It had been a long time since she had driven past that sideroad but today a diversion, put in place due to roadworks, had taken her to a section of the city she had almost forgotten.
At the end of that little road was a small, second-hand furniture shop. She had only visited it once, ten years ago, and she’d never been back since.
* * *
Walking side-by-side, but never hand-in-hand (he just wasn’t the type), they entered the cold, garage-like room. It only took them about fifteen minutes before they emerged back into the sunshine with a receipt for two blue sofas. He held the piece of paper in his hand. They cost £50 for the pair.
It hadn’t taken them long to pick the furniture out because really there hadn’t been much to choose from. The living room of the new flat was a light shade of aquamarine, so she figured they’d fit right in. He tested them out by sitting with his legs stretched over the cushions, shoes still on. Not that he would have cared about that.
He talked one of his mates into lending him a van to collect the sofas the next day. She didn’t go with him; he didn’t have a license and his driving was terrifying at the best of times. She pinched a cigarette out of his packet before handing him the box, the lighter, his phone, wallet, and the van keys he’d placed carefully on the kitchen side the night before. The tires squealed as he shot out of the driveway and she waved as he drove off. If he returned it, she didn’t see.
That night, they snuggled together on one of the sofas and watched Juice while devouring popcorn. He’d always had a thing for Tupac. When the film ended, he turned her over and fucked her during the end credits, coming inside her before they had finished rolling. After that night, she couldn’t remember another time they sat together like that.
A month or so later, she noticed a small rip on the arm of what had become ‘his’ sofa, near to where his ashtray sat on the cushion. She often thought that this should have been her space. In contrast, her sofa was immaculate (as much as a second-hand sofa could be anyway). Sometimes though, when he wasn’t there, she would jump up and down on it hoping it would break.
Instead, it was them who broke.
It happened on the same day she noticed it, next to the tiny tear on his sofa. She stretched out one hand and used her index finger wipe a red smudge. How cliché, she thought, a lipstick stain. She wasn’t really that surprised if she was being honest with herself, but she was hurt he’d taken someone else on the sofa. Their sofa.
The other woman was a singer from Caerphilly. Cathy, he said. He’d met her online. They’d been talking for a while before she decided to brave the trip to Norfolk. He said it was love at first sight and she was planning to move closer to him so that they could be together. He liked that she didn’t steal his cigarettes. She liked how strong he was.
By the time Cathy had moved into the flat with him, she had moved out and taken the two blue sofas with her. She heard from a friend it took three weeks for Cathy to find out how he liked to keep his women in order.
Before the year was out, she gave the sofas away to her sister and boyfriend for their new house. They covered them with heavy, white throws.
* * *
The lights in front of her turned green and she pressed the accelerator with more force than she’d intended. As she drove down the road, she smiled to herself, pleased she’d been able to give those two blue sofas some happiness before they were chucked on the bonfire.