The Situation

IMG_0668.JPGShe sat up in the hotel bed, the hotel sheet pooled in her lap, her bare breasts on display as she smoked her cigarette, every now and then reaching to tap her ashes into the hotel ash tray on the hotel bedside table.

She stared blankly at the hotel sconce on the hotel wall, her thoughts so very far away from the hotel room she shared with a man she hardly knew.

She could hear him now, showering brutishly. Her lips pursed in disgust as he grunted yet again, probably harshly rubbing the soap on a tender spot of his body. She wished he would be silent and let her hear only the sounds of the water hitting his body on its way to the drain. Then she could easily imagine that he was anyone, anyone at all, but as it stood, every time she tried, he would let loose another grunt or groan and ruin her daydream.

She rested her chin on her shoulder as she fiercely stubbed out her cigarette on top of all the other butts in the ashtray. She smiled softly as she imagined his body beneath the glowing ember, reddening and then blackening at its touch.  It struck her what she was thinking about, and she dropped the butt, wiping her fingers on the hotel sheet. She pulled her knees up to her chest and hugged them to her body, and a tear slipped softly down her cheek.

The knob squealed a protest as he turned the water off in the bathroom.

She jerked her head upright and scrubbed frantically at her face to dry the single tear, then closed her eyes and took two deep breaths to calm her heart rate. She heard him step out of the hotel bathtub and caught herself wishing that he would fall and strike his head against the porcelain and bleed out, there on the floor, and she could claim innocence until the red pool crept out from under the bathroom door. She laughed, and clapped a hand against her mouth to hold back the rest of it.

He walked out of the hotel bathroom, beaming when he saw her, his body still dripping hotel water on the hotel carpet, a hotel towel tossed artlessly over his right shoulder. She didn’t meet his eyes, her gaze hovering instead on his unshaven upper lip.

“How about we order in some dinner?” he asked, and his voice grated on her ears.

She suppressed a cringe, and smiled brightly, reaching for her phone. “Sure, what’d you have in mind?”

He chuckled. “You.”

He threw the towel to the floor and leaped onto the bed, nearly crushing her left foot. His hands reached for her, and it took every bit of inner strength she had to let him fondle her nakedness.

She praised whatever gods there may be when her stomach grumbled, loudly, distracting him from his struggle with the sheet that covered her body.

“How about later?” she offered. “I’m starving.”

He raised an eyebrow, then acquiesced. “Later, then. I’m pretty hungry myself. Let’s get room service; they’d be the fastest.” He stood and pulled a pair of jeans from the duffel bag on the dresser before jamming his feet into the legs, one at a time.

He winked at her, and her stomach tied itself in another knot of disgust.

 


What Might Have Been

Silvia stood outside the warehouse door, a thin ribbon of smoke trailing upwards from the business end of her cigarette. She lifted the butt to her mouth and inhaled, squinting her left eye against the sudden breeze that carried the smoke straight into her face. Her vision remained fixed on the small boy playing in the yard across the street.

The chain link fence protected him from stray dogs and strangers with candy, but it was unable to stop the chill wind from reddening his cheeks and pudgy little fingers as he dug determinedly in the large sand pile that dominated the yard. A small patch of red fabric covered the wear hole on the elbow of his hand-me-down jacket.

The boy was out in the yard most days that Silvia took her cigarette break, and she watched him build his sand castles every chance she got. He dug and dumped, dug and dumped, happily busy in his world that didn’t include her, even though she was thirty yards from him.

Silvia took a last drag, then turned the cigarette in her hand to make sure none was left. She flipped it around with practiced fingers and tossed it halfway across the street as she took one last hissing inhale of the cold winter air through her front teeth. Her eyes darted from the path of the cigarette back to the small boy, narrowing as she noted that he had disappeared from her view.

The breath she hadn’t realized that she was holding escaped her chest as he tottered back into sight from the far side of the small mountain of sand, and the tightness in her throat relaxed. She rubbed her right eye, trying to convince herself that a speck of dust had flown into it, but knowing in her heart of hearts that she had yet to be done grieving.

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Accidental Friendship

Lynn pushed on her front door a bit, and it squeaked on its hinges. She knew she’d locked it and shut it firmly behind her when she left this morning, but there it was.  Open.

She wondered briefly if she should call the police before deciding against it. That would likely cause more trouble than it was worth. She gave a soft cough, and entered.

Nothing looked wrong or out of place. Her belt still hung on the back of the chair nearest the door, and she noticed that she’d left the ranch dressing on the table. Her left hand absentmindedly reached to pick it up, and that’s when she saw it.

The tiny baby puppy cowering beneath the kitchen table, shivering.

Lynn had no way of knowing if someone had left the poor thing, or let it in, or if her door had malfunctioned and opened just enough for it to seek refuge, but she wasn’t arguing.

She carefully set the bottle of dressing back on the table and lay down on the floor, inching closer and closer to the dog. Finally, she was close enough to reach out a hand and pet its soft, damp fur. The puppy snuggled into her touch, seemingly unafraid. She scooped it up and held it against her chest, trying to warm it.

In a few minutes, the puppy fell asleep, and Lynn had fallen in love. She never forgot the day that her door was just a little bit open when she came home from work, and she loved little Bradley for a very long time.

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