'The Man I Should Have Married', a new story by Catherine Chidgey

I can’t remember when the man who is now my husband first told me he loved me. Was it when we drank cocktails at that windowless bar with the old train seats you could turn to face in either direction? We tried to go back once, but it had been replaced with a hardware store; we priced a set of outdoor furniture and bought some new wire for the clothesline to stop the super-king sheets from dragging on the lawn. Or did he tell me he loved me when I came to stay at his flat for the first time, when he was still living in Gore, within walking distance of the giant fibreglass trout and two doors down from his mother? She could see when he opened his bedroom curtains in the morning; sometimes she waved and held up her overweight dachshund, or shook a jar of Nescafé and mimed sipping from a cup. She still did Christopher’s washing for him, but only because there was no machine in his flat and it just made more sense than taking it to the laundromat, where anybody’s lint and hair and dead skin could end up on your tea towels. A push-up bra of mine found its way into the basket once, and she returned it washed and folded with the hooks done up. It lay on top of the pressed shirts and jeans, a pair of Christopher’s socks tucked into each cup. Was that when he said it? One morning in Gore, when we lay in his chilly bedroom beneath the poster of Abbie Cornish in Candy? I used to stare at Abbie Cornish when I couldn’t sleep. I knew I could never be her, with her collarbone and her upper lip. Even when I closed my eyes, she was still there.

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Catherine Chidgey

Catherine Chidgey

Catherine Chidgey’s fourth novel, The Wish Child, set in Nazi Germany, won the $50,000 fiction prize at the 2017 New Zealand book awards – the country’s richest writing prize. Radio New Zealand called it ‘a brilliant, brilliant novel ... a masterpiece’, and The Times (UK) ‘a remarkable book with a stunningly original twist’. Her most recent honour is this year’s Janet Frame Fiction Prize. Her 'found' novel, The Beat of the Pendulum, was released in November 2017.

(Photograph by Helen Mayall)

Published in ABR Fiction