Bill Burkett
7 min readJun 18, 2024
available at Amazon Books

Month of Sundays:1.noun,colloquial,denoting temporal relation; a time perceived as long; rarely used. 2.September 1961 Route 66 episode about a fated love affair. Term used as far back as a 1759 novel…

c/f AudioEnglish.org; other sources

When you knew that it was over you were suddenly aware

That the autumn leaves were turning to the color of her hair…

–Bergman, Bergman and Legrand, Windmills of your mind

Chapter 5: Shadow of her smile

She was fairly tall. Some would call her overweight. I thought her voluptuous. She had autumn-red hair and pale Irish skin, green eyes and abundant curves. She had a fast, businesslike walk with no hint of seduction. She was an efficient driver. When she followed me in her car, my rear-view mirror showed generous lips curved in an inner smile beneath large black sunglasses. That was when the seductiveness showed. I said she looked like a woman I’d like to get to know. She laughed at me and said well, you have done.

The thing that lingers, when I remember the month of Sundays she gave me, is the shadow of her smile.

There was a popular song called something like that long before we knew each other. From a movie with Liz Taylor, Charles Bronson and Richard Burton, the only man I ever saw whose sheer presence could dominate Bronson.

Sometimes I think I remember her birthday. Then I’m not sure. I think I remember she spent time with her father in Japan. Then believe I imagined it. Siblings? Don’t recall. Children? At least two. Until she went on the Pill for me, we had to be careful to avoid unplanned additions. Strange how confidences murmured in sexual afterglow fade. I do remember her dream of living in a rustic river cabin. Which reminds me why her name escapes me. When she was with me she assumed the last name of her favorite writer whose works inspired her cabin longing.

We saw each other in all weathers and several different cities. Her presence lifted my persistent depression about a job I did not love and stilled my growing restiveness within my domestic situation. It was so much easier to communicate with a lover than a wife.

A fringe benefit seldom mentioned about satisfying affairs is the unsuspecting spouse reaps the reward of a calmer and more considerate husband. As for sex I was in my prime. There was plenty of me to go around the rare times my wife beckoned. Discretion was key. A married lover with as much to lose as me was just right.

She professed the same sentiments, uninterested in harming the institution of her marriage. I believed her, based on the feminist education Ms. XX Pizan never dreamed she was giving me back in the seventies. Where writings by women for women about illicit sexual liaisons read like translations from an alien species: dispatches from the planet Venus. Women’s candid writings said we had a “thing” going on, nothing to do with her husband.

I had been in a deepening Slough of Despond that would eventually become clinical depression. The ever-wise matriarch of my clan told me as a boy all we could expect of life was little moments of happiness. This woman gave me a month of Sundays.

We had intimate little meals in out-of-the-way places. We made love everywhere from cheap motels to my 4x4 pickup truck in the mountains. In the mountains she loaned me her husband’s chain saw to cut firewood between sleeping-bag sessions. An outdoorsman’s dream date.

Once, in autumn, I went to meet her at a nice city restaurant. When I came in, she was with her best female friend, who knew me. All our careful discretion tossed to the wind. I affected nonchalance: fancy running into you two. Oh get a grip, her friend said, you’re busted.

“We’re shopping,” my lady-friend said. “Only way I could get away today.” Our mutual acquaintance was her “beard.” Eighties woman-speak for a companion offering cover for dalliance. I was told it came from false beards worn by cartoon spies in a Mad comic book.

We chatted over coffee. Then her friend said go on, get out of here; he’s nervous as hell. They would hook back up at the end of the day. My lady-friend said don’t worry, her friend hadn’t been supportive but once she saw us together, her resistance melted.

“She knew I was gone on you and thought you were taking advantage of me,” she laughed. “But after that day she said she’d give anything to have a man look at her like you looked at me.” Strangely, her comment did not make me fear things were getting too deep. I trusted her completely to play it straight. But I worried my lady-friend was being too bold.

My uneasiness didn’t ruin our day, but my worry deepened that winter. She called with a surprise, a day at a fancy home in a gated community, loaned by a friend who enjoyed her own walks on the wild side. Her friend was traveling and had assured her it was perfect for a secret tryst.

A secret is no longer secret once too many know it. But I went. I had become too comfortable myself, living in the shadow of her smile. Though my paranoia flared when the gate was staffed by hobby cops, comparing a clipboard to my license plate, saying I was expected.

The house was damn near a mansion by my proletarian standards. She took exuberant delight showing me around. Her friend collected marvelous Western-motif bronzes good as Fredric Remington’s. She said her friend had a thing with the sculptor so these were gifts. The huge kitchen was equipped with upscale appliances, expensive pots and pans, and knives a chef could envy. My lady-friend had stocked the giant refrigerator with Swiss cheese laced with sesame seeds, platters of fruit, sandwich hams, Dijon mustard and crusty French bread. The fancy coffee maker filled the place with the aroma of strong dark fresh-ground coffee. Borrowed luxuries in a parallel life.

Then she led me to the master bedroom. There was a queen-size waterbed beneath an arching skylight, blurred by the slow cold drizzle of a winter day. My first waterbed. You’ll like this, she said. I did.

Through a long erotic winter day, every hour or so we left bed to replenish ourselves in the kitchen. We did that five times, after each of my orgasms. We lost count of hers. She was so happy to give me this special day I was deeply moved.

Early winter dusk fell before I left. The hobby cop made a note: visitor in, visitor out. In another lifetime as a military cop I manned gates. I knew the drill. Paranoia eclipsed the shadow of her smile. Driving through the sleeting dark I had the uneasy feeling those gate entries presaged the end. I hate endings. Always have. Always will. But I could feel it coming.

My unknown hostess came home and made a hard pass at my lady-friend’s husband. Perhaps she figured tit for tat. He turned her down. Maybe because he’d been caught once in home-front philandering. Maybe he turned over a new leaf.

In my studies of women, only the matriarch’s truism proved immutable: hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. My scorned hostess vented her fury by demanding why he would turn her down when his wife had been getting it on with her lover at her place. He professed disbelief. The scorned woman got him a copy of the gate log: my and his wife’s license-plate numbers in and out in close proximity.

Whether it was her idea, or his, to ransack his wife’s purse I never knew. But he found her wheel of birth-control pills. My lady-friend called from work. I didn’t say I told you so. She said it for me: my paranoia had proved correct. She’d had to discard the pills and was afraid to buy more.

But she didn’t want to stop seeing me. I planned our final, bittersweet trysts with the care of a case officer meeting a double agent, but missed freedom of the Pill. Wondered if he would drop a dime, and told my wife beware odd phone calls. Organized-crime was known to sow ugly rumors about our agency, so my cover had the ring of truth. Instead, he moved his family clear across the country. To get her away from me, she said. Better than ugly phone calls. Or a gunfight.

I didn’t learn until much later they moved back to the state a couple years later. When she read the snow goose migration was in from Russia, she drove down to look for my truck and boat at a remote motel near Skagit Bay. Same motel where once she persuaded me to stay in bed rather than leave before dawn to hunt geese on the tide flats.

She knew my habits well. I had been there, all right. She only missed me by two hours. A two-hour margin that kept her chapter of my Iliad permanently closed.

Bill Burkett

Professional writer, Pacific Northwest. 20 Books: “Sleeping Planet” 1964 to “Venus Mons Iliad” 2018–19. Most on Amazon for sale. Il faut d’abord durer.