Frank can’t quite believe it was two years ago. Really? Two years? As ever with these things he does a double take, tries to relate the whole incident to some other event. Definitely after Harrison and Annie married. Had to be, since he met Klara at their wedding. So ok, when was that? Ah bollocks. Two? Really? He checks Klara’s expression. She’s looking at him like he should have ticked off the hours since what she has just now started referring to as ‘last year’s catastrophe’.
“Then show me.” Klara reaches out for his hands clasped behind his back.
His mouth is clammed as tightly shut as his hands are held behind him.
“I insist,” she says.
Yeah, right. Like when was she promoted to a position of being allowed to insist?
“Oh joy,” she says. “I’m dealing with a two-year-old.”
Definitely before Christmas, Frank decides, the one just after Harrison and Annie’s wedding, which, hey, must be over two years ago because they now had a puppy.
“After all,” Klara has this snaky quality to her right in this moment, almost cobra like, “you did get me one, didn’t you?”
Frank’s head nods. Oh yes indeedy, he has got whatever is clutched behind him for her. Must have since today is the grand anniversary of ‘last year’s catastrophe’ so how could he have his hands clenched any purpose other than holding something for her. Something that will definitely fix ‘last year’s catastrophe’.
She steps towards him and breathes against his neck, her hair grazing his cheek, her scent doing that thing that it does. His scrotum tightens.
“Hmm?” she says.
The thing that is surely behind his back is a mere grab away now. He shoots his hands up high. She giggles.
“I knew you wouldn’t forget,” she says.
Their shagiversary? How he would like to protest that no way could he ever forget that momentous event, at least not two years in a row. Their shagiversary, for God’s sake! Since when was that a thing?
Klara tugs. It’s no good. Frank is forced to lower his cupped hands.
“This,” he opens his empty palms, “is all my love.”
Klara’s a little bit stunned, a little bit suspicious. She tries to check behind his back in case whatever gift she has imagined is appropriate for such an occasion has been left there.
“I give it all to you.” He places his hands against her heart.
“Fuck,” she says and swallows. “Why do you always do this, you bastard?” Then she smiles, then she’s crying and laughing. “You totally lovable bastard.”
Why is everything so complicated? Frank finds taking care of Frank hard enough, let alone holding in his head a clock with all the alarms set in unison with Klara’s. And now he’s got to try to prevent next year from being a catastrophe huger than ‘the year before last’s catastrophe’. He’ll simply have to remember today’s date. Just has to. Whatever it is.
Ruth Brandt’s short fiction has appeared in publications including the Bridport Prize Anthology 2018, Neon and Litro. She won the Kingston University MFA Creative Writing Prize 2016 and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best Small Fictions. She lives in Surrey with her husband and has two sons.
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