The Third Wife
They might have been fireworks, the splashes, bursts, storms of color that exploded in front of her eyes. They might have been the northern lights, her own personal aurora borealis. But they weren’t, they were just neon lights and streetlights rendered blurred and prismatic by vodka. Maya blinked, trying to dislodge the colors from her field of vision. But they were stuck, as though someone had been scribbling on her eyeballs. She closed her eyes for a moment, but without vision, her balance went and she could feel herself begin to sway. She grabbed something. She did not realize until the sharp bark and shrug that accompanied her action that it was a human being.
“Shit,” Maya said, “I’m really sorry.”
The person tutted and backed away from her. “Don’t worry about it.”
Maya took exaggerated offense to the person’s lack of kindness.
“Jesus,” she said to the outline of the person, whose gender she had failed to ascertain. “What’s your problem?”
“Er,” said the person, looking Maya up and down, “I think you’ll find you’re the one with the problem.” Then the person, a woman, yes, in red shoes, tutted again and walked away, her heels issuing a mocking clack-clack against the pavement as she went.
Maya watched her blurred figure recede. She found a
lamppost and leaned against it, looking into the oncoming traffic. The headlights turned into more fireworks. Or one of those toys she’d had as a child: tube, full of colored beads, you shook it, looked through the hole, lovely patterns—what was it called? She couldn’t remember. Whatever. She didn’t know anymore. She didn’t know what time it was. She didn’t know where she was. Adrian had called. She’d spoken to him. Tried to sound sober. He’d asked her if she needed him to come and get her. She couldn’t remember what she’d said. Or how long ago that had been. Lovely Adrian. So lovely. She couldn’t go home. Go home and do what she needed to do. He was too nice. She remembered the pub. She’d talked to that woman. Promised her she was going home. That was hours ago. Where had she been since then? Walking. Sitting somewhere, on a bench, with a bottle of vodka, talking to strangers. Hahaha! That bit had been fun. Those people had been fun. They’d said she could come back with them, to their flat, have a party. She’d been tempted, but she was glad now, glad she’d said no.
She closed her eyes, gripped the lamppost tighter as she felt her balance slip away from her. She smiled to herself. This was nice. This was nice. All this color and darkness and noise and all these fascinating people. She should do this more often, she really should. Get out of it. Live a little. Go a bit nuts. A group of women were walking towards her. She stared at them greedily. She could see each woman in triplicate. They were all so young, so pretty. She closed her eyes again as they passed by, her senses unable to contain their images any longer. Once they’d passed she opened her eyes.
She saw a bus bearing down, bouncy and keen. She squinted into the white light on the front, looking for a number. It slowed as it neared her and she turned and saw that there was a bus stop to her left, with people standing at it.
Dear Bitch. Why can’t you just disappear?
The words passed through her mind, clear and concise in their meaning, like a sober person leading her home. And then those other words, the words from earlier.
I hate her too.
She took a step forward.