EX TALK • by Annie Z. Whitaker

I shouldn’t shag Evan. I told myself I wasn’t going to, but here I am at two in the morning in Evan’s apartment, and there is definitely going to be sex. I’m not quite sure how to get out of it. I’m only here because my ex, Max, didn’t text me back for seven hours, and by the time he did, I was already falling off my bar stool at 3 Diamond Door. I’d already called Evan to come and meet me. I’d already kissed him in front of my friends.

Evan’s throwing drawers open in his kitchen, and then appears in the doorway with a corkscrew and a bottle of red.


Evan’s cigarette glows. He swivels the bottle towards my glass. It glugs.

He’ s been talking about how great his new apartment is for weeks, so I comment.

“What a great apartment,” I say.

“Thanks. The living room isn’t anything special. It’s the bedroom that’s important. Right this way.”

In the bedroom, I look at a giant canvas covered in dripping splats of purple paint. It’s hung proudly on the wall facing the king sized bed. “Isn’t it evocative? Unique?” he says. “My ex-girlfriend painted it.” I think he suddenly realizes the inappropriateness of ex-talk because he quickly adds, “But let’s not talk about her.”

Max and I had a stable relationship. My sister always said so. We’d talk at least once every day. We’d spend two nights in the week together and Saturday night out at the pub drinking with friends. Sunday was hangover and sex day.

He fixed my sink. I made him pasta.

“Why did I dump him?” I asked my sister.

“You were bored! You didn’t want to live the rest of your life in the town you grew up in. A life with Max was going to be boring! That’s what you said.”

“Maybe,” I said. “But now every time I talk to him it’s clear that even after all this time we’re still in love. “

“Stop,” she said. “You dumped him for a reason.”

Evan is taking my clothes off. Despite his corporate face, he’s attractive — tall, muscles, big hands — and I start to feel like I could get into it, that since I’m here, I should get into it, so I look at his eyes and — I’m surprised — he’s looking into mine. But then ruins it by calling me “baby,” my least favorite pet name.

“Oh baby,” Evan says as he undoes my bra. Max never called me baby.

Then he goes for my jeans. They are tight. They are so tight that to stop the zipper from slipping down, I used a rubber band to attach it to the button. I can’t let him see the rubber-band zipper-attachment, so I move away from him and start doing a drunk-girl stripper act. Swaying my hips around, I dip down, bend over, and squeeze out of jeans.

“Oh baby,” Evan says.

He’s taking off his shirt, his trousers. He tears back the bedclothes. The sheets are black silk. We are on them.

The Macbook on the bedside table is churning out Marvin Gaye, and I’m watching the screen saver lights dance over the half-empty wine glasses and the purple ex-girlfriend painting. Marvin gets it on with the one he loves as Evan tries to figure out how I work. It’s like I’m a hire car — he knows how to drive, just hasn’t seen this exact model before, and I’m not offering any suggestions. Instead, I’m back in England, sitting on a couch with Max and some friends at a house party. I remember that the drum and base was loud, and we were laughing at Max’s brother for buying tickets to the Eurovision Song Contest. There was a bottle of whisky going from hand to hand. I was wearing a short yellow skirt. “You look beautiful,” Max whispered to me. And he pulled me close. He kissed my face.

The song switches to “Sexual Healing.”

I think of the things Max gave me. A Forever Friends card from Woolworth’s. It pictured a cuddly bear hugging a valentine’s heart. Inside he’d glued a picture of us; he’d cut around our bodies and surrounded us with hearts and kisses. In a pink pen he’d written, “I love the way you laugh. I love your hair. I love the way you smell. I love your body. I love you,” all written in capitals. Did Max always write in capitals? I think I remember that he did.

Marvin Gaye croons.

“Oh baby,” says Evan but he’s searching my face, looking for something.

“Your eyes are both green and brown,” Max said.

“Baaaaaaby,” sings Marvin.

“Stop.” I say. “Stop. Evan, I’m sorry.” And I’m gathering my clothes, and now I’m in the mediocre living room. And I’m saying, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” as I look for my phone.

Annie Z. Whitaker writes in New York City, NY, USA.

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Every Day Fiction