In the parallel universe in which we don’t have an argument before you set off for work, I look anxiously at dove-grey clouds over distant trees, trying to gauge if they are coming my way. I peg out your favourite blouse, the one with the gold-edged pearlescent buttons, on the washing line next to my T-shirts, hoping they might dry a little before the rains come. You only wear the blouse on special occasions. You almost didn’t buy it at all because you thought it was ‘too nice’ and you didn’t need a blouse like that, until I told you to just get it, because life is too short to worry about stuff like that.
In the non-argument universe, I take in the washing just as the first fat drops fall from the ashen sky, hug the crumpled pile close to my chest and sprint indoors. I throw the tangled heap onto the bed in the spare room and go back to my work in the office next door, uninterrupted by calls from the hospital.
In the parallel universe in which we don’t argue about something so petty I can’t even recall the details now but had something to do with our dinner plans, I iron your blouse a few days later and hang it in the wardrobe. You probably won’t wear it for another few weeks because of your policy of saving it for an occasion when you need a boost; the self-confidence of knowing that an outfit looks good. You tell me how you love the feel of its soft fabric, the cool nip of the gold-edged buttons at your neck, the way the hem skims your waistband just so. In that universe I don’t take your blouse in a carrier bag to the pebble-dashed building on the outskirts of town where your body lies, wishing I had picked something else because I don’t want to let it go, but knowing I have to because this is the outfit you would have chosen, if you could have chosen for yourself.
In the parallel universe in which there is no argument, no altercation I will forever turn over again and again in my mind, the last memory I have of you is not a slammed door or a raised voice. Your car pulls onto the driveway, your kicked-off shoes hit the hallway skirting board, stockinged feet pad up the stairs. You poke your head through the office doorway, smile hello, then put on a pair of slippers in the bedroom. In that universe I persuade you to wear the blouse when we go out for lunch that weekend, tell you how much it suits you, how it is my favourite too. The buttons glint in the sunlight and there isn’t a cloud in the sky.
Rebecca Field lives and writes in Derbyshire, UK. She has work in several print anthologies and has been published online by Reflex Press, The Daily Drunk, The Phare, Ghost Parachute, Fictive Dream, Gone Lawn and Ellipsis Zine among others. Forthcoming at Tiny Molecules and Sunlight Press. Tweets at @RebeccaFwrites