Make-Shift Heart – Kristen Rinaudo

 

I stood frozen at the door. Her body writhed, breasts heaving against his hairy chest. Their lips collided, like two animals devouring each other. Bianca’s pale body slid between his lanky thighs, calloused hands leaving red claw marks down her back. Their knees buried into our mattress, the sheets falling onto the floor.

Crumpled in a fetal position on my bathroom floor, I clawed at my heart where the seed of betrayal had taken root. A malignant sorrow had begun to spread through my body, making me ache in places I didn’t know existed. It forced me to cry out, but no sound escaped my lips.

He was gone. For good.

I had first met Lukas three years ago, on the last night of semester break. Our drunken slurs couldn’t be heard over the music that roared through the speakers inside the club. After hours of dancing, all the alcohol in the world could not have made me disregard my feet stinging inside my high heels. Lukas led me outside to sit on a bench where I took my shoes off and kissed him. We promised to be together forever.

‘Hey, Kelly,’ Lukas said, brushing dark strands of hair over his ear. ‘Would you go to dinner with me one night?’

At five in the morning we sat on Cronulla Beach, oblivious to the world awaking around us. The waves crashed onto one another, sweeping a cold breeze in our direction. Lukas held me close to him, trying to keep me warm.

In my drunken state I stupidly replied, ‘Depends what you like to eat. I don’t like anything spicy.’

His laughter echoed in my ears. ‘I like Chinese.’

I chuckled against his chest, ‘I love Chinese food! There is this beautiful restaurant around the corner from my house I want to try.’

The smell of his cologne mixed with the scent of alcohol and the salt from the ocean filled my senses. I remember kissing him, his lips soft and dry against my own.

‘It’s a date,’ he said.

I had trouble lighting my cigarette. The breeze blew at my lighter’s attempt to muster a flame. It lit after the fourth try. The sand shifted beneath us as Lukas hugged me from behind. I had never felt so secure.

He won’t remember me tomorrow, I thought.

Three years of my life, wasted. I wrapped my arms around myself in the hope of reviving the same sensation from that night. The cold tiles numbed my body, but the real source of my numbness spread from the festering seed in my chest. I tried to breathe, but the sobs caught in my throat and I coughed. No air could fill my lungs.

That night on the beach I had told Lukas of my desire to live in Paris.

‘I just want to pack up and go,’ I admitted.

He smiled in reply, ‘You’d love it there.’

Lukas went on to describe the atmosphere, explaining how he would wake up in the morning and smell the fresh croissants baking inside cafés.

‘I met my ex-girlfriend in Paris.’ He continued. ‘She was living there with some relatives. I ended up staying with her for a while last year, before coming back to Australia to go to Uni.’

‘She didn’t come back with you?’

Lukas didn’t answer. Instead he looked out toward the glistening water where the sun was rising. His lack of response to my question made me regret asking it.

‘Let’s go to Paris,’ he said, his blue eyes looking down at me curled in his arms.

A smile spread across my face, ‘Let’s do it.’

Lukas laughed, ‘One day.’

My mind became flooded with images of walking under the Eiffel Tower with Lukas by my side, filling my lungs with fresh Parisian air. I had the sudden urge to go home and pack my suitcase, leaving Australia behind me. The only thing that stopped me was my bank balance.

‘I talk too much when I drink,’ I laughed, covering my face with my hands.

Moving them away, he lowered his head to mine. I could smell the alcohol seeping off his breath as he spoke.

‘Well maybe you should stop talking,’ he said before kissing me.

More tears fell onto the white tiles. How could he do this to me? The voice in my head screamed. My fists banged at the floor, the built-up anger within me demanded to be released.

The first time I stepped into his apartment about a month later, the idyllic image I had painted of Lukas inside my mind shattered.

‘Sorry about the mess,’ he shrugged, motioning towards the clothes that were sprawled on his floor.

The clean freak inside of me threatened to bolt back outside screaming but I forced myself to stay. Not everyone is like me, I told myself. Besides, it was just clothes.

‘So you’re all stylish and sophisticated outside but in here you’re a full blown caveman?’ I half joked.

‘Hey, I’ve been busy,’ he laughed, eyes darting towards the unwashed dishes in the sink. ‘Let me go and get ready, and we’ll head to dinner.’

I smiled as he left the room, trying to fight the urge I had to pick up all the clothes off the floor. I’ve gone out with a lot of guys with more issues than just a messy apartment, I told myself.

His bed proved to be the only form of seating available in the room which wasn’t bombarded with clothes or piles of random belongings. Over the years I would become used to being the neat freak in the relationship. It has also occurred to me that whilst I was with him Lukas never had time to clean up. I didn’t mind though. We balanced each other out.

I came home to the spotless apartment a year later, unlocking the door with the spare key Lukas had given me. I had decided I was going to ask him what he thought about us living together. I dropped the shopping bags over my arm, onto the kitchen counter and began to unpack them as the shower ran in the bathroom.

Lukas stepped out of the shower, towel wrapped around his waist.

‘Are you sure we’re ready for that?’

I beamed, ‘Of course. I mean, I practically live here anyway. I already asked my roommate, and she said it was fine. I don’t see the point in paying half the rent for a unit that I hardly live in.’

He pulled out a pair of folded underwear from his draw and slid off the towel. It hit the floor in a wet heap.

‘I guess you’re right,’ Lukas smiled, pulling on the shorts.

‘Great. I’ll finish up my last week of rent this Friday,’ I said, picking up the towel and placing it in the laundry basket.

Fuck him, I swore at my bathroom tiles. I deserved better than that idiot. How could I have been so stupid?

On our one-year anniversary we walked back to his apartment from the gym; sweaty from the hour we had spent exhausting ourselves on the equipment. Lukas’ favourite song blasted through the headphones we shared, plugged into his phone.

I pulled mine out and asked Lukas where he had booked dinner that night.

Without answering, he mimed the lyrics as they played, a smirk spread from ear to ear. I shook my head and put the headphones back in my ear. Lukas knew I hated surprises.

After three years, I lost him. I can’t believe I lost him.

Six months ago in Rome, we sat under a tree in Petroselli Park, watching the tourists and locals walk by.

‘Oh wow. Look at this.’ I pulled out an odd loop from the grass and inspected it. ‘Someone made a ring out of flower stems.’

The thin strands that were woven carefully around each other appeared so delicate in my fingers. Lukas held out his hand and I gave it to him.

‘Someone was either very bored, or very much in love,’ I chuckled.

He thought for a second, and then smiled at me, ‘I love you Kelly, but haven’t bought you a ring yet. I hope this works for now.’

Taking my hand, he placed the make-shift band around my finger.

‘I love it.’ I laughed. Looking at the make-shift ring through my sunglasses, I told him I loved him.

This is all my fault. My fault.

Two days ago, Lukas’ ex-girlfriend had knocked on his door and announced that she had arrived back in Australia and wanted to talk. I really shouldn’t have asked him if it was a good idea.

‘She just wants to talk,’ he assured me.

I should not have been jealous that Lukas went to dinner with her that night. Photos I had seen of her on Facebook should not have made me feel insecure.

Lukas preferred brunettes, as opposed to blondes anyway, I told myself. 

The pair of Converses that I wore to death weren’t as gorgeous as her red Jimmy Choos. Still, I trusted Lukas. And he loved me.

When I walked into his apartment yesterday and found them in bed together I should not have made the girl leave. Her disgusting black bra was on the floor, tossed onto a pair of jeans I had left behind yesterday. I threw it at her, demanding she put it on and get out.

A smirk creeping across her face, she turned to Lukas.

‘This is the jealous girlfriend you were telling me about?’

I can honestly say that I’m not a violent person, but I had to fight the urge I had to grab her by the hair and fling her out of the apartment.

Laughing at Lukas’ cowardly silence, she dressed slowly, and then left.

‘In our bed?’ I screamed, once she was gone. ‘What the fuck is wrong with you?’

No response.

‘Not even an excuse or a pathetic explanation?’

‘You’re too clingy, Kelly. Jealous, insecure.’ His voice boomed through the apartment. ‘I don’t need an excuse, I need my life back. I’m done with you.’

I marched over to the bed and slapped him. ‘You’re the one sleeping with your ex, and you’re done with me?’

He had no defence. He sat on the tainted bed amongst the crumpled sheets. Not a word escaped his lips.

‘Fuck you, Lukas. If she’s worth throwing away three years of our relationship, our entire future together, then I hope you’re happy.’ I slammed the door behind me when I left.

Lukas drove to my old unit that night. I sat on the lounge and watched him pace the living room floor, trying to think of something to say.

‘So you didn’t break up with her in Paris?’ I asked, balling my hands into fists in my lap.

‘Before I left Paris, Bianca told me she couldn’t come back to Australia with me, which was fine. Her family wanted her to help run the family business, so she needed to stay.’ Lukas explained, ‘I had to come back, and neither of us could cope with the idea of a long distance relationship, so we both agreed to just end it.’

‘So now she’s here and wants you back?’ Bianca’s nerve filled me with a rage I couldn’t hide in my voice.

His lack of response affirmed my question.

‘Am I not worth fighting for, Lukas?’ I cried.

He didn’t respond. The tears slid down my cheeks, falling into my lap. Lukas didn’t raise his eyes from the ground to look at me. I stood up and walked to him, demanding the attention I deserved.

‘After three years, our relationship means nothing to you?’

My eyes searched his for an answer but found none.

‘Get out.’ I glared at him.

The sadness written on his face was no match against the anger burning inside of me. Lukas didn’t move. I couldn’t help it. I pushed him backwards hard enough that he lost balance and fell onto the floor.

‘Get the fuck out of my house.’ My scream made him jolt. ‘You’re disgusting. I can’t even look at you.’

Without thinking, I grabbed my handbag off the lounge, ripped out the stemmed ring from my wallet and threw it at him.

Lukas picked up the band off his chest and got up. I turned around to the wall and pressed my palms to my temples to stop myself from crying out. Once I heard the door slam behind him a flood of tears streamed down my cheeks.

I remained motionless on the floor; the agony that had taken root inside my heart had spread to my fingertips. After three years, the only thing that remained of our relationship was the excruciating wound Lukas had given me. What had grown from the seed that had been planted within me was not going to destroy me. I wouldn’t give him that power.

I stopped crying when I heard my phone ring in the living room. The tiles supported me as I stood up and balanced myself on the sink.

Images of his face, his smile flashed through my mind.

‘I love you,’ he whispered before kissing me. I could smell the scent of his cologne as it filled my bathroom.

I staggered to the doorway, the ringing continued to sound through the empty unit.

Lying naked in his bed, we laughed about some stupid joke a friend had told him that morning. His laugh bounced off the four white walls surrounding me. For a second, I could even feel his bare, pale skin against my own.

The phone sat on the kitchen counter, far enough from my line of sight that I couldn’t see who was calling.

Under the Vienna night sky we kissed, the hand-ring loosely impaled on my finger.

I don’t want to forget.

The phone stopped ringing before I could reach it. Picking it up, I read ‘Missed call from Lukas’ on the screen.

I entered my passcode, wiping the tears from my face with my other hand. Our recent text messages displayed themselves on the screen.

‘Can’t wait to see you ;)’ my last message read. I had written it an hour before I had found them together in his bed. In the bed we shared almost every night. My finger hovered over the call button beside his name. I took a deep breath and instead began to type a message.

‘I deserve better than you, Lukas. Thanks for letting me realise that. I’m over you already.’

At that moment I locked away all the memories of our past. They hurt too much to keep replaying, tearing shreds out of my beating heart. I pushed them all far from my mind knowing that, as an act of self-preservation, I was doing the right thing. I wasn’t over Lukas yet but, in time, I would be able to look back and smile. The last tear I would shed for him rolled down my cheek. The raw wound needed to heal.

‘My little angel,’ Lukas whispered, resting his head on my shoulder.

Without hesitation or another thought, I pressed send.

Kristen Rinaudo

Kristen Rinaudo is a Sydney-based fiction writer. Her Bachelor degree from Macquarie University majors in Creative Writing. She has written several stories in the modern fantasy genre, having been inspired by Peter V. Brett. Kristen utilises personal experience in her Quarry Journal submission, which concerns coping with the loss of a loved one.

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