One last time

“This just isn’t what I signed up for.”

There is a long pause.

“Well,” Sietske hesitates. “What did you sign up for?”

A long sigh threads its way down the phone line. Bastiaan grips his hair, painfully, perhaps hoping this will wake up his brain. And his calling. But there is nothing.

“I don’t know. I can’t say. Not right now.”

Another silence.

“I’m sorry, Bas. I wish I had something helpful to say. I feel responsible.”

“That’s just ridiculous. I’m sorry, but it is.” His tone is sharp, impatient.

“If it weren’t for me,” she soldiers on, “you wouldn’t be stuck in that God-forsaken hole.”

“Yes, it’s all your fault, you siren, you temptress. Luring me, unwilling, into your bed.” They each smile, unseen by the other, in their living rooms.

After another long pause, Sietske suggests hanging up or saying something meaningful. “KPN is making a lot of money out of us for very little.”

“Come and stay,” Bastiaan blurts out.

“Do you really think-“

“Come and stay,” he repeats roughly. “Please. I need a bit of light. A bit of happiness. Come and lighten my mood.”

She succumbs. It feels so familiar. Their relationship is built on we-shouldn’t and perhaps-we’d-better-not and one-last-time-then. They plan another last time, a very last time. They make no notes in their diaries but they won’t forget. They hang up, feeling both elated and heavy at heart.

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