between them

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He once favoured checked fleecy shirts or striped T-shirts, Blundstone boots and footy socks. His hair, which was long, brushed straight back into a pony tail.

He stuck with the Pears spray-on conditioner they bought for the children. When he’s finished showering, the bathroom is foetid with steam and perfume. His broken hairbrush ker-lacked through slick hair.

He says he never remembers anything.

Did you bully your brothers? she asks.

He can’t remember. Instead, he tells her about chopping a cousin’s finger with an axe.

What about that time at the nightclub I watched you chatting up a dwarf – you had to lean into her ear.

He doesn’t remember.

When they first moved in together, she read through all his papers and found a collection of postcards from Nina in Sweden.

I’ll burn them, he said, when she told him of her find.

Now he doesn’t remember that either.

He wore glasses with flexible arms. After checking the lenses for paint smears and dust, he held them like hooks to jag onto both ears.

He believes consumerism is a blight and refused to conform or settle for a regular job. He is proud at his mother’s express concern for his welfare. He says she never got to see him pigeon-holed.

He puts Elmore James or Tom Waits on the turntable and dances around the lounge room.

He is vegetarian, but asked her mum to cook chicken or roast beef.

He does dishes to Led Zeppelin.

He picks splinters from both hands with a dressmaking pin while seated in the rocking chair beneath the window. He displays the depth of these wounds.

When the children were small, he played chasey, monsters, tiger and falling down. His footsteps rattled windows.

He made their furniture from recycled timber. The workshop was painted in overlays of pink, blue and green.

He leaves Muddy Waters tapes in the Mazda and complains about apple cores collecting in the tray beneath the handbrake.

He reads woodwork magazines, Country Homes and Australian Style. He buys cookbooks, how-to renovation manuals, DIY garden projects and philosophy texts.

He once studied Business, but gave it up.

Before parties, he’d crank the volume on their stereo, choose the James Brown CD and cockerel-stride with spins to turn. The kids used to join in.

He put on Lagerfeld cologne she bought for a long-ago birthday.

And brush out his hair.

The music would be driving her crazy.

If strands of hair hung molten in his face, she’d see the colour was that of fresh-laid tarmac.

Maybe he’d glance up and smile in that way he has. Twisted. Carving through stubble. Eyebrows peaked.

And they’d look at each other.

And it was as if children never came between them.

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