On Your Sleeve
by Holly Riordan
I rubbed my wrist against the silken sheets to cool down, because I could feel the heat of the invisible poker branding me, leaving a fresh mark on my skin. I lifted my other arm, the one draped over Ava, and twisted my body until my feet found the floor.
Thank God I’d married a heavy sleeper. If she woke up to see the evidence on my skin, she’d slice it off with a razor. Then she’d slice up the rest of me.
It only took seconds to slink into our conjoined bathroom, the one Ava had decked out with floral wallpaper, pastel shower curtains, and a pink toilet seat cover. Her brushes and bottles and makeup palettes littered the counters and spilled into the cabinets. None of her friends would ever believe that the room belonged to her. Everything about Ava was elegant, organized, meticulous. The bathroom was her one exception.
And Selena was mine.
I closed the door, flicked on the lights,and winced when I finally saw Selena’s marking. A brown splotch that looked like a deformed birthmark. Except it was in the shape of a heart with a series of zigzagged lines in the middle.
Like fingerprints, we were each born with a heart-esque mark on the back of our wrist. Then, thanks to the cosmos or karma or some twisted God, marks would pop up on the flipside of our arm whenever someone fell in love with us. Some people adored them, holding them in higher esteem than engagement rings. Others, cheaters, viewed them as a hindrance.
I never thought I’d become one of those cheaters, but after Selena had come into my doctor’s office, still looking beautiful even with a makeup-free face and snot in her studded nose, I couldn’t resist flirting. And somehow that flirting turned into dating. We’d only spent three weeks together, and I’d even told her she was only a fling, but my damn mark had to go and pop up on her a few days earlier, so how could she believe that?
At least I still loved my wife. At least we still had each other’s markings. I just had an extra.
I crouched, opened a drawer, and rummaged through it in search of a product, any product, that could save my ass. Sure, I could (and would) cover up the marking with long sleeves, but what if those sleeves rolled up or if Ava actually initiated sex for a change? I had to apply makeup over the spot, just in case.
I’d only need a little bit, a few day’s worth, because I planned on calling Selena as soon as the sun peaked over the horizon. I’d put an end to our relationship, completely cut off contact, and wait for the mark to fade. I’d never flirt again, not with an attractive patient, or a little old lady, or a cop that could get me out of a ticket.
Ten minutes of scrambling for makeup that matched my skin, and still no luck. All I found was an oversized container of cover up. When I picked it up to check the color, the label slid beneath my thumb and came undone. It had simply said oil-free blemish treatment, but there was another label beneath it. The real label.
One that read: Infidelity Ointment–Heavy duty concealer thick enough to cover any and all marks.
Ava could’ve been using it to cover those pesky blackheads that always popped up before her big business meetings or that scar on her neck she tried to hide with her hair. Maybe she’d just placed the phony label over it, because she didn’t want me to get the wrong idea if I ever stumbled across it.
I crept back to our bedroom (again, thankful I’d married a heavy sleeper), and grabbed the arm Ava had draped over the side of the bed so I could lift her puffy sleeve. She must’ve gotten lazy at night, washed off the makeup and relied on those sleeves, because I could see six or seven or eight of them, covering her arm up to her elbow.
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Holly Riordan is a science fiction writer who has been published by Infective Ink, Reading Plus, and Popcorn Press. She also writes nonfiction articles for All Women Stalk, The Bolde, and News Cult. You can find her on http://allwomenstalk.com/