Romans Chapter 1 verse 29
The Sins of the Heart
She needs bread.
‘I’ll be five minutes,’ she sings and her heartbeat drums her across the road, around the corner, down the hill. She wears slippers and carries a tea towel, clean, unused. She has neighbours and her journey needs the props of innocence. But he is not there tending his front garden. His neat and slender house is shadowy and locked.
‘We need milk,’ she chimes and fastens her baby in the pushchair as restraint. She sees him waiting and his smile is worth her shame.
She dresses us for Church one Sunday and sits us at the front. The minister opens the Bible and speaks of sins imagined and a treacherous heart. He traces footsteps from her husband’s bed all the way across the road, around the corner, down the hill and she has weeks to wait before God looks away.
She has a list and calls us inside.
‘Do we have to?’
‘Yes, you have to,’ she mutters and foists cold coins in my sister’s hand. We cross the road, around the corner, down the hill. A man as tall as my father leans on an open gate like he knows us. Dark soil escapes from his trowel.
We carry her bag home, one handle each, potatoes, flour, unnecessary things and this time, as we pass, he tips his hat and says hello. He has sweets, dusty, pink and everlasting.
‘Did you see anyone?’ she asks.
We spill her change and our adventure on the kitchen table and she slips away.
‘Forgot the sugar,’ she whispers ‘forgot the eggs.’
The Mother has four children and is never late. She wears her cagoule like a fur coat. I wonder if I’m in love.
She brings cinnamon cakes for the school fair still warm from her Aga. She smiles at me because she smiles at everyone and offers me a bun on the sly. She winks and I wonder if I’m in love.
Our children walk home together after sports day and she links my arm. Her angora cardigan catches on my watch and we put our heads together to untangle. I would rather not. I would be chained to her forever.
My daughter is ‘crushing big’ on her son. She wants to be his girlfriend she says and I am jealous of her guileless desire, her expectation of a happy ending. I tell the Mother and she laughs. I can see down her clean throat, glimpse her beating heart. I could jump in. I could drown.
At my birthday party I take her coat, lay it neatly under my mattress and wait for the guests to go. ‘Did I bring a jacket’ she asks swaying at the front door. I do a dance of uncertainty, check the cupboard, swear I’m too drunk to remember.
I do not sleep. I am in love. I feel her shape beneath me. She will have fluff in her pocket, a bus ticket, a baby’s button. And tomorrow, when the children are at school, I will wrap her arms around me, hold her close.