On Saturday nights, he orders a takeaway and dozes in front of the TV. He does the crossword and watches porn. He feeds the cat.
On Saturday nights, he is in bed by 11. Sometimes he brings a book and sometimes he doesn’t. He is always alone.
He sleeps best like that. They both know it. Free from the restless weight of her body next to him, he settles into the middle of the mattress and closes his eyes. It is the one night of the week when he doesn’t set an alarm.
Occasionally, just before he drifts off, he thinks about her. It is not a focused thought; just his mind skimming over the possibilities, like a stone across water. Plip, plip, plip. It always reaches the other side. If it breached the surface, he wouldn’t sleep at all.
It is rare for her to arrive before dawn. Only in the middle of winter, when he is sometimes woken by the sound of stamping in the hall; as she shakes the snow loose from her boots, he opens his eyes to see the dim yellow pulse of the streetlights still visible through the curtains. Most weeks, Sunday morning is in full bloom by the time she closes the door behind her, never quite gently enough.
She sings to herself as she makes tea – snatches of songs she’s heard the night before – and her voice drifts up to the bedroom, but he doesn’t move. This is Sunday morning. This is her time. She drinks one cup, then another, and skims the newspaper for articles to read later in the day.
When her legs are trembling too much to stay still any longer, she pushes herself up from the breakfast bar. He’s never quite sure what happens in those final few seconds, when the house falls silent and the air seems to thicken around him. She is not smoothing down her clothes or reapplying make-up. To him it is as if she is suspended in time, frozen mid-step. He counts the heartbeats in his head, waiting for her to be released; only his fists, clawing at the bedsheets, betray his need.
The clack of her heels on the wooden floor gets louder as she approaches the bedroom. It grows in authority too: he imagines the air being beaten back by the swish of her skirt, the ground cracking under the weight and impact of her body. She passes the bathroom door without stopping. On Sunday mornings, she doesn’t shower.
He moves the duvet to one side just before she enters the room. He will always be naked for her – this they have agreed. If he is not already hard, she waits in the doorway and watches him use his hand. She suspects he prefers it that way, though he’d never admit to it.
Their bed is high off the ground, and she allows him to help her up, kicking aside her shoes as she crawls over to straddle his body. The first question is always the same.
His voice is a hoarse rasp, his throat dried out by last night’s wine and the anticipation of what’s to come. She looks down at him, her face solemn, smudged lips pressed thoughtfully together. Slowly, she lifts her rumpled dress to reveal her thighs and belly, or peels it off her shoulders till her tits push out towards him.
“Here,” she says, pointing. “And here.”
Sometimes she doesn’t speak at all, but instead leans down and kisses him, her soft tongue darting out to enter his mouth. It is its own answer.
His fingers follow hers, spreading out over her skin. They find the spots where her texture changes, and caress each gossamer streak. She knots his hair and pulls his face closer, inviting him to taste her night.
Eventually she settles over his cock and works it inside her. If anything, she is too wet, and he often slips out a couple of times before anchoring himself to her cunt. As she squeezes around him, he wants to ask how long it’s been. One hour? Two? Does she still ache from him? Did she moan a little bit louder with each thrust? Images flash across the edges of his vision; his mind-stone finally stops skimming and he allows it to sink, all the way down into her deep, cool waters.
She feels his heart thump against her, a strong, steady beat underneath the ragged lift and fall of his chest. Over the months, she has grown more daring with the details; early reticence chipped away a piece at a time by the way he throbs inside her when she whispers in his ear.
“I sucked him in the alley behind the bar – we didn’t even make it to a hotel. He was rough with me, but I loved it. Loved the taste of his cock, and the way he left my lips bruised and swollen. Could you feel him when you kissed me?”
His only answer is to dig his nails deeper into the soft flesh of her buttocks. He drives up with his hips; he is a runaway train hurtling down the track, fuelled by each word that drips from her tongue.
“Oh God, his cock was…So. Fucking. Thick. I didn’t think I’d be able to take it. But then he bit my neck – look, you can see it right here – and I just felt myself open around him as he pushed inside.”
There are men she returns to. ‘Recurring guest stars’, they call them. It has to be managed carefully – the dynamic afterwards is different, edgier – but she doesn’t always want to fuck strangers, and anyway, there are benefits to familiarity. Things they can plan in advance. A cologne that he learns to recognise on her skin. The ache of a new intimacy, and the different bruises it leaves.
“We used that toy last night – the one I showed you. He hit my G-spot with it in a way I’ve never felt before. Maybe I’ll let you have a go with it later. I was so turned on that I let him come inside me. Mm, that’s right, it’s not just my juices you can feel around your cock…”
He doesn’t last long inside her on those Sunday mornings, though sometimes she wishes he would. When the night has left her so tightly wound that her body threatens to unravel from within, she tries to hold back the details that she knows will make him shudder and spill – holds them back so she can first take her own pleasure on top of him, and root herself again in the home soil she loves most of all.
They both know this will change one day – that its sharp, thrilling edge will dull and fade – but she’s in no hurry to lose whatever it is they’ve created together. “It works for us,” she tells her best friend, with a small shrug. “Right now, this works for us.”
He leaves her to nap afterwards, and goes for his morning run. It clears his head; eases the remaining tension from his muscles. When she wakes up, they shower together. He washes her hair. Occasionally they go back to bed and make love, but it is not part of their normal routine. On Sunday afternoons, they walk through the fields behind the estate. In summer, they take a picnic blanket and lounge in the sunshine; in winter, they find a cosy snug in the local pub and drink beer in front of the fire.
They sleep together on Sunday nights, her leg slung across his. He lies awake and listens to her snoring. Feels her breath on the back of his neck. He reaches over, sets the alarm, and thinks again about the one night when he doesn’t have to.