Stephen went to draw the curtain when he noticed Julia asleep in the garden. She was wearing a simple white bikini, her hair messily tied in a bun at the nape of her neck. She must have fallen asleep whilst sunbathing, and been in such a deep slumber, that even the temperature-drop of the evening could not rouse her. He edged away from the window, standing just so he could see her without being seen himself. She lay awkwardly against the fence, her legs wrapped around each other in an incomprehensible knot. The palms of her hands lay flat against the lawn, her fingers clutching at the blades of grass every now and then. Her body was in limbo. Stephen noticed how her curves were only half-evolved. She didn’t quite fill the bikini with a hands width between the material and the skin. Why did he think of that? He shrugged the idea off shamefully. This must be how an owner feels when they stumble upon their dreaming dog, Stephen thought, as though with every movement, with every wag of a tail, they are intruding on their secret thoughts.
“What are you looking at?” Perdita had entered the bedroom.
“Nothing.” Stephen pulled the curtains shut instantly. He flushed a little, the result of a voyeur caught in the act.
“Are you coming to bed?” Perdita sidled over to him, her red silk dressing gown swaying with her strides. She held the tassels between her thin fingers, swinging them in a circular motion, “The children are asleep.”
Before Stephen could answer, she wrapped her arms around his waist and kissed him softly, just where the jaw meets the neck. He was used to this initiation; it had been the same for several years. Perdita would lull the children to sleep with Goldilocks and the Three Bears and after sending Stephen to do the washing up; she would take a bath and slip into the red silk ensemble. As the years went on, Stephen noticed how this began to happen less often and that the dressing gown had started to become tighter.
Without words, the two moved to the bed relaxing into the routine they had become accustomed to. Perdita removed her gown and night dress, slowly unbuttoning Stephen’s shirt. Kissing was nonchalant, quickly becoming a mundane game of give and take. They moved to a well-rehearsed rhythm, taking it in turns to vocalise. Just as Stephen felt Perdita’s familiar stirring, his thoughts reverted back to the sleeping girl in the white bikini, the way she had clawed at the grass, her eyes flickering with dreams. Her openness, the sheer sincerity of her sprawled out body thrilled him in the most sensual way he had ever experienced.
Perdita cried out. Stephen looked down at his wife’s contorted face, the faint crow’s feet appearing on her skin. The image of the girl now far from his mind, he crouched over her still and lifeless.
“Don’t worry about it, Steve,” Perdita whispered as she plumped her pillow, “It happens.”
Stephen remained flat and naked; listening as his wife’s breathing began to slow. He pulled the covers over them as she rolled over, her claws wrapping around him in ownership. Yet it wasn’t his wife’s hands he imagined on his torso, it was the girl in the white bikini's and with the idea, he swelled guiltily.