Monday, February 16, 2015


Here's a short story I ran across in the files:

by Vela Damon

Randall turned to gaze at the lilacs shifting in the breeze, gone dusky in the fading light. “I never said I’d give you everything.”

Jeanette followed his gaze, picked out a single lilac reaching above the others, smiled. “You never said a lot of things.”

She turned to studying Randall’s bare feet. Dirty, tracking in the dust of another life, the distance between. Just beyond the lilac field, the small grove of alders: glimpses of lemon yellow siding, periwinkle blue shutters. Her sister Janine’s two favorite colors. Randall had painted the house himself, laid the rough stone border for the dusty path between.

Janine had said the house was perfect, the path was beautiful, curving around the field, winding through the trees. She’d said she loved it, loved Randall even more for understanding she needed to remain close, she couldn’t move off and leave Jeanette behind.

Such a thoughtful husband... Randall wished he could forget the way she’d smiled, he could rip the stones from alongside the path and bury the past seven months beneath them. If Janine had never gotten sick, if he hadn’t been so afraid...

He shoved his hands deeper into his pockets, turned to lean against the windowsill, frowned at the disheveled bedcovers. 

Lies. All lies. He’d wanted Jeanette since they’d danced at the wedding reception, since she’d pressed herself far too close, whispered that her sister was a lucky, lucky girl. And lucky me, living right next door...

He’d known, even then, exactly where the path would lead.

Randall ran his fingertip along the teeth of his house key, the key that had moved from pocket to pocket since Janine had been admitted to the hospital, that had carried along the same resolution with each transition. This time, I’ll use it. I’ll go home. I’ll stay.

243 transitions. 243 days of empty resolve that would’ve become 244, if he hadn’t had to make sure the house was presentable for Janine’s return.

He wrapped his fingers around the key, gripped until the teeth scored his skin. “This really is the last time.”

Jeanette leaned back in her bedside chair, closed her eyes. “You’ve said that the past ten times.”

Randall took a step toward her. “I’m serious, Jeanette. I said it from the start: once she comes home, never again.”

“If. You said if she comes home.”

Randall grabbed Jeanette’s arm, gripped tight enough to bruise. “Don’t. Don’t you dare say I gave up on her.”

Jeanette met his gaze. “I used the exact words you did.” She glanced at his hand. “You don’t think you’ve hurt me enough?”

He released her, stepped back. “I never lied to you about anything. I told you there was no chance in hell I’d leave Janine.”

Jeanette rubbed her arm, smoothed her sleeve. “I never said I wanted you to. There’s no reason we can’t continue.” She reached between his legs, cupped, squeezed. “Tell me you honestly want to stop.”

Randall pushed her hand away, turning to leave. “It’s over, Jeanette. If I’ve hurt you, I’m sorry.”

She wrapped her arms around him, stretched up to nip at his ear. “Are you sure you won’t end up more hurt than I will? What happens once I’m with someone else? If I leave the window open? And make lots of noise? You’ll be just fine with that, Randy? Or will it drive you insane, knowing it should be you?”

Randall’s heart dropped. Hearing those sounds, her sounds, elicited by someone else, anyone else...

Jeanette laughed, slid her hand along his stomach, into his pants. “You can’t even stand the thought of it, can you?” She squeezed tighter, drew him closer. “I know she’s no good in bed. I’ve heard things. She’s told me things. And with her still recovering...”

“Stop. Please. Stop.”

“Fine.” Jeanette slipped out of her dress, reclined amid the sea of pillows on the bed. “If you’re sure, go.”

“I have to pick her up.”

Jeanette stretched out her foot to reach the alarm clock on the nightstand, turned it to face him. “You still have a few minutes.”

Randall gazed out the window, worried the key in his pocket, sank to his knees, pressed his lips to Jeanette’s inner thigh. “This really is the last time.”

Jeanette smiled, remembering the reaching lilac as she reached for him, but it had disappeared into the deeper darkness, indistinguishable from the others. 

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