And they had been waiting for quite a while now. Even if you hadn’t been sporadically staring, you could tell by the way they interacted with the empty space between them. The man visibly huffs and sighs, shooting a mental tirade across the table with a showy gesture of crossed arms,
and the woman makes an appearance, but only to you. Earlier, she had called the waiter over before the milieu turned even more sour, an attempt at understanding and placation, but it seemed to you that it would’ve made no difference. The situation would’ve probably played out the same regardless, that the slightly long wait for food was only a catalyst. She seemed to know it too, practically inhaling the contents of a dull silver flask that she pulls from a tiny black purse,
and while everyone else is busy doing everything else, the woman stares directly at you. You are the only two women in the world right now, and you can’t quite place her expression. Is it knowing? A confession that that’s it, that’s her life? Or is it accusatory, questioning who the fuck you are to judge? Or maybe it’s empathetic, and she’s looking at you as much as you’re looking at her. I get it, her eyes might be saying, slicing your pondering in half, like the Angus steak that you customarily cut into bite sized pieces when it first arrived, but now lays cold and deconstructed. Perhaps it’s a mix of all those thoughts flitting through her face, as her man goes on noticing, insulting, hating everything, except her. No, he doesn’t hate her. He doesn’t see her enough to,
and when it becomes too much for you, and you think about how pathetic it all is, you shoot her a look that says you think she’s pathetic for not leaving, and you get up from your own table. You leave the couple across the restaurant behind, you leave her behind, and you leave Jace behind, who hasn’t even noticed. He’s still engrossed in his phone, messaging the girlfriend he thinks you don’t know about.
I think I’m going crazy.
Back in the hotel room, your finger was about to customarily hit the Instagram icon, bound to keep your mind numb and occupied until Jace got back, but you texted Zainab instead. You don’t expect her to respond that quick, she doesn’t expect you to text.
What are u doing texting me dumbass! You should be enjoying your honeymoon with Jacey mmmm
A pause. A few seconds, and it says she’s typing. She responds to your initial message.
What makes you think this?
You actually stop to think. A few seconds, you’re typing. You stop. And start. And stop. And start again. And stop again. And continue. And delete. And start. And stop, and start, and stopandstartandsto-
Mf writing a whole ass thesis. This better be some crazy honeymoon sex story.
You decide that there’s no way you can put it that will make it sound viable, that will connect it to crazy. And you can’t tell her about Jace, not yet. So you hit send and stare, wait to analyse how long Zainab processes the message and thinks about whether telling you you’re crazy for thinking you’re crazy over this is worth it or not.
She seems to go through the same process as when you typed it, but eventually responds.
Awwie bby, you must just be overwhelmed. Maybe it was some sort of external stimuli tonight? Regardless, sleep on it and lmk how you feel tmrw. Try and remember that you’re finally on your beach honeymoon! I need to go pray, mum is crucifying me from the other room lol. Text later if you need anything else!! Bye loveeeee u mwah x
You yellow love heart react to her message as you hear the dulcet sound of a familiar laughter from beyond the balcony. As you surreptitiously part the beige curtains to take a peek, you’re immediately met with a tepid wind and the overgrowth of creamy white Nerium Oleanders. The faded pathway lights do enough of their job so that you can see Jace extend a hearty handshake to the man. He also extends a shy smile to her, one that is reciprocated, before they all take their leave around different corners.
When he comes through the door, the stupid shy smile still lingers on the corners of his mouth.
‘Hey! I was so worried about where you’d gone, luckily Jaclyn said she saw you leave towards the rooms-’
‘Yeah, Jeff’s wife. I was having a pleasant conversation with him just before, they were a few tables over. Apparently, their food took ages to come. Isn’t that crazy? Ours took what, maybe five, ten minutes tops? Anyway, they’re a real nice couple…’
And what you really wanted to say was that it didn’t look very much like Jace was having a pleasant conversation with Jeff, and that it did look very much like Jace and Jaclyn were having some sort of pleasant-er conversation with their eyes.
But you don’t say that. Instead, you ask Jace if they can skip out on paying for the fancy restaurants tomorrow and just go to the buffet instead.
‘Of course sweetie’, he plants a saccharine kiss on your cheek, all evidence of his initial having ‘worried’ about you conveniently forgotten as he goes to shower. He takes his phone with him. As he closes the bathroom door behind himself, you glimpse a sliver of the shy smile.
Nerium oleanders are bushy, evergreen shrubs that grow thickly and quickly in almost any conditions - but are poisonous (if eaten in sufficient quantities).
You notice a row of them on your way down to the best swimming pool, which Jace decided should be the last day activity. And by this, he meant you could swim, while he sunbathed on the loungers and read.
‘You reading on your phone?’ you half-shout from the middle of the pool, eyeing him.
‘Just searching up words I don’t know,’ Jace looks up in a way that you know he’s had that smooth reply on the tip of his tongue.
‘You know, the Kindle already has a built-in dictionary for that exact purpose,’ you’re wading the waters for a choppy wave in his impermeable veneer.
‘The Wi-Fi in this part of the hotel is shit though,’ he goes back to typing, as if that’s enough said and it’s normal, the way he’s typing more than one would for the definition of a word.
‘It doesn’t require Wi-Fi for a definition, though,’ you’re actually wading through the water now, but he’s always one step ahead.
‘Yeah, well I like to know all the extra Wikipedia crap that usually comes with it. Don’t get that with bad Wi-Fi. Just a plain, old, no context definition.’
And you want to say well yeah, sometimes plain old definitions work just fine, and that some words already have all the context and weight they need, like cheating, for example, you’re sure he doesn’t have to look up the definition for tha-
Their little mind game is simultaneously interrupted; Jeff and Jaclyn respectively block your views, like a rehearsed intervention. You can’t see what Jeff and Jace are doing, but you can hear their mighty male laughs. You didn’t even see Jaclyn get into the pool, but now she’s right in front of you donning a toothy smile, nothing like the shy one from last night. Her black ringlets clasp her neckline like she’s a DIY doll made of superglue, and she’s no longer the tired lady you recall from the table. She is alive, awake, aware, and she is telling you how she remembers you from the night before and how good was the food right and how do you know Jace?
As if her and Jace go way back. As if you’ve only just met Jace when in fact, she’s only just met Jace. When in fact you should be asking her
‘How about you?’ you capitulate.
And she responds by saying they only just met him last night, but you’re not listening because you’re trying to remember if she said ‘We’ or ‘Jeff’ or if she said she only just met him last night.
‘Was your good food cold? I mean when it finally arrived, last night?’ you take control of the conversation again.
She doesn’t respond. She doesn’t expect it. You smirk to yourself, but then she becomes familiar again. The look you both shared last night dances across her face, and you realise she’s an expert with her eyes. You still can’t place it, but you think it might be a look of solidarity.
Ah, so you did see that, she finally says with an embarrassing smile and a look towards the men.
Jace and Jeff are talking like old buddies, and in this beach light it looks like they’re the same person, just a few years apart. Is she looking at Jeff, or Jace?
You know…you love ‘em, but that’s the thing with men, she goes on. They either spend the night ignoring you, or are too aware of you and everything, nitpicking at the entire evening …and to think he was still going on about the wait when we got back to the room…at one point I just stopped listening and escaped to the bathroom with my phone…
That last part triggers you to look over at Jace, whose hand rests on the iPhone 13 beside him, a perpetual instinctive touch to feel for a buzz.
‘Men huh, they can make you crazy.’ Jaclyn puts a wet, sympathetic hand on your shoulder and hops out of the pool before you can respond. You’re able to notice that she’s wearing the exact same swimming costume as you, a black one-piece cut into tiny diamonds all over, showy enough to invite intrigue, but modest enough to shut the prying eyes down. That was on you, at least. Jaclyn’s curves manage to fit it better, a deeper cleavage, a rounder ass, narrower hips, you but infinitely more.
Suddenly, everything is happening too fast again, and you notice that Jeff is no longer at the loungers. Instead, it’s just you, Jace, and Jaclyn. You, still in the water, watching as Jace and Jaclyn pick up their phones. And those stupid shy smiles are back, while you drown.
You hadn’t planned to look glamorous on the last day. You were going to be casual in sandals, palazzos and a tank top, an outfit that screamed I’VE HAD THE BEST HONEYMOON EVER WITH MY FIANCE AND I DON’T NEED TO LOOK GOOD FOR ANYONE ANYMORE BECAUSE WE ARE IN LOVE. I KNOW HE LOVES ME. Instead, you decide to reuse your sexiest outfit from night one, but you amp up your makeup and spray your most potent lily perfume on the key areas of your body. Black ringlets plaster your neck, and you’ve added some of the Nerium Oleandars to your hair.
Jace doesn’t mention, doesn’t even notice how good you look, but someone just as dressed up does. The customary smiles from guests that you naturally get accustomed to five days at the hotel greet you both as you walk into the buffet, but Jaclyn’s is different. Hers is a smile of amusement, but you’re slightly less bothered when you see the silver flask on their square table this time. Her and Jeff had invited you both to eat dinner together tonight, but Jace is ushered into the seat next to her, while you’re forced to sit beside Jeff. So really, it looks like it’s the start of two separate dinners,
and so you definitely stay back while they all walk off to get their starters. Just need to call someone back, I’ll join you guys in a minute, you say with a smile that suggests you will do exactly that. They’re all too busy talking to each other anyway, so they amiably agree and walk off,
and once the job is done and everyone eventually has all their food, you watch. You watch as Jace makes a joke, and Jacyln laughs a little too loud,
and you know that the crushed flowers will taste extremely bitter, and she wouldn’t even have to taste it to smell the odour. But part of you would not be fussed either way. Either way, accusation, or somehow effect, you will have gotten Jace’s attention again,
and eventually she does take a swig out of the silver flask. She nervously side eyes you, probably not because she feels it, it doesn’t work that fast, but because she knows, she obviously knows,
and amidst the mirth of the table, there are the moments before, and the moments after. The moments before: Jaclyn’s looks, Jaclyn’s hesitation after the first sip, Jaclyn’s looks again, Jaclyn’s continued ability to chug the contents of a silver flask down in five seconds,
and the moments after: Jaclyn keeling over the table, everyone attending to her while you’re getting ready to fake it, you realising that Jace, for once, has left his phone unattended,
and you glance at his phone,
and are met with a flurry of messages from someone called Jessica,
and they say things like ‘Baby, are you ok?’,
and ‘I miss you so much, can’t wait till you get back tomorrow’,
and you look at Jaclyn and she’s already looking at you through the vomiting,
and you’re the only two women in the world again,
and you realise that you’ve finally placed her look,
and that she’s telling you that she understands what it’s like being a woman in a world where your fiance cheats on you, and even if he doesn’t, you get stuck stuck in a marriage where he sits with you at fancy restaurant but he’s not even really sitting with you,
and Jace’s phone is buzzing again with Jessica’s name,
and she’s asking him to text her when he’s free xo,
and you get overwhelmed by all the names starting with J and how everyone but no one blends together,
and what Jaclyn says floats back into your mind as she’s
you’re choking now,
Men huh, they can make you