Robert Cormack

3 months ago · 10 min. reading time · visibility ~10 ·

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The Affair.

Sometimes a snowstorm can make all the difference.

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If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair.” Ray Bradbury

Every Friday afternoon, Ross would leave his apartment key under a folder on his desk, and every Friday, at 5 o’clock, Sylvie, his secretary, would pick it up, grab a cab, and be waiting when Ross got home. The affair had been going on three months now. From the start, they both loved the intrigue, but sometimes Ross felt Sylvie loved it more than he did. She’d leave notes on his desk, maybe a sexy cartoon with “Us,” written across the top. Anyone could have walked in and seen it.

“La, la, la,” she’d say to Ross when they were in bed.

Sylvie lived on the South Shore with her boyfriend. Once the affair started, she had to tell Tony she was either working late or getting together with her friend Monique. Who works late on a Friday? he kept asking her. Or who else is going out with you and Monique? “La, la, la,” she’d say to Ross when they were in bed. “You should see him flirt.” She said the same thing to Ross three month’s earlier at an office party. That’s how it started.

This particular night, Ross and Sylvie were lying in bed watching the snow falling. She got up, wrapped the sheet around her. She looked at herself in the mirror as she walked to the bathroom. Her skin was white and her hair was pixyish. There was a small tattoo of a dove on her shoulder. She said it was a birthday present from Tony. He had an eagle. They were the eagle and the dove. Now she was standing half naked in Ross’s bedroom.

“Call me a cab,” she said to him.

Ross went over to the window. Cars were spinning their tires up and down the street. He dialled a local cab company, asking the dispatcher how long it would be. The dispatched said Ross would have better luck flagging one.

“What did they say?” Sylvie called from the washroom.

“He said it’ll be quicker flagging one,” he said. “I’m going downstairs now.”

Sylvie came out in a towel, checking the time, fluffing her hair. Tony’s hockey games usually went until eight o’clock. The team would go for drinks afterwards. Sometimes they’d end up at a strip club. Tony told her the girls were gorgeous at this one place called The Naked Onion.

It was eight o’clock now and the storm was getting worse. Montreal got a lot of snow, starting in November and lasting well into April. Sometimes the winds forced the bridges to close down.

She was curled up with a drink in her hand, waving her other hand back and forth. Serge seemed to think this was funny.

Ross stood on the porch of the brownstone. Through the front window, he could see Serge, his landlord, having drinks with his artist girlfriend. She was curled up with a drink in her hand, waving her other hand back and forth. Serge seemed to think this was funny.

A cab came along the street, dropping off a couple. Ross ran up and told the cabbie his friend was going to the South Shore. The cabbie got on the radio to the dispatcher, talking in French.

“What did the dispatcher say?” Ross asked.

“The bridge may close soon,” he said, “Is your friend ready to go?”

Sylvie was coming out the door, holding her coat together. The cabbie pulled up to the curb, sinking in the snow.

“Where on the South Shore?” the cabbie asked Sylvie.

“LeMoyne,” she replied.

“The subway would be better,” he said.

“I’d still have to take a bus from there,” she said.

The cabbie shrugged and tossed out his cigarette. Sylvie said goodbye to Ross, giving him a brief hug. Once in the cab, it lurched forward, sinking further down next to the curb. Ross got behind and started pushing.

“Stop spinning your tires,” he yelled.

The tires kept spinning, the smell of burnt rubber hung in the air. Sylvie said something to the cabbie in French. He swore back, then threw the car in reverse. Ross jumped back, tripping over the curb and falling down.

Sylvie opened the cab door. The cabbie gunned the engine, lurching backwards as Ross pulled Sylvie clear of the door.

“Arret!” Sylvie screamed at the driver. “Arret, idiot!”

The cabbie banged his fists on the steering wheel.

“Fous le camp!” he yelled. “Case toi!”

Sylvie opened the cab door. The cabbie gunned the engine, lurching backward as Ross pulled Sylvie clear of the door.

“Idiot!” Sylvie yelled back at the cabbie.

He stepped on the accelerator again and fishtailed down the street.

Sylvie and Ross stood there, wiping slush off our coats. Serge and his girlfriend came to the front door. The porch light flickered.

“What happened?” Serge called out.

“He almost ran us over,” Sylvie said.

They came up the steps, still wiping off the slush.

“Look at you two,” the girlfriend said, pulling them inside. A scarf was wrapped around her hair, twisted up like some kind of sultan. Her eyes were heavy with mascara, sunken cheeks, long laugh lines. She must have been quite the beauty in her time.

“Take off your coat,” the girlfriend said. “I’m Francine, by the way. That hairy ape there is Serge. Say hello, Serge. Don’t stand there gaping, darling. Pour these two some drinks.”

“He’s crazy,” Sylvie kept saying.

“I thought he was going to back over you,” the girlfriend said.

“I should report him,” Sylvie said.

“Take off your coat,” the girlfriend said. “I’m Francine, by the way. That hairy ape there is Serge. Say hello, Serge. Don’t stand there gaping, darling. Pour these two a drink.”

Francine took Sylvie into Serge’s washroom.

“Where was your girlfriend going?” Serge asked Ross.

“LeMoyne.”

“Why doesn’t she stay with you?”

“She can’t. She lives with someone.”

Serge looked down the hall. He gave a little smile, then sat down, crossing his legs. His shirt was open to the waist. He was very hairy and had a thick black moustache. Serge owned the building and had a hair salon in Notre-Dam de Grace.

The girls were coming out of the washroom.

“I’d better call my friend Monique,” Sylvie was saying. “I’ll tell Tony I’m staying with her.” She dialled Monique’s number.

“Who’s Monique?” Serge said.

“Her alibi,” Francine said, sitting down. “I’ll wait until she gets off the phone. She can tell you herself.”

“Monique’s not picking up,” Sylvie said. “I’ll try again a little later.”

“Where’s the wine?” Francine said. “Don’t just sit there, Serge.”

“I could use a drink,” Sylvie said. “I’m still shaking. Look at my hands.”

Serge went to the kitchen and got two wine glasses.

“I’m sure she’ll show up eventually,” Francine said, sitting next to Serge. “Have your drink, darlings. The night’s still young.”

“Now who’s this Monique?” he asked Sylvie.

“Let her drink first,” Francine said.

“She’s a friend of mine,” Sylvie said. “I told Tony I was going there after work. He’ll call her if I’m not home. I have to let her know.”

“I’m sure she’ll show up eventually,” Francine said, sitting next to Serge. “Have your drink, darlings. The night’s still young.”

Serge put his arm around her shoulder. She rubbed his fingers.

”Now fill us in on the sordid details, you two,” Francine said. “How did your little tete a tete start in the first place?”

“We work in the same office,” Sylvie said.

“I see,” Francine said. “And this Tony, he’s your husband?”

“Boyfriend.”

“And he’s where right now?”

“Playing hockey. He plays every Friday night.”

“While the cat’s away, huh? You naughty things.”

“What about you two?” Sylvie asked.

“I’m rich and Serge desperately wants to marry me.”

“In a pig’s ear,” Serge said. “She’s poor as a church mouse.”

“Serge loves my stuff. Tell her how many paintings of mine you own. Don’t leave out the nudes. Go ahead, darling.”

“What do you do?” Sylvie asked.

“I’m an artist,” Francine said.

“How exciting.”

“Serge loves my stuff. Tell her how many paintings of mine you own. Don’t leave out the nudes. Go ahead, darling.”

“None,” Serge said. “I can’t stand her work.”

“He’s being an ass. He owns five.”

“Where are they?” Sylvie asked.

“In his bedroom,” Francine said, taking Sylvie’s hand. “Come, I’ll show you.”

They went off down the hall.

“She’s actually talented as hell,” Serge said. “Conceited, though.”

When the girls came back, Francine was wearing a kaftan.

“She thinks she’s an Arab or something,” Serge said.

“Don’t be obscene,” Francine said.

She curled up next to Serge, downing her glass of wine.

“Another,” she said.

“I should throw you out in the snow.”

“I’d make snow angels. And you, Ross, how do you feel being the otherman?”

“Okay, I guess,” Ross shrugged.

“You guess? My God, Serge, the man’s not sure. You’re being positively complacent, Ross, darling. At least have a little sweat on your brow or we’ll think you’re making a career of it. Sylvie says you two are in advertising. Hocking tires and lipsticks. My God, dear heart, can an affair be any worse

“I’m not judging, darling. I love raunchy little escapades. Did you use your authority to enthral this lovely girl?”

“I don’t know what to say,” Ross said.

“I’m not judging, darling. I love raunchy little escapades. Did you use your authority to enthral this lovely girl?”

“Not quite,” Ross said.

“Did you bait this poor man, Sylvie?” Francine asked.

“A bit,” Sylvie grinned.

“Look at those calves, Serge,” Francine said. “Positively mesmerizing. You must be an extraordinary nude, darling. That skin alone defies description.”

“She just wants your clothes off,” Serge said.

“Don’t be crude. Artists see only beauty.”

“In a pig’s ear.”

“Ignore him, Sylvie. He’s a pig.”

“And your best customer,” Serge said.

“Do it,” Serge said. “If she dies of syphilis, you’ll be rich.”

Ross finished his wine.

“Maybe we should go back upstairs,” he said to Sylvie.

“And leave us alone?” Francine said. “Listen, Sylvie, why don’t you tell Tony you’re with me. Say you came to see my work. I’ll even give you a sketch.”

“Do it,” Serge said. “If she dies of syphilis, you’ll be rich.”

“I already told Tony I’d be with Monique,” Sylvie says.

“And where is this Monique? Not home, obviously,” Francine said. “Say you came to my studio instead. We lost track of time.”

“She’s quite good at this, isn’t she?” Serge said.

“What if he wants to pick me up?” Sylvie asked.

“In this weather?” Francine said. “He can come over in the morning. We’ll go to my studio after we finish our drinks.”

“What do you think?” Sylvie asked Ross.

“It’s up to you. What time is it?”

Serge looked at his watch.

“Almost ten.”

“Is your boyfriend home now?” Francine asked.

“I’ll try his mobile,” Sylvie said.

She went down the hall and called Tony. Then she waved to Francine.

“She’s right here if you don’t believe me,” she was saying.

Francine got up and took the phone.

“Tony, pet? My sincerest apologies for keeping Sylvie out on a night like this. We lost track of time. Do you mind terribly if she stays here tonight? It’s dreadful outside.” She was twirling one of her earrings. “Yes, you can pick her up in the morning. Do you have a pen handy? It’s four-thirty Saint Laurent. Okay, see you tomorrow. Here’s Sylvie again.”

Francine came back and got her wine glass.

“Shouldn’t you call a cab?” Serge said.

“They’ll just tell you to hail one,” Ross said.

Francine looked at him.

“I don’t hail cabs, pet. They hail me.”

“She’s so full of shit,” Serge said. “I’ll call a cab.”

The dispatcher said it would be an hour.

“How can someone be a bit of a slut?” Serge asked.

“And what did your Tony say?” Francine asked when Sylvie sat down.

“He says he feels better knowing it’s you and not Monique.”

“What’s wrong with Monique?”

“She’s a bit of a slut,” Sylvie laughed.

“How can someone be a bit of a slut?” Serge asked.

“Don’t be obscene,” Francine said. “Serge is one half Corsican and completely depraved. We’d all be wearing saddles if he had his way. Come, Sylvie,” taking Sylvie’s hand again, “the bedroom’s more comfortable.”

They took their drinks into the bedroom. Serge yawned and lit a cigarette, bring his feet up on the couch. The girls were laughing in the other room.

“Of course you’re gorgeous,” they could hear Francine saying. “Let those luscious legs please the masses, I say.”

“She’ll have her screwing radiator next,” Serge said to Ross.

“Is she really that bad?” Ross asked.

“ Screams like a monkey in the sack.”

They talked until things got quiet in the bedroom.

“I hope you’re not debauching that girl,” Serge yelled.

Serge stood up, turned on the stereo, got more wine, then sat down again. He put the bottle between his legs.

“Don’t be such a pig,” Francine said. “Of course I am.”

The girls laughed and Serge lit another cigarette.

“Put some music on,” Francine yelled.

Serge stood up, turned on the stereo, got more wine, then sat down again. He put the bottle between his legs.

“What about Sylvie in there?” he motioned with his glass.

“I wouldn’t call her a sexual nihilist.”

They listened to the stereo, lit cigarettes, drank wine.

“Serge,” Francine called from the bedroom. “Bring more wine.”

“Keep your panties on, woman,” he yelled back.

“Come, you two,” Francine called out again. “Join us.”

“Isn’t this cozy?” Francine said. “Excuse my cold hands. Serge likes me to be corpse-like. Rub my feet, darling.”

Serge put the wine bottle under his arm and motioned Ross to follow. The bedroom was hung with Francine’s paintings. They featured broad slashes of colour with breasts floating over the sides of goblets. Francine and Sylvie were under the duvet. Francine reached up and grabbed Ross’s hand. Sylvie grabbed the other. They pulled him down between them. Serge filled their glasses, then lay across the foot of the bed.

“Isn’t this cozy?” Francine said. “Excuse my cold hands. Serge likes me to be corpse-like. Rub my feet, darling.”

Serge put down his wine glass and ran his hands under the duvet.

“That’s nice,” she said. “If his hands wander, pet, yelp like an Indian. I think I’m getting a little sleepy. Don’t mind me. Talk amongst yourselves.”

Her eyes closed, Sylvie did the same. Serge yawned and lay back.

A few minutes later, the doorbell rang. Ross climbed over Sylvie and went to the door. A dark form was standing on the porch, cigarette going.

“You ordered a cab?” the cabbie said.

He looked like the other cabbie, only with a full beard.

“They fell asleep,” Ross said. “Let me get them up.”

“I’ll be in the car,” the cabbie said.

Ross went back in the bedroom and shook Sylvie. She wouldn’t wake up. He shook her harder, saying the cab wouldn’t wait. She opened her eyes.

“It’s outside now,” Ross said.

Francine mumbled and rolled away. Sylvie’s eyes were closing again.

The cabbie honked.

Ross went back to the living room window. The cabbie was standing with the cab door open, the motor running. He looked at Ross and raised his arms. Then he got in the cab, slammed his door, and gunned his engine. He honked one more time, waited a minute, then drove off.

Back the bedroom, Sylvie opened her eyes and looked around. She couldn’t figure out where she was. “What time is it?” she mumbled. She looked at her watch. “My God, it’s almost noon,” she said.

“You’re still at Serge’s,” Ross said. “You haven’t gone to Francine’s yet.”

“Tell Serge to get more wine,” she groaned. “I’m parched.”

“Did you call a cab?”

“It came and went. I couldn’t get you up.”

She rubbed her head and looked at her watch again.

Francine rolled over and yawned.

“Tell Serge to get more wine,” she groaned. “I’m parched.”

She put her hand across her forehead and closed her eyes. Then Sylvie lay back and did the same. Serge was still snoring.

“Sylvie?” Ross said.

She didn’t move. He shook her arm, then got up, turned out the light, and went to the living room. The snow was coming down heavier now. The plows might not even get into Westmount tonight. He watched everything disappear under a white blanket. It was like the snow was erasing their sins. He turned off the lights and went back upstairs.

Robert Cormack is a satirist, novelist, and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores. Check out Robert’s other articles and stories at robertcormack.net

 

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