A Short Conversation Between Two People Who Are Sometimes in Love

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– We can’t hug? Can’t touch?

– Too close. It’s not safe. We still can talk through masks.

– So I drive three hours and that’s it?

– That’s love. The point is… listen. Find the balancing point between desire and friendship. Then sit with me. We’re close enough.

– And watch the sunset. With two lemonade glasses. Wait for dusk and twilight and stars.

– Think ahead, days and weeks and months.

– Make a wish for time to stand still until we find ourselves together.

– A wish on a promise, on an anniversary candle, a wish for the world.

– The stakes are high for us.

Moving Mountains

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Kat hadn’t thought about the ant tattoo in years. Small and hidden, she’d forgotten about it until Grant found it accidentally. He renewed her interest, stroking it when massaging her shoulders, licking it during sex.

She’d gotten the tattoo at a beach town on a drunken dare. Now she wished she hadn’t. A reminder that love has unexpected consequences. That even family can’t be trusted. For Kat, the tat symbolized both escape and surrender. She considered removing it.

Knowing it’s the scars inside that matter, she didn’t. Repairing the surface is just the beginning of a journey to the self.

Ace and the Queen of Pentacles

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Ace’s mother cleaned houses. His father held a mortgage on a twenty-acre farm. They wanted more for their son and, like a miracle, he got a full ride at Stanford. Everyone smiled for weeks.

Ace worked hard, the way his parents had. He graduated into a computer job in Silicon Valley. Sending money home every month, he spent his leisure time playing on-line games and running an office pool because it gave him an excuse to calculate odds on sports, world events and romance. But, he never saw love coming, even when Lady Luck said the chances were good.

A Widow Twice

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Shelly never could explain herself. Not as a teenager when her mother asked her where she’d been so late. Not as a young mother when her husband left her a widow. Fifty years later, a widow twice, it was her strong belief that she could get along without a man.

Dry eyes, a straight back, Shelly stood at the graveside. Her bottle black hair, a concession to old age, matched the dark raincoat wrapped around her spreading waist. Her daughters each had someone. She couldn’t explain why she envied them the happiness they had found with men who adored them.

Disaster Averted

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“What if I said yes?” Kat propped herself on the breakfast counter.

 Grant slipped a spatula under the edge of her omelet and flipped. “To onions? Too late.”

“No, to marriage.” She pushed dark bedhead curls from her furrowed brow.

 “Oh, that. Co-ordinate benefits. Joint checking. Widow’s pension if you get lucky and I don’t.” He stopped in mid lift. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”

“The couple in Paris. That stupid game. I know you now.”

A burnt smell. “Don’t distract me.” Grant slid the eggs to a cherry red plate. He pivoted. “Then, kiss me, Kate.”

Proposal # Six

board center chalk chalkboard
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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.

 

Proposals # Three, Four and Five

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Grant 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.”

The 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.

Proposal # 2

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 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.”

Hiatus

chocolate with milted chocolate on white ceramic plate
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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.

 

 

 

 

Proposal # 1

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 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.”