My lover snaps the sheet above me and lets it float back down toward the bed. I wait as the air slows its drop then it gently sinks against my skin, first my breasts, then my knees and belly, till it all shrink wraps around me.
“You like that,” he says.
I nod yes.
He does it again and stands smiling at me as I wait for the cotton coolness to settle around me.
“You’re like a child,” he said.
“A part of me is, I suppose,” I said.
He pinches my big toe and walks around the bed in only blue jeans, the top sliding down on his hips and I can see a V-shaped muscle line below his belly button. I curl my legs around the sheet and sit up on the bed as he grabs his guitar and sits on the chair in the corner. His fingers strum silently across the cords. He says a few words I can’t hear, then his face becomes removed as he slips inside his mind to listen to music only he hears. The music is distant, flirting just out of reach, and he patiently hums and strokes to bring it forward.
My lover becomes a portal for me to enter this world. My belly tingles in anticipation of becoming a part of it. I want it as badly as he wants the song to materialize. I am finally within reach.
My feet slide to the floor and I stand up, the sheet a toga around my naked body. I turn to look out the window and freeze. A rush of humility and pain flood my chest.
“Busted,” the word escapes my lips.
My lover pauses, coming back to this world a bit.
“He saw me,” I said and nodded out the window. Across the street is the old storefront where my real boyfriend Tony lives. He sits with a chair pulled up to the window and a strange woman next to him. They watch me, like dogs intensely watching their master out in the yard, a sense of injustice that they are behind the window.
My lover comes to stand behind me.
“Not too close,” I said, although it was pointless. “I don’t want him to see you.”
The storefront is outdated and belongs to my boyfriend’s grandfather. The look and decor is from the 1950s. So is the furniture handed down to him. It seems dry, predictable, immobile. The only things new in there are a few personal belongings that identify Tony from his family, like the Sax he’s always fiddling with between working in the family business.
Betrayal has stiffened his face. The woman leans into him and whispers in his ear; Tony doesn’t move. She sits back and I see a faint smirk tile the corner of her lips.
“I’ve been sold out,” I said. “She told him. And now she’s right there to soften his fall. Bitch.”
My lover’s breath touches my neck.
“You were leaving him anyway,” he said.
“Not necessarily,” I said.
“You’re not meant to stay in that world,” he said.
“I don’t know.” I start pulling on my clothes. “I didn’t want him to find out this way.” I pull on my shirt and button it down the middle. My lover goes back to his chair and picks up the guitar. I look around the room. It’s a pit stop for him, bags never fully unpacked, ready to move to the next place wherever that may be. I shove stuff into my bag.
“I should go talk to him,” I said. “I feel like I did the worst thing to my best friend. I shouldn’t have kept a secret.”
My lover doesn’t say anything. I can tell, by the way he’s off again, that he’ll disappoint me, that he doesn’t have the stability that Tony had. I feel abandoned.
I walk to the window and look again. This time the window is bare and I can see the place has been cleared out. He’s left now with that woman, waited long enough for me to see him.
“He’s gone,” I said.
“So its over then,” my lover said.
“I should go apologize,” I said. “I shouldn’t have waited. My god, what have I done?”
I swing my bag over my shoulder and walk out the door. My lover follows me to the car as I open the trunk and throw my things in. From here I can see Tony has not just left the building but has left the area with his things.
I feel relief I don’t have to face him just yet, but it is quickly replaced with a layer of sadness over the pain and shame.
My lover grabs my upper arm. “Come with me,” he said. “I know this place where people make music and poetry and art all the time. We can make a niche for ourselves.”
I look into my lover’s beautiful face. I like the idea. But I don’t know him, and I do know eventually he’ll move to another lover. It wasn’t him, really, that seduced me. It was the freedom. Freedom from the secure traditional life Tony offered me of predictable days. I waver and look from Tony’s house to my lover’s, separated by the street.
I smile and touch his face. “I think I’ll just stay where I am for now.” His face falls and I realize that he just didn’t want to be alone. It wasn’t me he wanted.
I get into my car and fire up the engine. My lover stands in his bare feet for a minute, then turns back into his house.
I drive straight down the middle of the road, the one that runs between Tony’s house and my lover’s. I don’t know where I’m going.
(c) Copyright Shelley Maasch, All Rights Reserved