Sixty Percent

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Sixty Percent explores the after-effects of a destructive relationship. Hannah must decide whether she will risk meeting with her unfaithful ex-partner, David, and is unprepared for the impact this encounter may have.

Submitted: June 26, 2011

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Submitted: June 26, 2011



Sixty Percent
The box was covered in a thick film of dust, nestled amongst other neglected belongings on top of the wardrobe. Hannah pulled a chair close to the large, wooden doors, reached up to retrieve it. She blew the dust; it stung her eyes, made her cough. Clattering down to the carpeted floor, she pushed the chair away and sat, cross-legged, deep-breathing. A mild feeling of anxiety was seeping into her stomach, tiny black butterflies flitting, nerves ringing as she removed the lid. She lifted the album; its first burst of nostalgia was surprisingly pleasant. There they were, one page in, holding hands, beaming, happy. Another page and David was captured alone, striking, beautiful, close-up and grinning.
Hannah sighed as she looked at him, the first time in nearly a year that she had seen his face. She flipped back to the picture of them together, arms intertwined. They were on a beach, she remembered. She had been incredibly happy, secure, lost in the first full flush of love. As she continued to stare at the faces, the emotions that she feared would return, that she had so carefully packed away in the box, began to inch back. As David looked out at her from the photograph she wondered whether he had been as lost in the moment as she, whether his mind was already elsewhere, if someone else had been waiting to meet him that evening after their sunny goodbyes.
She picked at the corner of the album, blank pages falling open as the butterflies flicked faster and her pulse accelerated and she reluctantly remembered the day that the relationship had fallen apart. Hannah remembered once reading that sixty percent of people are unfaithful. She had dismissed it, thought it inaccurate, hadn’t believed that David would be a statistic in that shocking majority. She had been wrong. The memory of his destruction, of the devastating discovery that she had made as she returned home from the gallery early one day, sprang back, unwanted, smarted as much as it had done last year.
Hannah quickly shut the album, welcome pages closing around the emotive faces. She pushed it to one side and peered once more into the box, instantly finding what she was looking for. The ticket. She held it up, sat back and checked the date. Tomorrow. The concert was tomorrow. David had been so pleased to have secured tickets to their favourite band, Light Year. Hannah had been touched at the gift, at that time oblivious to the meaning behind the increasing frequency of David’s presents. Now, without its partner, her half of the pair seemed desolate, mournful; the question it posed – will she go to the concert? – was cruel and ironic. Had it been any other band, she would have ripped it into pieces months ago, but the chance to see Light Year on their final tour was too good, and too rare, to miss. This was the reasoning she repeated to herself, several times, as she pocketed the ticket and threw the box and album back onto the wardrobe, uncomfortably aware that a large part of her motivation may simply be attributed to an awful trait of humanity - an inescapable, near-torturous curiosity.
The following evening, at the wardrobe once more, Hannah pondered what to wear, what would be appropriate attire for a possible encounter with David. With clothes too reserved and she would appear beaten, palpably broken; too bold would suggest a flippancy, false confidence. She settled on reserved, hoping for a certain degree of anonymity in plain clothing, an emanation of detachment, of no emotion.
Eventually dressed, ticket in hand, she began the short walk to the concert venue, wondering if her subconscious had steered her choice of abode to the apartment block near the concert hall, enticing her to go, testing her strength of character. She laughed grimly, acknowledging her failure in the matter, tasting bile in her mouth. An adrenaline rush akin to the surge she experienced as she first unveiled David’s misdemeanour was growing, urging her to both slow and quicken her pace, lurching her between a dull dread and the spikes of perverse excitement.
The street was unusually colourful, busy for the time of day. People streamed by. No-one seemed to be alone. Couples held onto hands and waists; teenagers laughed in bright, messy groups; dutiful young children attached themselves to mothers and fathers. Hannah regretted her clothing, dark and long. She was aware of her drabness alongside the bubbling crowd, her conspicuous solitude. She watched the couples drift by, wondered where they were going, how many of them had husbands or wives at home.
Arriving at the venue, she noted with embarrassment that she was early, dreading the wait on her lonely seat to see who appeared at the chair next to her. As she handed over her ticket and was ushered to her folding plastic chair, she confronted the question; will he come? She didn’t know which prospect to hope for – hours next to an empty chair or spending the evening with her cheating ex-partner. Suddenly, a third scenario occurred to her. He could have sold his ticket, as she had been tempted to do after their fire-fuelled split. A stranger could be making themselves comfortable alongside her; two loners, risking humiliation to see their favourite band.
The lights dimmed, the support act arrived clumsily on stage. A frantic drum roll began and the concert started, wild unknown music thrashing through the dark arena, the occasional strobe light brightening clusters of the audience. Hannah self-consciously tapped her feet, striving for nonchalance but constantly checking the streams of people still arriving and locating their seat numbers. She was looking to her left when she felt the heavy thump of someone arrive in the chair to her right. She started, turned too quickly. It was David.
Hannah froze, mortified at her inability to speak or move. David was fussing with his cost, folding and re-folding it, trying to find a place to lodge it between his feet. When he looked up, Hannah was still staring, face still.
“Hannah!” He exclaimed, standing, arms outstretched. He made a move towards her, to hug her, but Hannah leaned back, alarmed. David dropped his arms to his sides and looked down, returning to his seat.
“Sorry, Han,” he mumbled, “I don’t know what I was thinking. I just didn’t expect to see you here.”
“I really wanted to see Light Year,” Hannah returned quietly, dismayed at her pathetic demeanour, yearning to appear strong, unscarred.
“Me too,” David acquiesced, “I wouldn’t have missed this for anything.”
Hannah didn’t respond. She shuffled in her seat, unsure of what to say, whether she wanted to say anything.
“Listen,” David had started talking again, quickly, this time, louder, “I’m so sorry, I really wanted to come and see you, to apologise, explain, but...”
His speech trailed off as he caught the sheen in Hannah’s eyes. A blue light flashed onto their section of seating and her pained expression was high-lighted.
“Everyone makes mistakes,” he offered weakly, his embarrassment at the statement instantly visible.
Hannah remained silent, the statistics she had stumbled upon replaying in her mind. Sixty percent did indicate that the majority of people made mistakes. It didn’t make it excusable.
Another crash of drums shook the arena and the lights blazed more regularly as the tempo increased. Arms were being thrown up and some people had begun to stand. Hannah continued to look at David, his features chiselled in the darkness, changing colour as each beam hit them. Her heart was racing; she was unsure if it was a reaction to her anger or to the return of this powerful man into her vision, the one who hurt her so badly. David had begun speaking again but she couldn’t hear him, wasn’t sure if she wanted to. She let his words dissipate into the music as she watched his wide mouth move and his large, strong hands gesticulate. She felt an uncomfortable flush pass through her as she recalled that she had once laid claim to those lips, had been touched by those hands.
David paused, raised his eyebrows, watched Hannah expectantly. She grimaced as she realised that he had asked her a question, unheard. David laughed.
“How’s work?” he repeated, “Are your paintings still selling well?”
Hannah nodded, mute.
“I always loved your work,” he smiled, “I really miss your paintings.” His expression faltered and Hannah saw an echo of her own suffering flick across his face. Something shifted in her and she cleared her throat.
“I’ve missed you, too,” she conceded, “But...”
“I know, I know,” David threw his hands up, “let’s not talk about it. Let’s just try and enjoy the gig.”
Hannah nodded meekly. David was restless; his left leg was shaking to and fro. Every so often his knee brushed against the fabric of her long skirt, sent tiny electric currents coursing up her right thigh. Hannah was dismayed at her physical response to him. Her body seemed oblivious to the inappropriateness of its reaction and her knee moved closer, millimetre by millimetre, until their legs touched. David’s leg stopped jiggling and a spark flew between their limbs, spreading unstoppably over Hannah’s entire body. David was facing forward, expression frozen. His left hand began to twitch, his fingers daring to touch the skirt, to inch their way towards the leg underneath.
The crowd exploded into wild cheers and applause; everyone around them was on their feet. Hannah jumped up, spell broken, in disbelief that she’d failed to notice Light Year appear on stage. The music began and she cheered, sang, the zealous melody a welcome release.
Two exhilarating hours later, the set finished and the final crash of drums rang out over the arena. Hannah fell back into her seat, laughing.
“That was incredible!” She exclaimed, turning to David. He nodded, joining her laughter, pulling his coat on. He reached for her jacket, held it open. Hannah paused, then reached her arms inside, shut the zipper. She was acutely aware of David’s hand resting on the small of her back. Push him away, she urged herself, but her body refused to move. She remained rooted, heat flowing downwards from his palm, wicked and delicious.
David steered her to the end of the row of seats, out of the main doors of the building. Once outside, he let his hand fall from her back, stepped in front of her, murmured something that Hannah couldn’t hear, leaned forward. She let him kiss her, allowed his hands to hold her face, to move down to her waist, grip her tightly. Hannah shut her eyes, a gentle ecstasy rippling through her, arms unwittingly returning the embrace.
Opening her eyes, she noted with surprise that the crowd from the concert had vanished and the arena doors were shut, locked, the foyer beyond them dark and quiet. She pulled away from David and checked her watch.
“I’ve got to go,” she whispered, David’s hands returning to her face once more, his expression downcast, disappointment severing the electric current.
“I’ve got to see you again,” he urged, “I’ve missed you so much...”
Hannah nodded, made a furtive mental assessment of her diary for the week ahead.
“Tuesday,” she said, definitive, “I’ll meet you here, seven o’clock.”
David nodded, dropped his hands, lips curling softly upwards. Hannah walked away, glancing back at the tall figure waving, waiting, her stomach flipping and skin prickling.
She opened the door to her apartment and walked in, steps light. A silouhette appeared in the dark hallway.
“Hi beautiful,” he purred, “Did you have a good time round at Annie’s tonight?”
Hannah flicked on the light, planted a small kiss on Gregory’s cheek. She nodded and patted him on the arm.
“I’m shattered now, though. I’m going to head straight to bed.”
Her boyfriend followed her into the bedroom, picked up her coat as she shrugged it onto the floor, watched her shed her clothes.
Sixty percent, Hannah mused as she felt Gregory slip into the sheet beside her, his fingers tracing patterns on her stomach, hopeful. Maybe it is true.

© Copyright 2019 Amanda S John. All rights reserved.

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