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by Alexis Wolfe

I knew Steve was a would-be polygamist when I married him. Being the first wife, it didn’t feel so pressing.

When Sandy came along, just slightly younger than me and ready to take over the sex-pregnancy-childbirth mantle, I didn’t mind. I took off my crown and settled down to wait for the perimenopause like I’d been born to it. We shared clothes, lipsticks, stories. Like sisters.

But now Lottie, the third. Cannot bear the woman. I say woman, girl really. Sandy and I tidy away our bathroom essentials, but since Lottie arrived the bathroom shelf is constantly ringed with soapy residues. And we are forever finding her fake eyelashes in places they shouldn’t be, those smirking crescents. “Linda,” she says in that annoying sing-song baby voice, “I can’t work this washing machine. Can you help me?” I try to keep my distance; her perfume gets right up my nose.

Steve says I should read about the bonobo monkeys. When disputes loom, the females rub each other’s clitorises until everyone feels festive and calm is restored. I’ve taken to depositing one or two drops of urine into Lottie’s cold cream jars. She gets on well with Sandy, so I stay away from them both by retiring to my room to read.

Sometimes I think about the other boys I could have married. The group of teenagers I hung out with before I met Steve. I can still smell their grass stained knees, see the tanned fingers when they passed the joint and feel the heat that resided under their baseball caps.

They are out there in their parallel other lives. I expect if I could drive back to town, I’d see them in their kitchens microwaving ready-meals for their kids, playing football on the weekends. I wonder if the energy generated by thinking about someone a lot somehow makes its way to them, and you appear in their thoughts. Once, one of those last days of summer boys looked me up, messaged to ask if what he’d heard about me in town was true. I never replied.

A long-ago evening, no-one remembers when, must have been the final time we were all together. The last ever, with none of us realising at the time. Maybe one day I’ll catch a glimpse on social media or in the newspaper obituaries of those long-lost boys of summer.

Sometimes Steve comes to my room and lays on top of the eiderdown. He leaves his shoes on. “I’m exhausted,” he says. I can’t decide if I’m annoyed or smug that he chooses my room as his hideaway. I make it a rule never to look up from my book.

Alexis Wolfe is a writer and poet living in Berkshire, UK. She has been published in Mamalode, The London Reader and The Wild Word. She was a runner-up in the Writers’ & Artists’ short story competition 2016 and winner of the Retreat West Creating Characters competition and The 1000 word challenge. She is working on her first novel. Alexis tweets at @LexiWolfeWrites.