lit in the same places

She needed a bath. The day had settled into the creases of her skin, nestling itself amongst her freckles and writing itself across the lines of her forehead. She’d run a bath and pour a whiskey, and she didn’t know which was needed more; one to cleanse her of that place, the other to stop her trembling.

He’d better be up. Probably tuning his guitar at the kitchen table, stopping to roll a cigarette or peer into his coffee grounds to try and predict her mood. He’d told her once that her key turning in the lock and her first foot step could tell him how her shift had gone, so she steadied her hand and made both gentle and slow. He was a tender boy, after all. He wasn’t lit in the same places she was.

The cat looked up from the bookcase, one side of his dusky face squashed from sleep, and blinked at her with loving eyes. Home already? She tugged at his tail as she brushed by, the tip quivering in greeting. Yeah Baba Yaga….go back to sleep. She could already feel the warm water lapping at her belly, the fire down her throat as she took the whiskey in, and by the time Brigit reached the kitchen her shoulders had fallen, and she was almost back in place.

She didn’t even realise it had happened.

He hadn’t been up long. He tried to pretend otherwise, tugging at his T-shirt as though it’d been chafing him for hours, but he was still wearing his bed hair. And she was so good at reading men now.

‘Was it ok, kitten?’ He smiled at her hopefully, a rollie paper dangling from his fingertip.

‘It was….until the last client, anyway.’

His eyes narrowed as his voice dipped. ‘What happened?’

She smiled at him, at his dark whiskers and coffee breath, and walked behind him. She slid one hand inside his T-shirt and down his chest, the other through his unruly dark hair. He leant his head back against her belly with a sigh, knowing that was her answer. He knew not to push, though whether for her wellbeing or his he’d prefer not to say. The answers she brought home took him places he didn’t know he had in him, places where the light spilled only in corners and the darkness took hold.

‘Do you want a coffee? I can brew one on the stove if you like, or a peppermint tea?’

She curled her fingers around his locks and pulled, twice. She thought she was being gentle, but he flinched, and she noticed a quick smile flit across her mouth before she could stop it. Her hand on his chest tried to compensate, and drew slow circles through his sparse chest hair. It always surprised her how little he had; so easy to forget how young he was. He smelled like fresh grass and her honey soap, and she wanted to slide her mouth along his skin.

‘No coffee, I’m going straight for the whiskey. Been a long day. You want one?’

She pulled the bottle from the shelf over his head and poured the gold into the heavy spirit glass, the one he’d stolen the night of his gig at Bar Nancy. She hadn’t made it there, had been wary of the numbers swelling and the elbows pushing her so far from comfort, but she’d listened to his stories as he showered afterward and dried him slowly with admiring fingers. She didn’t tell him that she’d stood at the front door with her keys in her hand and Valium in her pocket, willing herself to walk down the hill and into the bar. The first footstep outside is equally telling, and she hadn’t been able to step over the threshold.

‘Bit early for whiskey, hey? Sure you don’t just want a coffee?’

She paused with the glass at her lips, and stared her dark eyes his way. Our girl knows how to gaze at a man until his words wither on his tongue and his hands clench tightly on his lap; a look that says everything a woman like her needs to say. She does it well, but she does it sparingly, at least with him. He’s a tender boy, after all.

‘I’m going to drink this in the bath, and wash them off me – no coffee.’

Brigit left a trail of clothes from the kitchen into the mint green bathroom, tying her long hair in a knot at the top of her head and removing her contact lenses with practised strokes. The boy came quietly alongside her as she slipped into the water, holding his lighter up to the beeswax candles lining the windowsill. He slid the whiskey bottle down next to the tub and returned with the CD player, and when she heard Mahalia Jackson float out, her head fell back slowly and rested on the bathtub rim. The achingly beautiful voice curled languidly around the tiny room, the candle flames dancing as her boy watched his woman breathe. When he lifted her head and gently slid the softest towel under it, she didn’t even open her eyes.

Half an hour, she thought. In half an hour she’d be back entirely in her skin, where a man’s gaze on her held no danger and her teeth weren’t grit together so tightly her head hurt. Only then would she be able to slide between the cotton with him, to rest her head on his belly and open her mouth without barbed wire coiling out. Half an hour; as soon as she’d washed away the one with the bitten fingernails that had caught her skin, and the one with cold eyes that never smiled, not even when he told her how much he’d enjoyed her hands. Half an hour, she thought.

Maybe the boy could read to her as she washed herself clean, a story of pure snow underfoot and plump birds with scarlet bellies circling into the winter sun; a story where maidens had wise eyes and wolves never hid in the shadows, no matter how hard you looked.

lit in the same places


Melbourne, Australia

  • Artist
  • Artwork Comments 28

Artist's Description

I’m getting attached to this Brigit of mine….who knew she had a soft side?

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