He walked a mile in my shoes and returned them with cow shit all over the soles. After that, he started informing me when the hair became visible on my upper lip, “Time to wax, babycakes!” - and I was not in any moral position to slap him.
We synchronised the slobbery of our evenings – scuffling over snack selection, hands brushing the backs of each other’s fingers within the electric crackle packet. You can chew with your mouth open if your lover does it too – “Them’s the rules, kid!” - even if it makes me want to sew his lips shut.
I pre-empt the ends of sentences and interrupt half way- he does the same, but only because we know what each other are- and we communicate in semi-formed- and we frighten strangers with our- and our friends think we’re cute because- but they get annoyed too when- though, really, who gives a fuck? They’re not part of our universe. We’re smug. I know this.
“I like the extra junk in your trunk,” he says. He slaps my thighs too hard. They wobble. Something slithers into a neurotic pile of screaming frustration inside my muffin top. When he tries to slide his hand through the gap between my breasts I hunch my shoulders and say I feel sick.
My parents never liked him and I approve of that. That, sometimes, is reason alone. When we have children he will excel and my father will emerge with softness through grandparenthood. My mother will lean her head on her own shoulder in pathetic acquiescence at the sight of him with a baby on his arm. I will watch and be glad that his genes passed through me, and people will tell me how lucky I am and I will be lucky and I will have to be glad.
I forget sometimes that he found me raw. Fresh from the dirt. He cleaned me, chopped me into manageable chunks, tossed me in flour and braised my skin until it sealed, until I was safe to simmer, and I tenderised and melted in his mouth and I am grateful and I do sometimes forget that without him the dogs would have torn me amongst them and swallowed me whole - along with their own vomit and their own fleas and whatever leftovers they could find and the other stupid things dogs find palatable.
He left me cooking, squeezed into my shoes and went for that walk. I might have mistaken love for gratitude. I could live without him knowing my shortness, the perpetual cold of my hands, my wish for thicker hair, the tiring sadness he thought he healed.
I’m waiting for him to misstep. I will string his shoes upon my feet, wind the laces around my ankles like rollerskates. I will walk for days, until I can come back home and kick the love into him. Stamp a little thankfulness of my own onto his face.
Jo Gatford wants to live on your bookshelf. She has short works published in Litro, The Pygmy Giant, Metazen, Underground Voices, Short, Fast and Deadly, and was a finalist in this year's Aesthetica Creative Works competition. She lives in Brighton, UK, and is currently editing her second novel.