An Arrangement

By Greg Doolan

Dark corners can hide a multitude of sins. That’s what made Aspect the perfect venue for Penny – lots of dark corners in which to hide all manner of misdemeanours.
Aspect was a nightclub across town from where Penny lived. It wasn’t particularly easy to find, but the long trip – much like its dark corners – was also to her liking. Distance made it less likely she would run into anyone she knew, and tonight anonymity was important. Penny needed freedom to explore boundaries, to stretch her wings, and to be herself. Surely one night wasn’t asking too much? After all, 12 months was a long time between drinks, and the last thing Penny wanted was the distraction of running into someone familiar. Though even if she did, chances were she wouldn’t be recognised. Penny was well practised at transforming her appearance, and what mascara and a good wig couldn’t disguise the club’s dark corners would take care of nicely.

* * *
Peter had said goodbye to Penelope earlier that day. It was an arrangement they’d reached early in their marriage. Once night each year they would be free of their vows. No questions. No recriminations. Peter once tried to sniff out clues as to what Penelope did with her night, but she cottoned on and threatened to end the arrangement permanently.
At first it rankled that Penelope knew, or at least she had a pretty good idea of what he got up to on his night. But Peter quickly overcame this sensitivity – anyway, it was his fault she’d found out – and embraced the fact these nights were as much about Penny as they were about him. Actually, it was all about Penny. Without her there would be no ‘arrangement’. Penny had always been there. Marriage had come later.

* * *
Penny stepped out of the bath and towelled down; her favourite Dusty Springfield track playing in the background. The bath and a few disposable razors had already done part of the job. Foundation, mascara, eye shadow and liner, and her favourite lipstick did most of the remaining work. The blonde wig, made from real hair and imported from Mumbai had been an indulgence, but well worth the expense. And just as the make-up and wig had worked their magic on her physically, a few glasses of Krug and the lyrics of Dusty and her pals, Nina and Billie, had been working on the mind. When her dress, stockings and stiletto boots – another necessary extravagance – were added, the transformation was complete. There was no trace of Peter left in the mirror.
Closing the door behind her Penny felt the flicker of an old sensation at the back of her mind; a pang that wondered briefly what Penelope was doing with the night free of her husband. But that sort of thought belonged to Peter, not her. Tonight Penny was in charge. Stepping into the night, Penny once again allowed the shadows to embrace her like a long lost friend.

2 Responses to An Arrangement

  1. Robin Rhyner says:

    Loved the surprise at the ending. I immediately had to go back and read it again. You had my attention riveted from the very first sentence. Both times.

  2. tamarahunter says:

    Sooo clever, Greg. You held us off right until the payoff at the end. Love the imagery of the dark corners…those bits at the edges of rooms and lives.

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