Six Ways To Fall In Love
by alicamel

i. playhouse (if you dont like being hurt, please don't stay)

The silence is both deafening and telling. He isn't home, yet again, as she struggles to carry the shopping and Grace up the four flights of stairs to their cramped two bedroom flat. Inside the silence hangs heavy around her, even as Grace cries over a scraped knee and Susan comforts her and kisses it better. It could almost be just the two of them, and for an instant, she wishes it was.

No. She loves her husband.

She can't escape his presence so easily anyway, even when he isn't here. Grace is very much his child; laughing as easily as she cries, smiling sweetly to get her own way, not understanding what it means when you say no.

Susan puts away the shopping and finds Gracie copying her in the front room in the playhouse. Little plastic apples spill across the floor and she helps Grace to gather them back into the basket. Grace takes them into the house and Susan gathers up the rest of the dropped plastic shopping: a milk bottle, two oranges and a slice of pizza that is entirely too bright a yellow. She can see why - Gracie has improved the colour with the pens Martin bought her last week. She coloured everything else too; walls, plates, furniture. Susan spent the week with her sister, Liz, and when you came back Martin hadn't cleaned any of it up. There was an argument over it, or at least an argument started. After a few minutes it disintegrated into the long, endless argument they all become, which is only stopped by Gracie waking up, phone or doorbell, or, once, a smashed lamp which led to a hospital visit and 17 stitches.

They'll argue again when he comes in tonight; late and probably drunk. Susan will tell him he's out too much, and he'll tell her she stress too much. He spends too much, she worries too much. He's been seeing other women, again, she's paranoid and crazy. Everything Susan complain about is somehow her own problem. He didn't want to be tied down this young anyway, he thinks he's too young to become his father. She wonders if he understands that you didn't want this either, but then you were three weeks late and before you knew it, there Gracie was, growing inside you. What else were you to do but get married and pretend you were family?


ii. friendship (could you whisper in my ear, the things you want to feel)

He listens. That is the single most remarkable thing about him, and it isn't all that remarkable anyway. He's not particularly good at giving advice, and he tends to agree rather too quickly, to avoid disagreements.

But he listens.

She likes that.

She can say anything, here, in this house, on these late nights, away from her own home and family and husband. He's never shocked or disgusted in her, the way Karl would be. He never judges, never questions, just smiles and nods and listens. Sometimes he shares a story of his own, to make her feel less alone.

She doesn't ever feel alone with him.

They slide into a relationship without even thinking. A touch of his hand, a kiss on the cheek. She moves, and he kisses her lips, her hands sliding up to his neck, pulling him down to her. No, she's never alone here, with him. The months go by and the two of them get closer, if possible. Chaste kisses turn to something more passionate, hands get bolder, and slowly, clothing is removed. No secrets anymore. She tells him how to make her feel.


iii. worship (i'm a bitch, i'm a tease, i'm a goddess on my knees)

The red light from the motel sign flickers as a breeze blows the curtains back and forth. Shadows dance across the far wall and floor as his hand runs reverently down your arm, the touch faint and shaking. You take hold of his hand, press it closer against you; show him you are not made of glass; you will not shatter. He breathes in hurriedly; shaking, gasping breaths; and smiles hesitantly. You smile back and lean forward to kiss him. He kissed you first, and took you by surprise but now he is passive, after all those months of chasing. You kiss him harder, wait for him to respond. You take both his hands inside your own. Another man you will lead.

You pull him towards the bed, where he stands awkwardly, looking at the peeling paint, the orange curtains, the stained carpet. "This isn't," he begins, "I just wanted - I thought," You place a finger over his lips and shake your head. You feel powerful suddenly, and bold. You remove your finger and he is silent, you remove your shirt and he watches you.

In the flickering blood red light, the bed, crooked and stained, makes a strange altar. He thinks this is an act of love, whispered words into your ear, but you are older, and know better. He adores you, worships you. It's intense - terrifyingly so - but will pass. The world is full of gods and goddesses that have been forgotten.

Afterwards you watch his sleep and wonder which one of you is the sacrifice.


iv. two (this is to a girl who got into my head)

She was developing an unhealthy obsession with Ruth's hands. She kept noticing them, on surfaces, holding things, entwined with Phil's. Supple fingers, pale skin, delicate, clean nails. When they were alone Susan would pick them up, turn them over, run her own fingers (not nearly as long or supple) across them. Ruth would watch her sleepily, smiling indulgently, leaving her hands limp and trusting.

It started with that damned massage, the heady scent of oil and Ruth's hands sliding across her bare back, all her muscles turning to jelly. It moved quickly from there though, but always under the pretense of a massage, the same routine of oil and dim lights and kicking Phil out of his own house to give them some peace. When Susan played with Ruth's hands afterwards they smelled like the oil, and like sweat, and like her.

She missed them. Hated seeing them all the time, touching some lucky inanimate object, or worse, Phil. She tortured herself by staring at them, and tortured herself by thinking of when she touched them and tortured herself by imagining what Ruth was doing with them at any given moment. Too many innocent cups of tea, watching them curled around a cup. Too many double dates, too many nights watching a finger stretched along the spine of a knife, fingers buried in napkins that dabbed at Ruth's lips. Too many times seeing Ruth's fingers against Phil's darker, rougher skin, against his cheek, against the back of his hand, on the small of his back.

Susan was torturing herself slowly. An unhealthy obsession with Ruth's hands, however, was far better than an obsession with Ruth herself. She could live with never touching Ruth again, never letting her own hands trail across Ruth's soft skin, not knowing massage techniques, not needing them. She could live with just being Ruth's friend. But she missed Ruth's hands.


v. betrayal (so you can drown in this with me)

This isn't love. You know that with absolute clarity, though everything else about this is more than a little confusing. Well, not everything. The way her hands run across your skin or the play of her tongue in your mouth is not confusing in the least, though it's not exactly clear either. It the after-bit that gets confusing. The way she blackmails and coerces you into staying a little longer, even though you both know Karl will be starting to worry, and you're running out of excuses.

But it's hard to deny Sarah when she gets that look on her face and her fingers start drifting. Hard not to want to touch or kiss that perfectly tanned skin and impossibly soft hair. And there's always something you can tell Karl to stop him asking questions. Always ways to avoid him, while you try and work out why Sarah, of all people, how such an affect on you.

But it isn't love. Could never be, and you both know it. But you stay, every time, just because she asks.

Later you found out that she played you both - both sides against the middle, as it were. And you hated Karl for betraying you, but even more so because it was with her.

You never dared stop to think about exactly what that meant, especially when you kept going to see her.


vi. love (i don't have to pretend, she doesn't expect it from me)

It's perfectly innocent, but I love her all the same.

No, wait. I can do better than that.

It started over the piano, when we finally moved it back to my home. Max was still paying her to teach Summer, and I told her she could use the piano. They had lessons after school, and I would listen while I marked essays. She was always early, and Summer was always late; I would listen to her play her own songs, then, after a few weeks, watch her. She was more comfortable then too, singing under her breath. She didn't see my eyes stray from the essay I was reading to watch her hands dance elegantly across the keys. She wasn't there when I tried, and failed, to recreate her songs. I had begun learning from a young age, but my musical talent was minimal; I learnt because my mother taught me, and after she was gone it was a long time before I played again. I'm rusty, I can almost hear my fingers creaking as I force them into chords and scales.

She looks up at me over the music she's arranging on the coffee table. I'm standing in the kitchen making us tea. The silence is not deafening or heavy. It does not need to be filled. She smiles, and I smile back. If this isn't love, I don't know what is.


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