FoundlingReview

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      Out of curiosity, how good are you at keeping secrets? Well, of course I'm talking to you. The bellhop and the concierge aren't exactly within earshot at the moment, are they? Look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be rude. It's just that I really need to tell someone about this right now, and I've only got a few minutes. Yes, I'm waiting for someone. Just like you are, aren't you? How can I tell? Let's just say it takes one to know one. No idea what I'm talking about? Oh, come off it. You're having an affair, just like I am. Now, do you want to hear my secret or not? I'm Stacy, by the way.

      So do you always meet him here? I always book the Belgravia Suite, 6 pm on the first Friday of every month. Always the same inane floral patterns on the wallpaper and the carpet. Always the same designs on the sheets. Always the same miniature bottles in the mini-bar. Always the same Gideon Bible in the drawer, vaguely accusatory. I have a little routine to follow once I get into the suite. Do you have those too? I come over straight from work, and my husband just thinks I'm going to my book club. Does he ever suspect? I'm not sure. He might, actually, but it doesn't really matter anyway. Why? Oh, I'll explain about that in a minute.

      Where was I? Oh yes, my routine. I swipe the key card, let myself into the room, and the door closes behind me with a reassuring click. I drop my attaché case beside the door, fetch myself a drink from the mini-bar, sink onto the bed, kick off my shoes, and feel deliciously delinquent as I lie sprawled on the sheets, draining the tiny bottle and tossing it onto the floor. I lie there for a full minute before getting up to smooth the sheets. Plenty of time for them to be rumpled later, is what I always think. It's my monthly indulgence, to be free for one evening of the responsibilities of director-slash-mother-slash-wife.

      Do you work? Insurance agent? Are you sure we've never met before? Have any kids? I'd recommend not starting in that case. Anyway, sometimes I resent how I've become one of those clichés of society that we're probably more used to seeing on daytime soap operas. The cheating wife. The office romance. It's worth it though, just for the sex. Sex with Clement has been average, even on our wedding night, but now, it's frankly mediocre, if not downright bad. Our techniques are, shall we say, never quite in-sync. With Damon, on the other hand, sex is finally something more than a mechanical coming together of two bodies. Not that we actually mean anything to each other, of course. That would be too corny, even for me. I only want, need the electric feel of his skin against mine. Just once a month...

      Don't look at me like that! You're just as guilty as I am. Besides, like I said, Clement doesn't really mind. At least if he does, he's never said anything about it. As long as I get back before midnight. Like Cinderella. Except our fairytale doesn't end when the clock strikes 12. Quite the opposite. It's been our arrangement, ever since...well, Damon started working for me. Always be home by midnight and no questions asked. I expect Clement's taken advantage of the second part of that agreement on more than one occasion, which is part of the reason why I've long since stopped feeling guilty.

      Well, there was this one time when I did kind of wonder if I should put a stop to things. It was the last time we met, when Damon was late in getting here. It was, I don't know, a quarter past the hour? Doesn't sound like a lot, but you've got to understand that Damon is never late. For anything. Even our sex, fantastic as it is, follows a very tight schedule. Two hours, tops. Hey, it's a long drive back to the land of white picket fences, and I already told you about the midnight thing. Rushed? No, not really. Give me some credit. I'm not going off to have an affair just to go through the motions once a month. Every minute counts though, which is why I was so annoyed that evening. There I was, after looking forward to things for a whole month, stuck alone in a pricey suite. Literally.

      I don't know what the hell happened that evening, but everything just wasn't working. I was going to go back down to the lobby to see if I could get a refund on the suite, but the door just refused to open. The room's telephone wasn't working either. I swear! I picked it up, and I heard nothing, not even the dull rush of static. I checked the plug. It was fine. This is ridiculous, I thought to myself, even as I fought to suppress a rising feeling of panic at being trapped in an admittedly luxurious hotel suite. So I thought I'd catch a breath of fresh air, you know, just to calm my nerves. Then I discovered the window was stuck. It was painfully farcical, practically the beginning of a B-grade horror film. Clement likes to watch those. I tell him not to because the kids are always sneaking down after their bedtime, and then they get nightmares. He doesn't really listen to me.

        Anyway, I figured out the window, at least. A small scrap of paper, stuck to the corner of the window: This window has been welded shut for safety purposes. Our sincerest apologies for any inconvenience caused. If you require additional ventilation, why not take a walk in the lush surroundings of the hotel garden? I know! That was supposed to be their best suite. Appalling. So I was getting a bit claustrophobic, understandably, and I suddenly had this urge to pee. Nervousness, I guess. I marched into the toilet and slammed the door shut. Before it could click though, I caught the handle and kept it open. Just a fraction of an inch. Just in case. I was gripping the sink, and then I realised that my knees were trembling.

      Can you blame me? I didn't know what to do. I couldn't call anyone because I'd forgotten to grab my mobile as I was leaving my office, and if I had been able to call someone, what was I going to say? Hi, would you mind coming over to rescue me from the hotel suite where I was supposed to meet my lover? There was nothing to do but wait. Clement would have figured out something was wrong, eventually. At least that's what I was hoping. So then I had to find something to pass the time. I ended up reading the Bible because, you guessed it, the TV wouldn't turn itself on. I prayed that there would be some other book inside the drawer, left behind by someone else. The irony of asking God for a favour when I didn't even want to read His book didn't escape me, but I figured God would cut me some slack. Just this once.

      You'd think that too, wouldn't you? Sorry, couldn't help but notice that you're wearing a crucifix. Well, God has a sense of humour. Twisted, but it's there. I say this because there was another book. A guide to reading the Bible in a year. It was practically a sign, and I'm not even a believer, so I looked up the day's appointed reading and flipped to it in the Bible, feeling like I was back in school and Sister Maria would rap my knuckles if I dared to so much as skip a verse, but oddly comforted by the familiarity of that memory. The reading was the story of David and Bathsheba. An adulterous tale for an adulterous wife. It could've been worse, I suppose. It could have been Revelation and the whore of Babylon. Now that would've been scary. Not to mention kind of judgemental. At least Bathsheba gave birth to Solomon, and God loved Solomon. For a while anyway.

      I didn't actually get to that bit of the story though. Damon showed up after all, half an hour later. Something about the traffic and a meeting that stretched too long. The door worked fine for him, obviously. He was probably lying about the meeting though. I mean, I'm his boss. If he was having a meeting, I'd have known. Probably had a quickie with one of the secretaries in the pantry after everyone had left. I told him everything that had happened, and here's the funny part. He freaked. Completely. Said it was a warning from God and we shouldn't see each other anymore. He was raised Catholic. Guess he felt guilty about it, though you must admit, it feels kind of hypocritical, doesn't it?

      I didn't think he was being serious though, and we kind of never talked about it, so I just showed up today. In case he turns up too. That's it. That's the secret I wanted to share with you. I feel a lot better, now that it's all off my chest. Thanks. I guess I just want someone to tell me I'm being silly, and that God doesn't really care if I'm sleeping with Damon. Sorry, I know I've been going on and on about myself. I didn't even ask for your name. Tammy? Thanks again for listening. Did you want to say something? You're meeting who tonight? You're what? Oh. Oh no. Why didn't you say so in the first place? You've been making a fool out of me all this while that I've been talking about him! You bitch.
      



Ian Chung reads English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick. His work has appeared in Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Angelic Dynamo, escarp and The 6S Review.

 
 



This story arose out of a class exercise my tutor gave us, in which the constraint was simply to take a cliched character of our choice, place them in a hotel room from which they could not escape, and write the story that came out of that. Initially, all I intended to do was to explore how a cheating wife reacts to the ubiquitous Gideon Bible in her hotel room because I am interested in dysfunctional relationships and how people attempt to rationalise them. The idea of having her there in the lobby, burning to tell this cautionary tale to someone, anyone, while waiting for another rendezvous, was something that only occurred to me much later.

 





  


Copyright 2009