tagNon-EroticFalling Butterflies

Falling Butterflies


A pale blue tablecloth covered the small square café table between them, and Raymond saw one sharp stand up crease running neatly across it, from the corner by his left elbow to the one diagonally opposite. Only later did he notice that another opposite crease, less obvious, ran across the other diagonal. The obverse and the inverse he thought then, when it was too late, two sides of a whole, separated, as the table had separated him and Sally.

Sally put her coffee cup down silently in its saucer. "I'm sorry," she said, not moving anything except her lips. " I have to tell you now. I'm leaving today."

Raymond looked up from the menu, "Oh," he had no idea what she was talking about. "A Conference?" She sometimes had to go away for the day. Meetings, conferences she'd mentioned.

"God, Ray," she frowned economically, just two small lines on her forehead. Her expressions always had a meanness about them. "I'm leaving you." She stressed each word, not drawing it out too long but moving her mouth with a roundness and generosity alien to her normal speech.

"Leaving?" he was totally confused. "Leaving me?" everything in their lives was so ordered, slotted into its own place and time. Like their apartment. Each object, each piece of furniture, had its specific, precisely determined place.

He'd seen her with a ruler once, measuring a magazine photo of a picture on a wall above a cupboard. Then she'd measured their wall and hung the same picture perfectly on it, above the same cupboard.

He never had to think about anything to do with her. She had it all in its place as he was in his. She defined it for him, drew a white line about it and gave her economical little frown of disapproval if she thought he'd crossed that line, literally or figuratively. Her definition of course, the crossing.

"But it's dinner with the Cook's tomorrow night, you told me last week. How long are you going to be away for?"

"God," she gave a theatrically pained sigh, unlike her. "I'm leaving you Ray." He saw the big round movements of her mouth again, so unfamiliar.

"You're leaving me," he repeated it, to see how the words felt when he said them, how they sounded. "What does that mean exactly? You're not coming back?" he was still confused.

"That's right, I'm not coming back." at last he seemed to be taking it in, she thought with relief, returning to her usual tight efficient way of speaking, now that she had made her point.

"I'll let you know when I'll be taking the rest of my things. Philip will deal with selling the apartment." She'd had everything organised, it had been telling this lump opposite her that had seemed too difficult. So potentially unpleasant she had put it off as long as she could.

Just going, and leaving him a note, had crossed her mind. But it was untidy, he mightn't find the note right away, then what sort of fuss would he cause when she didn't come home. No, now she'd told him. It was all done. She picked up her cup and drew another sip through her lips, parted as little as necessary to receive the warm liquid.

"You are moving out, and taking your things, and selling the apartment." Raymond said slowly.

He didn't feel hungry anymore, and pushed the menu aside. Was this thing that was happening something he should have known, he wondered? Was not knowing it, a sign he didn't understand her, didn't spend enough time with her? But it was she, Sally who organised their lives, even now.

"But I don't want to sell the apartment, I don't want to have to move. Where are you going?" his brain had finally engaged with what was going on in the words she'd let out.

She was always economical with words, like everything else, whereas he used to pour them out as if he had an endless supply, as if they bred inside him. When he was with her though they were so often stillborn, dead before they could make the journey from wherever they originated up and out through his mouth, to fall on the air. Where, like butterflies, they died after a brief flutter of meaning.

Her words were rationed, as if she knew they were limited and had to be released into the air sparingly, or they would run out while she still needed them. He easily imagined her dumb in her old age, her supply of words dried up.

But perhaps one day he'd be the one left dumb, one of those elderly people whose lips move soundlessly. Perhaps they had run out of words, expelling them unthinkingly throughout their lives, like him.

"It's in joint names Ray, it has to be sold or you have to buy me out," Sally paused, and took another sip of her coffee. She never let a drop slip past her bottom lip to dry on the side of the cup, like she ate, nothing left on her plate, rarely a crumb. The portions carefully measured when she cooked.

Raymond had a sudden vision of cooking for himself when he was single, big fried breakfasts eaten untidily and slowly on Sunday mornings while reading the newspapers, their pages spread across the floor like pieces of some giant puzzle.

"Who's Philip?" he asked her, not being able to place the name.

"Philip is a solicitor," her eyes and hands moved about unnecessarily and said more to him than any words she'd spoken.

She only did wasteful unnecessary things when she was lying.

"Oh," he said, wondering what the truth was, having no idea what to say, trying to understand a reason. "Why Sally?" It was out, words flown from his mouth fluttering and dying on the air, never able to return.

Sally gave an economical shrug and emptied her cup, putting it down on the saucer with a sharp little click. Raymond drank from his cup and put it back and it rattled untidily in the saucer, and to Sally's ear that was the answer, and that was the problem.

"You're untidy Raymond. You're boring." She made a show of briefly checking her watch. "I'm sorry, I have to go now. I'll be over tomorrow for the rest of my things."

Why had she bothered to put in so much time with him she wondered, and she berated herself for the waste of effort.

Raymond watched her go, following her legs, wonderful legs. He was a leg man. The first time he'd seen her that had been it, the legs, which had made him look at her. Long legs coming out of the dark under her short black skirt and finishing in high heels. He'd wanted to follow them up and put his hand up in the dark place hidden at the top.

He sat there with the two empty cups on the table till the waitress took them away. "Would you like anything else Sir?" she asked him brightly

Leaving seemed too complicated. "Another Coffee please," he said and had to give the details, Cappuccino, decaf.

He wondered why decaf, and realised it was because Sally said he should drink decaf. He had no coherent thoughts as he drank the second coffee he didn't really want. Then he knew he had to return to the office and he paid for their drinks hurriedly and almost tripped over the step as he left, feeling abused somehow.

That evening when he opened the apartment door the silence was so unfamiliar he wondered momentarily if he had opened the wrong door. That his key fitted some other apartment, where no one was home, where no one had ever lived.

On his way home he had stopped at the local shop and bought a box of eggs, free range, even though Sally wasn't there. She who insisted eggs were bad for you. Sally who said she was leaving him, and not coming back. And bacon, he'd studied the two available types carefully and selected the dearer middle cut rashers because they looked more pink, more alive.

He went into the apartment and closed the door. He assumed it was his apartment, the furniture and décor looked just as he remembered it. Like pictures from a magazine. Visitors always commented what a beautiful apartment it was. Other guys told him how lucky he was to have a wife who looked like Sally.

He changed out of his suit into shorts and a t-shirt and cooked his food, fried the eggs and bacon, adding a tomato and toast. Feeling guilty about the fat in the air getting onto the walls over the stove. But he enjoyed eating it, sitting at the kitchen bench.

Then he sat down on the sofa and could think of nothing else to do, there was no Sally to organise him, he had become so used to it over 5 years he no longer had any idea himself of what to do at home.

He remembered again when they'd first met. Seeing her legs going by, then Paula from his office bringing the woman with the legs over to their table, him and who? Peter was it? The two women sat down with them and he'd had a drink too many to be entertaining to anyone sober, so they'd talked about his new job and Paula had told Sally how successful he was.

Sally was pleased to give him her number when she left and he'd called her the next day, seeing her legs, wanting already to be something to her, do something for her, care for her.

Sally had thought that the man Paula introduced her to had drunk too much, but he sounded like a seasoned professional when he talked about funds management and she decided he had potential. A good haircut, Armani, Nautica or Hugo Boss and he would definitely be worth looking at. When he rang she was pleased, she chose a nice restaurant she knew, she wore a little dress that showed her legs.

He babbled on all evening, but she knew all about him the moment he told her she had fantastic legs. They went back to her place afterwards, a tidy nicely decorated place she said she shared with some other woman who was away. He was allowed to reach what lay hidden at the top of those long beautiful legs. That warm damp slit he lusted for.

But he'd left thinking vaguely that she had been nervous or he had perhaps, and that it would be better next time. But he always felt like that, it never seemed to get better, never seemed to grow into passion.

Like all her actions and movements sex was restricted to the minimum. She had to get the most she could from it, from the effort she expended on it. She came economically, never making any sound or moving more than was necessary. So that sometimes Ray felt as if the heaving, panting, energy he expended on her was excessively wasteful and bad mannered.

Then she'd changed everything about him, to improve him. Everything outside his work, there she'd encouraged him to put in extra time, not rush back to the apartment she'd selected for them. His career she said was why she wanted him to dress better and go to the right places.

The wedding had been small, her engagement ring was an investment, large enough to bring gasps from everybody else's girlfriends and wives, and disapproving looks from his old friends.

Married in the Botanic Gardens they had a reception for 20 at Doyles, overlooking the harbour, set menu, $100 a head, excluding wine.

Her parents came, her mother economical in her words and movements like Sally. Still slim, still good legs he'd been pleased to see, imagining himself still admiring Sally's when she was her mothers age. Her father drank more than he should and Sally's mother pursed her lips, too sparing of her words to spend them on his failings.

His parents couldn't come; they'd paid for their month long cruise six months ahead. Sally's holidays were fixed and she'd booked a week in the Seychelles, an old-fashioned honeymoon, flying out the day after the wedding.

Raymond's thoughts drifted back to her legs again and the short skirts she wore, which were the bottom halves of her investment suits. He went to her wardrobe and opened it, finding them hanging there in a row like empty skins she'd shed but would return to again when it was time. On the shelf above them waited the suitcases she'd used for their honeymoon, and the trip to Europe. Taking her image of herself, unchanged, halfway across the world. And he began to pack her clothes into the cases, folding them as he'd watched her do, fascinated by the precision and dexterity of her folding, of an origami that produced neither bird nor animal only precise creases.

But he quickly realised he was being too restrained.

He went and got the scissors from the kitchen drawer. Then as he picked her suits out on their hangers he laid each of them down on the bed and cut up the front of each little skirt, right up to the waist.

He was surprised that he had to check carefully to be sure to cut the front, checking the label and the zips, which tried to confuse him by moving from the back to the side. He tried to cut them neatly, doing the outside fabric and the lining separately so that now when she wore them all of her legs would be visible and what was in between them too, everything that had enslaved him to her.


Sally hardly moved her head as she looked about Philip's apartment. Their apartment now, and at the untidy looking man with the brilliant legal mind who lived there. She knew she could make him look better, Armani, Gucci or Prada, find them a better apartment, perhaps even an inner-city wharf conversion.

She decided she wanted to use an Arctic theme when she decorated again; she liked the economy of creating an effect without colour. And she gave a small smile, minimal, which avoided creasing the corners of her mouth or eyes, as she thought about their life together.

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