The Peeping Moon

June O'Sullivan

Derek had always loved her in heels and complained when she stopped wearing them.

“You’re letting yourself go,” he said. “Be careful, or you’ll lose me.”

It was a favorite topic of his. He hated when women let themselves slide into middle age without a backward glance. Not a word of course about the men with their thinning scalps and the piste of their paunchy bellies sloping down over last-notch belts. If Derek thought the problems between them after eighteen years of marriage were down to her choice of footwear, he was wrong. It was something at once fundamental and predictable.

They had lost it. The spark, butterflies in the stomach, ghost fingers down the spine. They tried to coax it back with marriage counseling, sexy outfits, weekends away. Friends and family swooped in to babysit, trying to cement over the cracks. In expensive dining rooms they sat, itching to pick up the phones they had promised to sideline, yearning to scroll themselves away from here. In the end, all that was left between them was the domestic ordinariness.

Bins in. Bins out.

Did you remember to?

Can you sign?

They didn’t fight anymore. They just administrated life, soullessly, in tandem.

They didn’t even fight that last night. In the last luxury hotel.


Susan had made an effort, getting herself trussed up in stockings and suspenders. She’d nearly taken an eye out trying to close the snappers and was sweating when she emerged from the bathroom and arranged herself along the doorjamb. Derek was on the bed, fully dressed, the blue light from his phone picking out the stubbly underbelly of his double chin. He dropped it, took one look at her and groaned, throwing one arm across his eyes.

“I can’t, Su.”

She froze, conscious of the straining suspender, taut, at its limits.

“Can’t what?”


He kept one arm over his eyes, the other sweeping around the room. Susan felt stupid standing there. The harsh glare of the bathroom light caught the dimples of her thighs, the slice of wobbly flesh between the top of her stocking and the bottom of her teddy.

Stupid name. Stupid outfit. Stupid!

She didn’t move. Derek had more to say, she felt, and now they were both suspended. He covered his face with both hands and spoke. His muffled words tumbled out as though he’d been storing them in his mouth.

Susan went back into the bathroom and shut the door. The click of the lock echoed in the marbled ensuite with finality.  She unpeeled herself from the lingerie, feeling better just in her skin. She listened at the door. Would he leave? She hoped he would, she could almost see the red, rear lights of their family car disappearing down the curved avenue. The family car. Who’d get to keep that? The thought surprised her. How had she gone from being told that her husband was leaving her straight to the practicalities? She pulled a towel around herself and sank to the bathroom floor.


She wore her highest heels to court on the day of the settlement. Allowed herself the power kick of clip-clopping out past him, head held high, ignoring the skin grating off her left heel. And who was he there with? Maureen Dowd. The woman who had once sat in her kitchen trying to flog her Aloe Vera products. She’d bought some out of kindness even though the hand cream smelled like cats’ wee.

Susan pushed thoughts of Derek and Maureen from her mind now as she reached for her black, patent heels. She glided a pair of tights up her arm to check for snags. She didn’t have time to think about painting her yellowing toenails or trying to deal with the shelf of hardened skin on her heel. There was so much to attend to on her body and not enough hours in the day. And to be honest she couldn’t be bothered. Lorraine had pushed her into signing up for this salsa class. Lorraine had no interest in learning to dance herself but said she’d be happy watching Jorge’s bum wiggling in his tight, black pants. She didn’t even mind that he seemed to have taken a fancy to Susan. She was happy watching the chemistry between them from the sidelines. When she said that Susan’s heart thumped a little faster. Was there chemistry?

She thought back to last week’s class. She’d walked in with Lorraine who exclaimed, “Jaysus! He’s undressing you with his eyes.”

Susan had followed her gaze. Jorge was leaning against the warm-up bar. His black shirt-sleeves were rolled up, exposing tanned, strong arms and the first four buttons of his shirt opened onto a dark triangle of toned chest. His deep, brown eyes swept up and down, caressing the length of her body, lingering. For a moment she hadn’t known what to do, had looked away, then changed her mind. She met his stare with the same intensity and a shiver of electricity charged through her.

“Mother of God. Get a room!” Lorraine fanned her face.

Susan blushed now at the memory. It was strange, this flirtation. It was her, but it wasn’t her. She sighed, eyeing up her pajamas. She could send the babysitter home and watch a movie with the kids.

No. Lorraine would kill her.

She slipped her default, black dress over her head, teetered between her selves, who she was, who she could be. Then swung. Taking her reddest lipstick from the makeup bag she swiped it across her lips, grabbed her keys and plunged out the door.


She was parking when her phone buzzed.

“Won’t make it tonight, hun. Dodgy tummy. Say hi to Jorge for me.”

The message was followed by a string of emojis that were probably obscene. A peach, an aubergine, rain drops spurting. She took a moment to try to decipher them then gave up. She slipped her phone into her bag, sighing. Lorraine was her wing-woman. But tonight, she would have to fly solo. A pool of light spilled out from the dance studio as the door opened. Jorge appeared, bathed in the fluorescent glow. Electricity sparked through her again as he bent to prop the door open. He ran a hand through his dark hair then looked right at her car. Susan caught her breath. Oh God! Had he seen her? She’d wait until he went in, then drive off.  An image flashed into her mind of Derek and “Dowdy,” skin glistening with Aloe Vera gel. It propelled her from the car and as she crossed the parking lot she allowed her hips to sway.

The class was half empty. Lots of people had Lorraine’s dose and Susan had to block out their talk of projectile vomiting. Jorge took them through their paces, not once looking in her direction. She had a familiar, sinking feeling. Had she misread this one too? For a moment she was back in the hotel ensuite, the wind gone out of her sails.

Then he was beside her. He took her hand in his warm, sure grasp.

“I will partner with you for this next one.”

He addressed the other dancers. “Ok, next song has a nice, slow tempo so you can perfect your footwork.”

He pulled her close. She loved the strength of him, rooted in place as if nothing in the world could move him.

“You are alone?” His voice brushed against her ear as the rhythm started and their bodies moved together.

“Yeah, Lorraine is sick.” Her voice sounded harsh, uncouth, in contrast to his smooth, Spanish tones. She focused on the music, its bass and beat, willing it to bring her down to his velvety way of being in the world. He laughed, his fingers circling a knot of her spine.

“This I know. I ask, are you alone, in life?”

Christ, she thought, that escalated fast. But there was an honesty in his voice that drew her in. The pattern their bodies made on the dance floor wove a forcefield around them. It felt intimate, confessional.

She answered, “Yes.”

“Yes. I think so. Every week, I see your sad eyes.”

Tears sprung in response to his kindness. She swallowed them down. The music was building in intensity and he pressed his hips to hers. Just a little. But the pleasure of it made her fear her legs would give way.

“But tonight, you have a date, maybe?”


“You are dressed for a date, I am thinking.”

She could feel her cheeks burning. Was she so obvious?


“That’s a pity. It would be very nice for you.”

The air between them quivered. The song ended, her chance to respond gone with it. Then just before they moved apart, he tightened his hold, slid his thigh between hers and put his lips to her ear.

“When you are ready, I’ll be here. You just have to take one more step.”

He dropped her hand and moved away, giving his attention to the other dancers. She stayed, rooted to the spot. One more step. She closed her eyes. One more step, and it will be too late. Song lyrics from somewhere but she couldn’t recall. Her mind was candy-floss. She said her goodbyes and moved outside amid the chatter of the other women. She sat in the car but kept the key in her hand. The deliciousness of their exchange was nearly enough for her.


She was out of the car again, the shotgun heels announcing her.

He was on the phone, chatting as he moved around the room, turning off the lights. He sounded different. He ended the call with a cascade of goodbyes then started when he saw her standing there.


“Your accent.” She frowned. “You’re not Spanish?”

He held up his hands. “You got me.” It was a midlands voice. Flat. Boggy. Gray.

“Is your name even Jorge?”

“No. It’s Shane. I’m from Tullamore.” He grimaced. “But my middle name is Jorge. My father is Spanish. It’s more convincing, to play along…for this….” He gestured at the empty dance studio then looked at her from under his long eyelashes. “Are you disappointed?”

She thought for a moment.

Above them a cloud moved, unsheathing a full moon through the skylight. Silver light flooded the darkened room, casting them both in film-set sepia.

“No.” She took a step towards him. “I’m not.” She took another step. “I understand. Sometimes you have to pretend. Trick yourself. To get to where you want to be. Do you know what I mean?”

She was standing right in front of him now. His arm snaked around her waist and he pulled her tight against him. He bent to kiss her neck, mumbling into it.

“And what do you want?”

An image came to her of dry ice and space-age doors, an unexpected transformation, the words—tonight Matthew I’m going to be…

“I want Jorge.” Her voice was clear, definite.

“I think this is possible for me.” His husky, Spanish growl was back.

She looked up at the skylight and smiled at the peeping moon. 

June O’Sullivan lives on an island in Co. Kerry, Ireland. Her writing has appeared in the Leicester Writes Short Story Anthology 2022, The Ogham Stone Journal, The York Literary Review, Seaside Gothic, The Storms Journal, The Waxed Lemon, Sonder, and online as part of the National Flash Flood Day. She is a student of the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Limerick.