Other Women: Three Flash Fictions
by Cathy Ulrich
All the Small Things
On Thursday nights while she is at her book club, your lover goes to his fiancée’s house and moves her things around. Only small things, turning spoons backward in the silverware drawer, inching her sofa away from the wall. He says she never dusts the headboard of her bed. He says she twists and twists the ring on her finger, like it doesn’t fit, he says, though it is perfectly sized.
What I like about you, he says, is you don’t expect things to stay the same.
You nod and smile, and wait in your apartment in the dress he likes and the pearl earrings from the bottom of her cluttered jewelry box that he says she hasn’t missed, and your phone stays dark and quiet.
A Tree Falls
The girl with the dolphin tattoo is getting ready to meet your husband for dinner. She applies her lipstick to a French pop song. She is thinking of how your husband’s breath caught the first time they kissed, the way he held her too close too long, the way his desire felt like a kind of power.
She isn’t thinking of you. Sometimes the girl with the dolphin tattoo does think of you. She thinks of you the way she thinks of all women like you, married women, like her own mother, thinks of you cooking pot roasts, sewing buttons on coats. Thinks of you disappearing, ceasing to exist, when no one is around to witness you.
The girl with the dolphin tattoo knows that is a selfish way to think of things, her own mother, her lover’s wife. She blushes at the idea of a lover; she darkens her lipstick.
The girl with the dolphin tattoo is young. She knows that makes her special and makes her common, like all the other girls who are young and have dolphin tattoos. Hers is on the top of her foot, where she can cover it with a stocking if she wants. She likes when the dolphin’s face pokes out from her sandals in warm weather.
When she got the dolphin tattoo, she went alone. She paid in cash. The tattoo artist had cold hands, played Johnny Cash, Ring of Fire, Ring of Fire.
Did you know you’ve got that on repeat, she said.
Helps me concentrate, he said, ran his cold hands over the bare bones of her foot. The girl getting the dolphin tattoo stared at the wall while the work was done. The pain wasn’t so bad, she thought, like someone pinching her or biting softly, over and over.
The girl with the dolphin tattoo left the tattoo parlor limping, not because it hurt but because it made her feel like her dolphin tattoo was a real thing, had changed her somehow. When she got home, she put lotion on the tattoo, put her own hands on the small bones of her foot, thought how different it was to be touched than to touch yourself, something about the intent.
The girl with the dolphin tattoo is thinking about touching your husband, thinking about the way he flinches reflexively before relaxing when she does. She is thinking about after dinner with your husband, bringing him back to her apartment, bringing him home. And she will put Johnny Cash on the stereo, lean your husband back on the couch, put her hands on his chest, straddle him in her hitched-up skirt, play Ring of Fire, play Ring of Fire.
And she thinks that will be something like love.
All the Love Stories Are Really Lies
The man on the television show is saying to the woman on the television show I love you. He is saying I love you to the woman on the television show and they are both beautiful in a broken-eyed way, and he says I love you and they don’t kiss and there is something so romantic, you think, that they haven’t kissed, that they aren’t kissing, that the woman just nods when he says I love you, lips parted, like she is tasting the air between them.
And before you turned on the television, you were lying in an unfamiliar bed, stiff like all hotel beds are, you thought, lying on your back, staring at the ceiling, said to your lover if I lived here, if I were here instead of so far away, would you leave her for me?
He said that’s not very fair and you couldn’t look at him, I know, yes, it’s not very fair.
He said I’m going to take a shower and you nodded and sighed when he left the bed, turned on the television to watch this declaration of love, which is, after all, only a lie.
Cathy Ulrich loves hotels — it’s like visiting another world to stay in one. Her work has been published in various journals, including Third Point Press, Okay Donkey and Forge Lit Mag.