Marleybones had loved Lambykins since second grade. Never married, never asked, she’d persevered through his other women and ego-filled outbursts.
Geminis are mercurial, he’d explained.
It all changed with a Tarot reading. The significator, an upside-down heart pierced by three swords, foretold sorrow. But the outside formation moved from karma through completion. Luck was with her. Her boss was like a father to her. Her new ad campaign had won awards. She’d met someone else, just friends, but someone who liked her. She ghosted Lambykins. When he called, she was firm. She was free. Aquarians are not afraid of change.
Applauding a soprano note, the musician’s circle welcomed Katie. A
yellow school bus served as the troupe’s rolling home. The air burned
her lungs, but it was better than staying at ScareCity with Affluenza
three times her age.
“State of the art filters there.” She pointed to the
building edging the lot.
While the flutist gave her a brownie baked on charcoal, the viola
player found a mask. They tuned up. When Katie sang, the timbre of
her voice was untouched by the scourge of wildfire smoke. In the
morning, she left with them to see the world.
Breathe in. Bend forward. Anchor the palms of your hands to the floor. Step back. Stretch. Hips high, breathe out.
Do not imagine goat yoga. Thinking of hard hooves climbing up your legs and down your back will cause you to laugh. Sheep playing “London Bridge” under the arc of your belly will induce yawning, maybe sleep. You groan. Six o’clock is awfully early to be awake.
Pay attention. Vinyasa to your stomach.
The cat will stretch over, her raspy tongue licking your face, asking to play. Roll over. Rub her tummy. She’ll settle warm and purring. Close your eyes.
A flash of snow arcs, flying straight to heaven. It floats at eye level, then drifts to ground. The curve of your butt segues left, then right. Love catches my throat.
“That’s how you do it, girl. Like taking a corner on a bike. It’s in the leaning.”
We reach the end of the course, your dark hair flying behind you. A bobbing pink pompom perches on the cap I knitted you last Christmas. Slowing in tandem, we find glasses, pop a cork, and toast an anniversary we never imagined would happen. The frosty air warms to our strong embrace.
That summer Gene, eyes longing, looked at Billie Jo like she was a county fair roller coaster. She got dizzy thinking about that look. Sitting in a lawn chair, sipping iced tea, and reading starlet magazines, Billie Jo thrilled to stories about Hollywood. She and Gene would play opposite each other as romantic leads. She was sure they’d have fantastic careers in show business.
Come the fall chill, Gene never looked
at her that way. It was always some other way and she didn’t always
like to admit it, but she should have known things would turn out
For Kat’s birthday, Grant made a board game. He scoured thrift shops, looking for tokens. The game squares read: darkest secret, childhood fear, favorite sexual position. They played together. Sometimes with close friends. She liked the heart token. He liked the stallion. The Identity Forest, a square decorated with tall oaks surrounded by question marks, asked: “Do you know yourself?” The answer was in the True Confessions stack. One card said, “I’ll marry Grant.” If a friend read it, they had a laugh. But he proposed each time she landed on that square, in case Kat drew the desired answer.
was determined. He thought, “Third time’s a charm.” But it
wasn’t. They vacationed in Paris. He proposed at the Eiffel Tower,
in the small park where they took selfies sitting in front of tulips.
He knelt. She said, “That’s so retro.”
next day at Versailles, he brought the box out and showed it to an
elderly American couple for approval. They endorsed his proposal. Kat
smiled and said, “It hasn’t been long enough. He asked me just
yesterday.” On the RER to CDG, she said no again, but agreed
to give up her lease when they got home.
After they’d been together for exactly a year, Grant made dinner on a Saturday while Kat was working. When she got home, he drew a warm bath for her and lathered her up and wrapped her in an oversized towel. He said he wanted to work up an appetite. The white box was sitting next to Kat’s spoon. She used her fork to secure her steak, cutting small pieces from it. She sipped red wine while he drank still water. No comment on the ring. She cleared the table, washed the dishes. Grant slipped behind her. She said, “No wedding.”
She sublet her apartment and set her toothbrush next to his. That lasted for a week. She bought a blue ceramic bathroom set. “To match your eyes,” she told him. There were other changes. She left her clothes strewn on the floor after showering. She made fresh brownies and left them on the kitchen table. Her smell clung to his clothes all the time instead of just occasionally. He breathed it in when he was patrolling the streets, responding to domestic disputes and bringing homeless people into shelters. The smell of her made some things easier. So did the chocolate.
When Grant first proposed, Kat was sweaty, her dark hair disheveled in ringlets around her shoulders after dancing to salsas and bent back tangos. Laughing, they stumbled to her place. She fetched sparkling water. He pulled out the velvet ring box from his pocket and set it in the middle of Kat’s bamboo coffee table.
She placed glasses on either side of the box as if it weren’t there. As if it had always been there. She stroked his broad shoulders and said, “You don’t know me well enough.” He said, “That’s my problem to solve. And what better way.”