APOLOGY • by A.G. Carpenter

Late afternoon sun lances through the attic window and he stretches and kneads his hands, though he has done nothing but sit and listen to the taut shimmer of silence in the house below. Once or twice the thunder of a door, probably the bedroom door, rumbles up the narrow stairs. By now he can’t even remember what they fought over, except that it was something trivial. Something stupid. And he’d started it.

He shuffles down to the kitchen. Ivory chunks of potato steam gently in the serving bowl. The skillet pops and sizzles contentedly as two salmon steaks cook in a nest of caramel brown onions. He licks his lips and hopes this is a good sign. The sink is full and he turns the water on to its hottest and begins to wash the dishes. Cutting board; potato peeler; mixing bowl and measuring cups.

The screened door slams open and she comes in, kicks off her sandals and pads across the floor to the stove. The front edge of her shirt is gathered into a sling, filled to the brim with lush green pods which she dumps onto the counter. With firm hands she begins to shuck the lima beans. A quick pull on the tip, a downward tug and the seam opens up into mirroring, curved halves. Inside he glimpses pale, tight flesh with darker green veins running across the surface.

He swallows and wipes his hands on a dishtowel. Her hair curls against her neck, damp from the heat of the garden, and a little trickle of sweat slides down her neck, disappearing into the shadow of her shirt. Cautiously, and straining not to seem cautious, he puts his hand in the small of her back. Her lips, slightly parted with concentration, seal together in a stern line but she doesn’t pull away. Encouraged, he puts his arms around her waist, pulling her back against him. “I’m sorry,” he says.

She turns and looks at him and her cheeks are flushed. Leans into him a bit. “I know.”

He lets his hands slide down a little further. “I think… maybe tonight…” he trails off, unsure if it’s wise to continue.

She takes his left hand with a frown. “No.” Very gently she slides her mouth over his ring finger, sucking him in until her lips brush against the gold band at the very base. He grips the counter with his other hand, the breath rushing out of him in hard bursts. She pulls him back out and licks her lips. “Now.”

By day A.G. Carpenter is a mild-mannered stay-at-home mother. By night she writes fiction of (and for) all sorts. She prefers Die Hard to When Harry Met Sally, and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly over Animal House. Her favorite color is black.

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