Justin was barking into his phone as he took the corner at speed, and when he caught a glimpse of his face in the rear view mirror, he was shocked at how angry he looked. He had spent the entire drive back from the city seething at how badly the deal had gone. Right now, he was on the phone to Tia, who had sworn blind that the deal was good.
‘You wasted my motherfucking time, Tia. How am I supposed to make my nut when you’re sending me out to mom and pop operations?’
Justin looked up, the bridge at Otter Creek ahead meant that he could get back into town before dusk. Already thinking about hitting up Kev, a gram and a couple of shots of Maker’s would salve his wounded pride. He swallowed, feeling a seam of hard steel at the back of his throat, burning with thwarted pride.
‘Justin, you’re going into this thinking that every lead is a Fortune 500, it doesn’t work that way and Mr Helsdon – ‘
‘Mr Helsdon needs to shit or get off the pot, Tia. He’s been with the same insurer for fifty years, golfs with the guy every Tuesday afternoon. You wasted my time, Tia.’
He hit the bridge and before he was halfway across, a sudden wave of emotion overwhelmed him.
‘I’m scared, Tia. I turn 30 this year and I’m fucking terrified of turning out like my dad did. Fat, useless, trading on old glories. I don’t want to look back and see that my life peaked in high school -‘
Tia took in a sharp breath, overwhelmed by the pleading and the pain in his voice.
‘It’s okay, just it’s been rough I know – ‘
Justin shook his head, squeezing out tears that ran down his cheekbones.
‘No, I know that you’re fixing to leave and I don’t blame you because I treat you like shit but that’s because I can’t stand how much I fucking need you Tia.’
Tia looked around, waited for him to laugh or someone to pop up with a camera to record her reaction.
‘Justin, just come back. We can talk about Houston.’
He crossed the bridge, his fear gone, the way a vampire dies in the sunlight, ash and bone fragments. The next few miles were strange ones for him, and better ones too.
June had kept up a running monologue for so long that when she fell silent, Andy wondered if something in his brain had finally broken. She asked him something, and he murmured his agreement without hearing what it actually was.
‘Do you ever listen to me?’
He lowered his chin to his chest and sighed. It had been a long weekend, her family would all toss disapproving looks when they thought he wasn’t looking.
‘Of course honey, just it’s been a long drive. But look, we’re nearly home.’
She sighed and turned the radio up. It was her way of ensuring that Andy did not get to speak and whereas once he would have resented it, now he was grateful. They had separate lives, running in parallel, a truce rather than a marriage. Since the kids had left, the house was too quiet and neither of them quite knew how to handle it.
As the bridge rattled beneath the wheels of their Prius, Andy reached and turned the station off with a sharp twist.
‘The reason I don’t listen to you is that you don’t give me a chance to speak, June-Bug.’
June’s face sharpened, the perpetual mask of good manners slipped to show the woman beneath.
‘That would require you to say anything that wasn’t about work or football, Andy-Bug.’
He grinned and shook his head, sighing with a gesture that made her damp.
‘When was the last time we had sex, June? Not just the time where you use my dick as a sleeping pill. That was April last year.’
June snivelled and wiped her eyes.
‘I didn’t think you wanted to. I thought you’d made other arrangements. The Hawkins girl.’
He laughed and shook his head.
‘That would be like fucking a box kite. I still jerk off about you, June-Bug but you don’t seem interested.’
He clamped a rough hand on her thigh and she thought she might explode right there.
They stopped once they were on the other side of the bridge. It was quick, but it was good and despite the years, they managed to surprise themselves.
It slipped beneath the water from where it had hung beneath the bridge. It knew that the world seldom offered such ample opportunities for it’s kind and that it could feed from here for a long time to come. It was full. That was enough for now.