She folded the conversation carefully, as she would a flag, and placed it in the hole that was growing in her heart. And still on the cusp of sleep, the memory of the words wrapped her like a warm blanket. The alarm rang a second time. Marji reluctantly sat up and threw her legs over the edge of the bed, and still the words lingered like an aftertaste along the edge of her tongue. Mike came into the bedroom and found her like that, watching the dust float in the tunnels of light shining through the blinds.
“Are you O.K.?” he was concerned, and she nodded her head.
“I was going to shower.”
The water ran down her face, over her breasts, that heart-place, warm and swollen beneath her hands. After she dried off and dressed, she sat at the counter in the kitchen cupping a mug of coffee.
“I was thinking we could go to Greece in January,” Mike was saying as he fiddled with the espresso machine. “You’ve always wanted to go to Greece.”
“Yes,” her eyes darted to the table, where her laptop was open, the screen lit up like a beacon, clicking through family photos so that she couldn’t see if there was any new email. It had been a couple of days. Too long. She told herself she’d forget the whole thing. She’d misread.
“I had to check something,” Mike said, explaining why the computer was on, but Marji didn’t hear.
“Yes,” Mike was looking at her strangely.
“Are we all set for tonight?”
“Pretty much. I need to call the caterer and see if they can get here at 4. I had them scheduled for 4:30, but I don’t think that’s going to be enough time.”
“O.K. The Hansen’s probably aren’t going to make it, but I don’t think we need to change the numbers.”
“O.K.” Marji sipped her coffee.
“O.K.,” Mike leaned over and kissed her. “See you tonight.”
When he was gone, Marji went over to her computer. She sat down and closed her eyes, took deep breaths before clicking on her email. The messages were random business announcements, school announcements, and linked emails from friends. She was still, the breath leaving her body deflated like the skin of a balloon. “I want to fly….” Had she really said that? Her face burned at the thought. So god-damn corny—a fool….
The party was perfect, the local dignitaries floating between tables draped in lilies and linen sipping wine and nibbling on crab cakes while a Caribbean jazz band played calypso. Stunning, people said about her scarlet, silk dress—fit for Athena. She introduced strangers, escorted guests to their tables, saw the glasses were filled and beat her fundraising goals. And when it was over, Marji sat on the stool in the kitchen finishing off a bottle of wine in the dim light of the kitchen, which an hour earlier had been bustling like a popular restaurant on Saturday night. The stainless steel gleamed like holiday tinsel, and the granite counters were slick and smooth. She sipped slowly, relishing the blurred feeling when it came. The grass is always greener, she thought cynically. He spoke in poems about bent leaves and twisting rainbows, about a single note of music that could split a heart, and now, her heart…. She took another drink of wine and her computer was there, on the desk. She finished the wine.
“Me too,” he said about flying when she opened his email. She smiled, nearly wept. He wrote of a movie he’d seen, “an amazing story of redemption,” and included several lines of a poem he’d been working on. “You should write more,” he said of her poem. “You’re very good.”
“I write in secret,” she confessed. “On a little notebook I keep in my purse. I don’t usually show people….” She included a short poem she’d been twisting in her head since the morning when she’d missed his email. “That sounds amazing,” she said in response to his comment about traveling to Machu Picchu. I’ve always wanted to travel around the world with a backpack.”