia swallowed hard. Her snatch felt like it might start dripping. She arched her back, presenting her ass to him.

“Harder,” she whispered.

He hesitated.

“Harder?”

“I just want to feel you forever.”

His fingers went between her legs, massaging her snatch until her body clenched in anticipation. Then he spanked her again. Hard. Her skin heated and he did it again and again until her eyes watered and she flinched in expectation.

“Fuck, Drew!”

“What? You asked for it.”

She heard him fumble with his pants and looked over her shoulder at him. Their eyes met. It felt like they were full of secrets, like they knew one another like nobody else ever could.

His body pressed against hers and she turned her face back to the wall. She felt him shift so his cock pushed between her legs. She pushed back at it desperately and they ground wetly against each other until the frustration was dizzying.

“Fuck,” Drew pulled back, his breathing was rushed. “Condom.”

The clinical, careful moment. A drop of sanity in an ocean of madness. He grasped her wrist, pulling her through into the bedroom. The bed was unmade. She sat on it cautiously, watching him rifle through the dressing table. He didn’t take long and then he was on her again, creasing the sheets as he pushed her up the bed and caught her legs so he could push inside her. He didn’t go slow but slammed himself inside her, making her body adjust to take each throbbing inch.

“You’re so fucking tight,” he hissed. “It kills me.”

Each thrust was hard and packing and made her insides clench. Every time she thought she might come, he slammed in deep again, the impact bringing reality back. Nobody made her feel as good as he did. He drove deep and ground against her, making her arch in pleasure. His mouth covered hers, stealing every moan and gasp as his hips shunted back and forth. His hand went between her legs, slipping over her snatch as their bodies moved. He pressed his fingertip against her clit, rubbing it until she clenched desperately around him. She was soaked in sweat. Her pulse raced; she could feel it everywhere as her body writhed beneath his, the endless throb and twist of pleasure coursing through her.

“God, Drew.”

His hand still worked against her, his cock moving all the faster and more erratically as he chased his release. By the time he came, Kaia was clenching around him all over again, the release radiating from her core. She was aware of the convulsive jolts of his body as he emptied himself, his face pressed hard into her neck. They didn’t stop moving against each other until they had nothing more to give. And then it was over. Drew pulled back, moving to lie next to her.

The sheets smelt faintly like strawberry flavour. Kaia tried not to think about it.

“Fuck.” Drew’s horrified voice cut into her thoughts. “Fuck, Kaia. I think the condom broke,”

Her mind raced for a terrifying couple of seconds. Calendars and days and weeks and -

“I – I think we should be good.”

“Shit! You sure?” His voice poured with relief.

“Yeah. I think so. Yeah.”

“Thank fuck.”

They lay in silence for a few seconds. On the bedside table was a neat stack of campaign flyers. Kaia picked one up, her heart still pounding. Vote Sanderson. For our children. Our hospitals. Our schools.

“If it was though,” Kaia began hesitantly. “What would we even do?”

Drew sat up. “But it’s not. It doesn’t matter.”

Kaia swallowed hard, still looking at the flyer.

“But if it was,” she pressed. “Hypothetically. If we were unlucky.”

Drew looked at her.

“We couldn’t.”

The silence stretched between them, cold and uncomfortable.

“So – when you come on the TV and say all this stuff about being pro-life?”

“Pro-life in a reasonable way,” he corrected, like he was fielding questions from a press room.

“And this would be unreasonable?”

Drew ran a hand through his hair. He looked at her hard.

"You wouldn't actually keep it?"

Kaia looked back.

"Why wouldn't I?"

He held her gaze as though to figure out if she was joking and then he laughed.

She didn’t join in.

“How did you become – this?” she asked.

“I haven’t become anything, okay?” The laughter disappeared. “Can you stop? You don’t know, Kaia. You don’t understand!” He took a second to compose himself and then he looked at her. “It’s just tactical, okay?”

He always caught himself before he snapped. She wondered if he was extra careful around her, if he only tolerated her because of the things she knew and the power they gave her. The thought made her sick. It instantly had the scope to turn everything they had from love to mere sex. Like a twenty year old hooking up with a rich old man. Fake affection.

“You’ve changed,” she said, finally. “Sometimes you play a part so long that it becomes reality.”

“What are you saying?”

“I don’t understand why you’re doing this,” She looked at him. “I mean, you’ve always had excuses, reasons, things to justify whatever you’ve done. Alana and her dad and everything. But this? The election? It’s unnecessary. What are you getting from it?”

She got up and went to find her clothes. She started dressing hastily, suddenly unable to bear being naked around him.

Drew followed her uneasily.

“Why’re you wrecking this? I thought you loved me.”

“I thought I knew you.”

She looked in her bag for a hairbrush and came across the money she’d intended for Arta. She looked at Drew. He looked at her.

“Let’s not fight,” he appeased. “I feel like-”

“There used to be a woman outside,” Kaia interrupted. “On the street, selling magazines. Where’s she gone?”

Drew frowned.

“Why’d you ask?”

Kaia shrugged.

“Just wondering.”

He exhaled.

“We had the television cameras coming and sure, I’m all for taking in refugees but can you imagine the field day the right would’ve had with an immigrant beggar on my goddamn doorstep?” He blew out a breath. “Jesus.”

“So?” Kaia felt cold. “Where is she?”

“I don’t know. Immigration came. She was illegal. Probably at a detention centre. I don’t really care.”

“You don’t care?” Kaia knew her voice was wavering but she forced it on. “Your parents were illegal, Drew. Don't you remember where you came from?”

“I don't care. I don't live in the past, okay?”

Kaia opened her mouth and closed it again. There’d never been anything but sex. And she almost couldn’t bear to face everything that’d been swept under the rug. How could she begin to reason with someone so unreasonable? Did she even know him?

She walked to the bathroom, locked the door behind her and washed her hands three times over. Her eyes flickered to her reflection in the sparkling mirror. Mascara tears. She didn’t try to stop them. She gripped the edge of the sink hard and looked blurrily down as inky tears dripped onto the white porcelain.

Did she love him? She didn’t want to believe what he’d become. But how long had it been? How many excuses had she made? She swallowed his lies like a child ate candy and now everybody else believed he was some saviour, some wonderful rags-to-riches luminary. But he wasn’t. He was a liar.

She could hear him rehearsing his speech.

People ask why I’m doing this. And I’m doing it for us. For our city. For us.

Us. Our children. Our hospitals. Our schools. The selfishness dizzied her. Us. The truth lurked behind the words. Everyone else was a leech, a problem, an extortionist, trash to be disposed of. Like Arta. Harmless and homeless.

Could she stop him? Should she?

She had the means. She had everything. The evidence was overwhelming; endless text messages, voicemails, pictures, videos even. But could she? Could she betray him so brutally? It seemed incredibly cruel, an enormously disloyal thing to even consider. And yet if she didn’t, she knew life would go on the same; praying for his phone calls even as he strayed further from the boy she’d known. It wasn’t something she could turn off. It had to be destroyed entirely.

She left the apartment without saying goodbye. On the street, she rifled through her bag for Matt Gold’s card and dialled his number before she could have second thoughts. He picked up on the first ring.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than Lushstories.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © Copyright 2016-17 browncoffee
Let's be clear: I wrote this story and I decide where it appears. I have two older brothers who enjoy cage fighting. I also have a father who does karate and a husband who once greeted me at the door with a baseball bat.
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