It was his favourite jacket. Distressed brown leather, supple and buttery. Jana held it in front of the wardrobe, a smile curved on her lips. A mania gripped her and she seized his shoes, shirts and trousers, letting them fall to the floor. A satisfying pile of his things mounted at her feet.
She remembered seeing the girl at a drink’s night they attended. Fitted red dress, honey-coloured hair reaching her waist. A friend of a friend.
The coat hangers screeched as she searched for prized garments. The black velvet jacket, the linen shirts from Paris. The pile smelt of him, so she held her breath.
Before he left, she had trailed him around the house, holding her wine glass so tightly she thought it might break. ‘What are you going to do?’ she demanded.
‘I’m not sure,’ said Alec, his palm pressed to his forehead. ‘I need to think, to figure things out.’
The door clicked shut behind him and she slid down the wall onto her haunches. She wailed, her wet face cradled in her hands. Somehow she managed to drag herself to bed.
When she woke the following morning the house was still. She stared at the other side of the bed, smooth and unwrinkled, before rising and going to the window. A thick fog blanketed the grass, obscuring everything but the roof of the steel shed. She shivered and pulled on her dressing gown, rubbing her arms.
Alec’s guitar was kept in a wall-mounted glass case in the study—it was a midnight blue Fender Stratocaster. The key to the case was kept in the top drawer of the desk. For a moment she felt guilty, then remembered the way he had showered after work, calling out a cursory greeting as he took the stairs three at a time. There was also the endless beeping of his phone and his indecent haste to pick it up.
Jana jostled the key in the lock on the frame. The door of the case swung open and she lifted the guitar from its hooks. She retrieved an old clothes rack from the garage and positioned it on the nature strip. Then, armload by armload, she carried his clothes outside and hung them. The final item was the guitar, which she placed on the grass in front of the rack. She leant a piece of cardboard against it with the message—‘Free to take.’
Jana peered out the window, watching as the neighbours crept up to the display, glanced around and chose items.
It did not take long for everything to go. The guitar was taken by a bald man, his scalp gleaming pink. He squinted through gold-framed glasses and fingered the strings before tucking his prize under his arm. He scanned the street and loped towards his car, the engine still purring.
Jana was heating soup on the stove when the doorbell rang. She turned off the gas and hurried to the door. It was Alec. He barged inside, his movements charged.
‘I need to speak with you.’
‘Of course,’ she said, ‘come and sit down.’
‘No, Jana. It’s over.’
‘Are you going to live with her?’
‘Your new girlfriend.’
‘Jana, I’ve already told you, there’s no one else. I’m leaving because there are only so many accusations I can take. Your trust issues are driving me insane. You are insane.’
‘What about all the showering then?’
‘I’ve been going to the gym after work. I told you that as well.’
‘Your phone beeping all the time?’
‘My boss—we’ve had a new client and he needed my help with lots of complications. Again, I explained this to you many times. This is pointless, I’m going upstairs to get my things.’
‘They’re all gone, Alec.’
He narrowed his eyes. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Exactly what I said.’
‘Where are they?’
‘I put them outside and people took them.’
Alec paled and sprinted to the study, his footfalls echoing on the tiles. There was an anguished yelp, then several muffled thumps.
He marched back into the hallway and stood before her, his pupils enlarged and his skin flushed maroon. He raised his hand and dropped it, breathing hard through his mouth.
‘I’m sorry, Alec. I believe you about the girl. Can you forgive me?’ Jana’s voice shook.
His gaze was fixed on a point beyond her shoulder. ‘I don’t know. But I sure as hell can’t live with you.’
The door rattled in its frame as he slammed it behind him.