What we talk about when we talk about Sienna by Jo Simmonds

You must be really tired.

I reach for Iain, and his wedding ring brushes against my right hand. I don’t talk until a few moments have passed. I’ve mostly been reading on the journey to the cottage.

We could die out here and no one would ever know.

You’d be missed.

Julie would thank her lucky stars.

Fuck Julie.

No thanks.

He slides his hands around my throat and kisses me deeply.

We have no food in. We can’t order takeaway as the restaurants don’t extend to our road; so we get dressed for dinner and Iain drives us away from our hideout. It’s cold in the car and I shiver, even though I have my thicker coat on. It’s September, and once the Indian summer sun has disappeared it feels like a chill has descended. We drive for twenty minutes until we see a pub on the edge of the nearest village.

It’s normal for Iain to exude anxiety when we enter busy places as he’s naturally introverted, but this time it’s different. The entrance hall is colder than it is outside and a chill creeps up my spine.

Can we try somewhere else?

I dunno. It might take a while longer.

It’ll be in the village.

We drive out further and find a busier pub. It’s playing music loudly so we can’t hear each other talk. Kids are sprawled everywhere; not the pushchair kind but the denim-clad type jostling their way to the bar. Iain places the order while I sit down by the window. It’s dark apart from the occasional swish of headlights from the road. I rest my head in the palm of my right hand.

After we’ve eaten we begin to stare at each other. The pub empties slowly and the music becomes softer. We’ve both had a glass of wine and we lean in for a kiss.

I can’t believe I’ve got you to myself all weekend.

Believe it, it’s happening he says, pinching the back of my hand gently.

I smile and kiss him. When we come apart once more I feel that peculiar sixth sensation of being watched. I turn my head and she’s there. A girl of about eighteen sits on the end of a table for four, her whole body turned to watch us. She’s wearing leggings with a tunic and scarf over the top even though it’s sweltering inside the pub with so many people. Her parents are busy talking to each other. She lifts up her iPhone and takes a picture of us.

Iain blushes a deep shade of crimson and stands up.

Bloody mobiles he says loudly.

I turn, but her chair is empty.

–Why would anyone want a picture of us?

Villagers are always strange. Give me London any day.

I kiss him once more and pick up my handbag from the chair next to me.

When we’re in the car park we get carried away and kiss each other wildly, Iain’s hand pushing underneath my dress. The sky is a beautiful dark brooding blue. I feel Iain’s fingers brush against my underwear and pull away. We spend most of that night hollowing each other out in an attempt to split the atom.

It’s 11am when we wake up on the Saturday morning. Iain drives off to the village to pick up some food and I’m left alone. I go for a walk by myself and find some old stables and farm machinery. There’s a battered ford fiesta; red, but you can only just tell.

I sit on a bench by the field. I look at the cloudy sky and when I look back a girl is standing next to me. It takes me a while to realise it but she’s the girl from the pub the previous night.

–Are you the holiday people this week?

Yes.

There’s a silence. She stares at me deeply. I feel like an imposter.

Sorry. Perhaps I shouldn’t sit here?

It’s a public bench. Sit where you like.

She sits down next to me. She’s carrying a mug of tea so I figure she must live in the farm house.

We get famous people staying in that cottage.

Do your parents own it?

She nods.

Famous as in front page of a newspaper?

She nods.

I feel a bit anxious then. Perhaps she’s just a lonely attention-seeking teen.

Why did you take our photo in the pub?

That was just a random thing. I collect random photos.

I don’t quite believe this. She turns away from me and I look at her dyed hair. It’s blonde and the roots need doing.

Is he your husband?

There’s a silence. I haven’t planned on my relationship with Iain being questioned. I leave it a couple of minutes until she turns around.

No. Iain is my partner.

I’m no good at lying. I could never do it at school and I still lack this life skill as an adult.

So, do you need anything? Are you OK for food and stuff?

It’s at that moment I notice Iain’s white Jag flash past us, speeding along the narrow country track.

You’d better go.

Iain is sat reading a paper while the shopping bags sit on the kitchen counter.

That’s the girl who was in the pub last night. She’s the daughter of the owner next door.

Iain looks up from the second page of the newspaper.

What did she say?

Do you know her?

No…No. She seems a bit weird to me.

She’s just a normal teenager.

I lean forward and kiss him deeply but his mouth is tense.

Have you been here before; with Julie and the kids?

Why so many questions? What’s the problem?

Have you?

He doesn’t answer. If the girl has seen Iain with his wife that means she knows about our affair.

Some parts of my life are private.

Yes I know.

Truly private.

Iain, she’s got a picture of us.

So what?

She might have recognised you.

Teenage girls don’t, not usually. Relax.

He gazes deeply into my eyes.

Do you want me to be recognised?

I kiss him again.

Of course I do. It would mean you were doing well.

It would mean more discretion.

This cuts into me. No more breaks away with Iain. It’s my only way of coping with the kids.

Can we go for another walk?

Iain looks up at me from over his mug of coffee. He knows what I really want.

By Sunday I have looked in the visitor’s book in the reception porch at the cottage and I’ve seen Iain and Julie’s names written down. They haven’t left a comment. It’s in May 2013, so they’ve been here about three years ago. I try to remember when he married Julie but all I can recall was that it isn’t that long ago.

I speak to the girl from the farm house again. She’s called Sienna. I take her a bar of chocolate and she tells me about Iain; about how he has been there before with Julie. They’d had dinner with her parents in the farmhouse and Iain had groped Sienna when they bumped into each other on the landing. At the time she was fifteen. I’m not surprised, I think I know it all along in my heart, but I make her promise me nothing further happened between them.

I don’t tell Iain any of this. I’m too in shock, but I’m not too in shock to phone Julie and tell her Iain isn’t with his friend Chris in Derbyshire.


Jo Simmonds lives in Somerset and works part-time. She writes poetry and plays as well as flash fiction and short stories. She has had flash fiction published in The Next Review, 101 Words and Gay Flash Fiction. She edits The Fiction Pool and tweets @JoCSimmonds.

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