And then one night she just decided that enough was enough, and she made him his favourite meal and decided that she was going to ask him.

By that time they had been living together for six months.  Ever since her feelings of loneliness had prompted her to go online to look for a companion, at which point she saw a picture of him, and stopped looking.  They met a few times and got on well, and it turned out he needed somewhere to live so she decided it would make sense if he came to live with her.  And things were ok for a while.  The thing that worried her, the thing that nagged at her soul, was the feeling that she did not really know him.  Of course, she knew things like his favourite food or the position he liked to sleep in.  Even intimate things, how he liked to be touched.  But she didn’t know how he would react in an emergency, whether he could be trusted.  She didn’t know whether he was fundamentally good or bad.  It seemed important, but not the kind of thing you could just ask.

She decided to dress up for him and put on some of her favourite music, thinking she would be able to learn a lot from his reactions.  But when he sauntered in to the dining room he barely glanced at her and he didn’t seem to pay any attention to the music either, didn’t even acknowledge that it was playing.  Then he started to eat, without even waiting for her to sit down first.

And that was when she cracked, and decided she would just have to ask.

“Look, I need to ask you something, something important.  I need to know more about you, I need to know what you think about all these things.  I need to know whether I can trust you, whether you are kind.  I need to know whether you will still love me when you don’t need me any longer.”

He stopped eating and looked up at her, as if he could tell that she was speaking but didn’t understand the words, or as if he hadn’t been able to follow.  But it looked as if he knew something was expected of him.

So he just turned to look at her.  There was a pause.  Then he said, “Meow.”

She put her head in her hands and surrendered with silent tears.

He finished his food and then left, just sauntered out of the room and through the kitchen, clambered through the flap in the back door.

The house was quiet.

She ate as much of her dinner as she could stomach, turned off the music, got changed out of her nice clothes.  As she did the washing up she couldn’t help thinking about the fact that he had not answered her question, and that the lack of an answer was itself an answer of sorts.  She sat and read her book for a while, then she went to bed early and lay awake feeling very much alone.

It was late when she heard him return through the back door.  She pretended to be asleep, lay so still that even breathing seemed like a movement that might give her away.  He was coming up the stairs, making little noises under his breath, then he slipped into the bedroom and climbed onto the bed.

She didn’t move.  She didn’t make a sound.  He settled down on her legs and she could feel the weight of his body on hers.  Even then, even after everything else that had happened that evening, it was a comfort to feel his warmth, it was a comfort to not feel alone.

Right Now You Are All You Are, But What If Once You Were More

Summer 1999.  We were trying out email as a form of communication.

I wrote:  “I’m so hungry.  I really want some cake.”

She wrote:  “If I had any cake, you would be the first and only person I would send it all to.”  I started to type a reply but couldn’t think of anything that was equally sweet and a little bit funny.

Two nights previous I had a dream in which she and I and a girl from our favourite tv show murdered three people in a department store.  It was late at night, just before the store shut.  Our only motive was that we had figured out how to do it without getting caught so of course we wanted to.  We worked together in silence.  Once the victims were dead we hid them in new coats hanging on a rack.  There was blood all over the floor.  I don’t remember if we wore gloves or not, our fingerprints could have been everywhere.  We walked away, calmly and softly through the town.  News of the atrocity started to filter through as we were moving in the other direction.

Emails seemed like a way for us to communicate without anyone else reading in, without anyone overhearing us.  They were safe, silent and password-protected.

I was worrying.  “What if it wasn’t a dream,” I wrote.  “What if it wasn’t a dream?”

“If you end up in prison I’ll bring you any and all the cake I can,” she replied.  Then she put an emoticon at the end of her sentence.

“Hey, how did you do that?”

She explained and on my next email I did a whole line of faces across the screen.  Then I clicked send and dialled out and went to bed even though it wasn’t quite yet midnight.  I didn’t dream about anything that night because I couldn’t get to sleep for worrying about the fact that I might be guilty of a triple murder.  And when I came downstairs for breakfast the next morning, all the chairs had been pulled out from around the table and spare ones had been added, which freaked me out because I thought that if I sat down there for just a moment I would be surrounded by police asking me questions and I hadn’t come up with an alibi yet, I hadn’t formulated the lies I could tell.

If I emailed her, I would have to wait for a reply, so I phoned instead.  “Hi, can I come round?”

“Ok.”  There was no emoticon so I couldn’t tell whether she was happy with this situation – happy or sad or worried or what.

I pulled on my shoes and went out.  There were other people outside but I couldn’t understand why they were not indoors, dialling up and sending emails to one another, so I thought that maybe they were all out there looking for me.

When I got to her house we went up to her room, which smelt different to mine.  It was exciting just to be sitting on the bed with her.

“If this is real we are screwed.”  “Totally screwed.”  “What was it like?”  “What was what like?”  “When we were doing it.  Were we happy?”  “We were so happy.  It was the best thing we had ever done.”  “I can’t believe you thought we’d get away with it.”  “I know.  At the time it all seemed right.  It seemed perfect.”  “We are so screwed if it’s true though.”  “I know.  It seemed like we were invincible at the time.  But now-“  “If it’s true we are screwed.  We’ll never go to college or university, get jobs, have families.  We’re going to be in prison for so long.”  “I never thought of that at the time.  We were just so good, we could have got away with anything.  You were amazing.”  “If it turns out that we really did kill those people, we are so screwed.”

We were holding hands and I felt like all the emoticons.  What had we done?  It seemed like the best and worst and most exciting thing ever, all at the same time.