- Vol. 06
- Chapter 12
The stockings were a provocation, pulled taut over flexed leg, held there just so. That was the word he thought. Provocation. She was talking and then she was not talking. He watched her pause on the edge of the bed, hands pulling back her calf, head lost in scuds of clouds.
‘I forgot what I was going to say,’ she said. ‘It’s gone. Poof. Just like that.’
‘Like your dignity,’ he said.
‘I lost that a long time ago,’ she said, laughing, getting up from the bed.
A pencil skirt and stockings. Did not need to show him this. Could have conducted the conversation through the door, rather than be shown her undergarments. The trust implied in that. Or not trust, but provocation. That word again. Why now to feel that? Because of stockings? How easily we are tested; how easily we become the suspicious eunuch in the lady’s chamber.
‘I shouldn’t be too late,’ she said. ‘If I am, I’ll call. The spare room’s made up. I’ll be back before Sammy wakes.’
She applied lipstick, looked him up and down in the mirror.
‘You okay?’ she said.
‘Have you always worn stockings,’ he said. ‘I’ve never noticed before.’
‘Sometimes,’ she said. ‘When I want to surprise someone.’
‘All the years I’ve known you,’ he said. ‘I never knew that.’
‘It’s hardly something to know,’ she said. ‘I mean if someone were to ask you about me, my wearing stockings sometimes wouldn’t be top of the list, would it?’
‘I guess not,’ he said.
‘What would be?’ she said. ‘How would you describe me? In a word?’
He looked at her reflection in the mirror, the red lips and black bob hair. The assured sweep of years between them.
‘I’d say loyal,’ he said.
She put her lips together, made a pout.
‘I’d say the same about you,’ she said. ‘No one else puts up with me like you.’
The leather jacket she put on was old, old as their friendship. It looked good on her shoulders, on her back.
‘How do I look?’ she said.
‘Like you secretly wear stockings,’ he said.
‘I never had you down as a hosiery man,’ she said. ‘Is that what you’re into?’
‘I just find them…provocative,’ he said.
‘Provocative?’ she said. ‘They’re just fabric. Nothing more, nothing less than that. Provocative indeed!’
She put a kiss on his cheek and took his hand, walked him into the living room. On the table she’d set out a bottle of wine and a takeaway menu, a cherry Bakewell tart, an old joke they shared weekly.
‘See you later,’ she said.
He watched her walk out the door, her legs inside the stockings, still provoking, still held up with her hands, still flexing towards the ceiling.
‘Have fun,’ he said.
The door closed. He heard Sammy snuffle over the baby monitor. From confidante to babysitter. As quick a transformation as the pulling on of stockings.