THAT WOMAN • by JC Piech

Yes, I am that woman. The kind you worry about when your husband stays overnight for a business conference. Is there really a conference? Or is he spending time with me in a cheap hotel in some obscure part of town where he thinks no one that he knows will spot him?

It’s not that I’m proud of it or anything. Or even that I enjoy being that woman. How could I enjoy it for any longer than he’s actually with me? How could I enjoy being that woman after he leaves me alone at the hotel before the sun comes up? And then knowing that he comes back home to you in the evening?

I’m not all that different from you. See, I want the same things as you, I just haven’t been so lucky. And I’m scared of women like me too. I know I can’t have him all for myself, I know he has you, but I don’t want him finding a third. But if he can do that to you, then he can certainly do that to me, right? The difference between you and me is that you’re lucky enough to not know.

So I pick up the money he left for the room and go downstairs to eat breakfast on my own. Croissants, toast, fruit, cheese, meat, muesli — I can have my pick. But all I can stomach this morning is an apple and a cup of weak coffee. Through the big wide windows of the breakfast area I watch people in suits standing around smoking — people who stayed overnight for a real conference. Apart from looking out of the window I keep my head down. I’ve been here enough times to know that if you catch the eye of someone else sitting on their own they’re likely to smile, and then maybe strike up a redundant conversation. I’m getting tired of lying about why I’m staying at the hotel, tired of pretending I’m visiting the area, and tired of being told all the best places to see in this town I have lived in for the past ten years.

Last night I realised I’d forgotten to take my pill that morning. And Brett didn’t wear a condom. So breakfast will be followed by a morning-after pill and anxious thoughts of what-if. What if I’m carrying your husband’s child? It’s not the first time I’ve envisioned how I’ll have to get rid of it and how I’ll have to go through that all on my own. I’m starting to wonder if I’d really feel any less alone without him.

I finish my coffee, pay for the room, and take a bus into town. I visit the chemist and then walk home in my heels and my little black dress. On my own. Yes, I am that woman.

JC Piech lives in south-east England with her lovely and patient husband. Her writing tends to fall into one of two categories — light and spiritual, or dark and strange. Perhaps it’s because she’s a Gemini? Or perhaps she’s just a weirdo.

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Every Day Fiction