The Art of Conversation
Still hungry, Martin asked Stella, “Have we got any biscuits? Those microwave Shepherd’s Pies are never big enough.”
Sitting on the sofa, pensive and awkward, Stella said “I was watching the news today, an oil refinery near Hemel Hempstead exploded.”
“Yes.” Half listening, Martin imagined sex. Sometimes, travelling home in winter darkness, he wished she would meet him at the door naked and warm his body with her own.
“The sky was black, orange, grey, like hell might be. People evacuated, buildings destroyed. It was a terrible mess. I started thinking about what it was like. There was blood, bright red on concrete.”
“You shouldn’t get yourself upset,” he said, wondering if this was the first sign of menopause. His mother had worried all the time.
“I saw myself stepping through noise and fire, huge tanks blown apart like opening tulips, twisted metal stuck in the ground like pampas grass. You were there, pinned under a pipe as wide as a tunnel. You were asking for help.”
Standing, Stella went to fetch the biscuits. “I looked at you, insides spilling out into chaos, and felt nothing.”
For the first time that evening, Martin looked at Stella.
She was still beautiful.