My Father's Girlfriend
by Leonora Desar
My father’s girlfriend had a secret ring. She had many. It was a dial tone when they first met. They didn’t need words, he could just pick up the phone, and they would know each other. He stood there and twisted the cord, and the perfume came, it wrapped around his neck. It smelled like cognac and blueberries. It smelled like cashmere.
It was two and a half when she wanted him to fuck her. Two long rings and a fast one. The first two were a slow deep kiss, the half was a peck, it meant, get over here. When they were fighting it was just a peck, there were three of them. Sometimes I could see a bird flying across the room. She pecked at my father, and he rolled his eyes. My mother said, what’s that, my father said, it’s just a bird. She had a carrot top of hair like a mohawk. It was spiky like her eyes. She smelled like cigarettes, and she left a ring of lipstick around my father.
When she was done being fucked the ring was slow. You couldn’t really hear it, but it was there, the slowness. It sounded like a woman drinking alone, the way she got up and pretended to walk straight. The slowness was the getting up, it was walking across the room. It was that moment she took looking at the phone, wondering if she should call him or my mother.
After she killed herself the phone still rang. It was slower, fainter. It smelled like lipstick, and then it was just a dial tone. My father stood there twisting the cord. The lipstick twisted all around us.
I’ve written many versions of this story. A family is having dinner and a woman calls. But she doesn’t stop there. She wants to be there. She wants to come through the phone. Sometimes she succeeds and sometimes not. Sometimes the father feels guilty and sometimes not. Sometimes the wife finds out but usually she’s always known, the way you know when something is right there in front of you.
In this version I wanted to know about the woman. Who was she? What did she look like feel like smell like? The other versions were about the family. I knew them already. I wanted to know her.
Leonora Desar’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Passages North, Harpur Palate, SmokeLong Quarterly, Devil’s Lake, Psychology Today, and Quarter After Eight, among others. She was recently a finalist in Quarter After Eight’s Robert J. DeMott Short Prose Contest, judged by Stuart Dybek. She also received an honorable mention in Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction Award, was shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award, and was a finalist in Black Warrior Review’s flash prose contest and for SmokeLong Quarterly’s Kathy Fish fellowship. She lives in Brooklyn and holds an MS from the Columbia Journalism School.