….“Oh but,” she narrows her eyes and gives him a smile, that smile, that he remembers, that sly flash of teeth and flicker of tongue between her narrow lips—she used to always wear a coat of something, some peach creamy balm on top of them that made them look irresistible, but only when she smiled, for the rest of the time she kept her lips pursed and tight like a frosted fortress, that touch of a tease, “were we ever friends?”
She said friends like a dirty word, an inconceivable crime. Had they been friends? It is possible that he misremembered. He remembers fucking her, quietly, in the morning, when all their friends were still passed out, asleep around whichever East Village apartment, her soft whimpers and how perfect her hipbones were to grip, and how one night, breathless and giggling at a corner table at an expensive hotel bar she had begged him to kiss her and do no more, but then later she was the one who pressed against him, hungry hands grappling at his belt buckle.…
There were things that Claire had never done. She had never, for instance, said I love you and meant it. It wasn’t something she felt bitter about, simply an abstract idea she had never bought into.
When she was much younger, her mother had tried to explain love. “It’s when you wake up next to someone and you feel grateful and right,” her mother had said, eyes lifting to the light from the open window in the kitchen.
“Is that how you feel with dad?” She had asked. Her mother had smiled a tense, tentative smile. “Of course, dear.” Her mother started to wash the dishes, and Charlotte carefully inscribed what she said in her diary…
The concluding piece of the short story I’ve been posting for the past few days. If you haven’t read the previous parts, perhaps now’s a good time to read it in its entirety!
John had been one of her lovers in college. They had always skipped sleep in favor of each other, fucking on rooftops and in hurriedly locked bedrooms and stained bathrooms of loud bars. They would try to have conversations in coffee shops and wind up breathless, desperate to get else where…
When we get home we’re bigger strangers than we’ve ever been before. You start soaking the dishes we’ve already cleaned in the sink. I go to water the plants, but the bright red and yellow tulips along our windowsill have become dead, crisp pieces too bruised to use as bookmarks. We eat dinner in silence, with the orchestra of a careless fork scraping the bottoms of our fine plates. I ask if I should put on a record, after. Relax a little with the only jazz album we can both agree on. But you shake your head, I’m tired. I’m tired too, but I bit my lip from saying it.
You disappear to the bathroom and I can hear the water running for far longer than it should be. It’s only the sink, I can tell that you are not showering. I put on a record anyway, a low, mournful album that I used to love, and hum along. Do you remember the apartment as when we first got it? The way the chandelier looked so absolutely exquisite, its little crystal shards reflecting everything we had hopes for. I ran my fingers along the exposed brick walls, a dream I’d had since I first moved to the city. And the fire escape, the view!
I remember those first few nights when we sat outside with the relief of the summer nights dancing on our skin, and we sat with our shoulders and knees touching and each holding a glass of wine, the cheapest we could find from the store that wasn’t even truly a liquor store. The gallery was still unrealistic, a fantasy dream, but how we loved to dream. It was a sweet dream. We even planned the openings, who’d perform, who’s show up and wearing what. Could we believe that you were going to business school? Yes, for the sake of that, for making it come true.
I hope it’s not too much writing for one day, but I was looking through the fiction blog and almost forgot I wrote this. Almost forgot I wrote a lot, actually. But not to worry, I’ll be writing much more this year, and I hope you’ll give it a chance, too!
His hands reminded her of her father’s hands, the fingers stout, the nails flat and clipped, peeling slightly at the top. They felt soft against the side of her face though, gently pressing half moons into her cheek.
“This is the last time,” he said, and kissed her. Was he reassuring her or reassuring himself? Perhaps it didn’t matter. She returned his kiss just as hungrily, her hand at the back of his neck, fingers sinking into his hair.
The morning light was beginning its slow awakening outside, and she knew that if they didn’t fall asleep before it soaked through the ivory curtains all the way she would not have slept all night.
Right before he left he held her hands in the doorway and looked at her. “What?” She asked, laughing. “I want to remember you,” he said and brought each of her fingers against his lips.