He sits right there next to her, nuzzling her neck, whispering half-drunken stories, not caring who’s looking, her husband’s friends, or his wife. Rob’s breath fans over her throat and ear, warming her against the light evening chill. She’s waiting for him to make a suggestion, can already hear it whisper within her. The world’s axis has tilted, she imagines the hum of bees who cannot sleep; in the back-garden around them obscene May tulips wilt, with their last, gold-dirty-musk smell mingling with barbecue fumes.
Later, maybe, she’ll tell her girlfriends: he looks handsome in his stubble. It is sparse but it tickles my throat the way I like. His wide eyes open wider when he comes, and then he scrunches them close, breathing my name. His curly hair is springy to the touch on my breasts. Without naming him, she would tell them he’s broad and strong, all those hours at basketball have made him limber. She’ll say, he has muscles, but not so many that it makes me ashamed of my flesh, and when he kisses me, I remember his lips, his tongue. My body becomes a faraway thing.
She’ll tell them all of it, leaving out no detail, and smile.
Rob’s hand on her stomach, she leans back and giggles at his imitation of her husband, and takes another sip of the Shiraz. The man they’re talking about stands behind the lighted glass windows, his bald pate tender in the yellowed lights, surrounded by kids: hers, and those of others. For a moment he seems to stare right at her through his rimless glasses, but he can’t possibly see her in the dark. The boys rush off upstairs after he talks to them, their squeals of glee spilling out of the open windows, while the girls settle down on the sofa.
Her husband picks up the empty tureen of cold soup she’d cooked this morning, and shuffles off to the kitchen. Her eyes prickle, and she blinks away the blurred window from her vision. On the front side of the garden, beyond the porch, there’s a shout of laughter.
Under her hand, the grass feels dry, abandoned, the air too heavy for summer-end. She can’t remember what she’s waiting for. She stands up, ignoring Rob’s groan of protest, and makes for the back door that leads to the kitchen. Behind her, she hears him call, but lets his voice float away and mingle with the noise of the evening, the distant tinkling of cutlery, laughter, an owl hooting somewhere above her in the dark.