His shiny black shoes almost glowed in the dingy room. She
kept her eyes fixed on them as he ordered. Eggs the way she liked
them, sunny-side up, like open eyes. Toast on the side, no jam. Just
tea for him. He’d complain about the tea, of course. Why couldn’t
they boil the water? How long had they left the tea, already steeped,
sitting in the dirty glass pot?
She switched her gaze from shoes to plate. Forcing herself to
eat slowly. He rattled the way he always did when he was nervous.
Clattered the mug down and spilled tea over the sides to be wiped up
easily on the red and white checked vinyl tablecloth. They were there
for what seemed like hours before he took her arm and pulled her out
The motel was only across the street. Instead, he cut through
the fields and she followed. Fields of golden sunflowers, scattered
patches of queen anne’s lace and bright purple tufted things.
Scratchy fields. When she pulled off her dress and lay down on it,
she could still feel the stubbly grass and stubborn stones beneath
her. Every breeze brought thousands of tiny grasses brushing against
her bare body, each stem feeling like skittering insects. She
clenched her fingers into the damp soil to hold her there. So she
wouldn’t leap up and run naked onto the highway.
When he came, he was crying. Maybe she was too. It was hard
to tell with the sun beating down and sweat still dripping down her
face and onto his beaky nose. She hushed him with soft kisses. His
legs wrapped convulsively around hers, broken promises falling out of
his mouth like rain, or tears, or children. Running off into the
Slowly pulses calmed. They slept under a cloak of her mustard
hair, her head nestled under his sharp chin.
Maybe it would be like that. But more likely it wouldn’t.
Janie stepped away from the phone once more, to sit in a shrinking
pool of sunlight by the window. The brindle cat leapt momentarily
into her lap, long enough to leave a jagged gash along her thigh.
Janie’s fingers clenched tightly in the space the cat had been.