Sleeping with him wasn’t a crime as he was merely her senior by two years. But then, it could affect the clean image she had been building carefully all these years, slamming shut the door to the top. She could not let that happen after four years of slaving at the firm. She thought having sex with him would somehow turn into making love. It never happened. He would draw her close to him early in the morning when he was still half-asleep. He would stroke her hair gently after they did it and run his warm hand slowly from her shoulder to her hip. He never tired of caressing the back of her shoulder blades, a light touch that made her heart beat faster like a shooting star hurtling to the earth. Yet, he never said he loved her.
She knew he would never divorce his wife for her. He needed her though she looked like a sow. Without her quiet efficiency and unquestioning ways, he would die. He knew that his wife knew he was cheating on her, but she kept silent. Her silence was offered in exchange for his loyalty. An unspoken pact that strengthened the gold of the wedding ring. His wife took good care of the children and washed and ironed his clothes without complaining. He felt bad when he told her a string of sorrowful lies, and he sometimes wished that she would quit being a doormat and stand up for herself. Maybe give him a slap or two to bring him to his senses. He would take her violently and they would have passionate make-up sex that would be an out-of-the-world experience instead of another household drudgery. But she never did that. She would just nod when he told her a flight of lies, keeping her eyes downcast to hide the hurt that flared like flames.
Katherine did not have Jon’s heart; his heart belonged to his wife entirely, rolling in her large handbag among other handy things like hand sanitiser, tissue paper and a water bottle. Katherine only had his sexual attention.
For once, she decided not to meet him at the hotel. She realised that she could choose not to. It suddenly occurred to her that he never told her he loved her. She wondered why that thought occurred to her. When she slept with him, she knew it was not for love. It was just sex. But she was beginning to feel tired. She wanted a kiss in the morning when she woke, sincere whispers of love, a clear gaze of tenderness as he stroked her hair.
Was she growing old?
“Why don’t you want to come?” he asked, on the phone.
“I don’t feel like it.”
“I don’t get it. What did I do wrong?” Jon sounded puzzled.
Katherine hung up.
She wondered if he would call back, or text that he would leave wherever he was and come and get her, to tell her that she meant the world to him.
The phone remained silent.
She meant nothing to him. She was a toy, a frivolous pleasure easily discarded. A thing of no vital importance. Katherine half-expected that, but it still stung. She felt her throat tightening and tears welling in her eyes. Katherine willed the tears back. She was about to close her eyes when she saw the strange young man. He asked her how her day was.
Katherine cleared her throat and admitted that it was not going too well. She had won a huge case, but realising that Jon would never love her pained her. When did she let her guard down? She was usually far too clever for that. In the past, she would do the leaving, keeping an open eye for treachery and deception even as she lay wreathed in kisses. She was beginning to sound like a desperate woman in a Mills & Boons novel. Katherine told herself sternly to straighten up. She said she would be fine, in any case.
He came close and stood in front of her, his dark eyes piercing hers as the train entered a tunnel, storming into the darkness. He bent down and whispered something in her ear. Katherine asked him if he would be there. He said he would. He smiled at her, a tender smile like a drop of starlight in the cold night. He said everything would be okay.
An old woman in a saree next to her asked Katherine who she was talking to.
Katherine stared back, slightly puzzled.
“Him,” she said, gesturing.
The old woman gave her an odd look.
Before Katherine could ask the old bag what her problem was, the train stopped and the doors opened.
Katherine walked out into the darkness. A few people hurried behind her, anxious to get home to their banal little lives. She glanced at him. He looked back, reassuringly, and squeezed her hand as people moved past.
Soon, they were the only two left at the dark train station.
“Why are you still here?” asked Katherine.
He told her he wanted to save her.
“I hardly need saving. I’ve a successful law career. What else do I want?” she said.
Her phone buzzed. It was a text message. Katherine read it; it was not from Jon. It was just a text message from her telephone service provider reminding her that her payment was due in five days. She gripped her phone tight. He touched her fingers lightly and told her that another train was coming.
She stared back, a little confused. They had just taken the last train. It was late, but there was no one waiting at home for her.
“Where is this train going?” she asked.
He said it would take her where she wanted to go.
Katherine looked behind and saw the emptiness in her apartment, Jon’s steel silence. When the train arrived, he took her hand. She followed him inside and the train left the empty station.
When Monday rolled by, Katherine did not come to work. Nobody could find her. The police came up with nothing. An old woman in a saree told them she saw Katherine. In a hoarse, croaking voice, the wrinkled woman said Katherine was strange.
When the young Malay policeman raised his eyebrows, the old woman exclaimed: “She was talking to herself!”
“She always talks to herself. I see her on the train, almost every night, and she is there talking to herself. No one there,” said the old woman, her eyes bulging. She drew her finger round in circles beside her head, indicating insanity.
The policeman nodded politely. He made a small note on his notebook and walked off, melting into the faceless crowd underneath the fading sun.