LOVE BLOOD • by Traci HalesVass

She crashed her hand through the window when he explained he wasn’t “into this” as much as she was. Her fist curled as he spoke, her arm tensed and pulled back. The punch was gratifying in its release, electrically tingling when she pulled it back. Blood pooled, purply glistening as drops slid to the floor.

He applied a tourniquet and drove her to the hospital. She wept and he kept quiet. He picked her up after surgery, tucked her in bed, fed her soup. She was silent, druggy; he chatted lightly about unimportant things until she fell asleep.

He drove her to the doctor for bandage changes and physical therapy. His conversation sounded like the cardboard banter of the physical therapist.

She leaned into him when he led her up the stairs with his hand around her waist. One night he got into bed with her but when her passion grew her arm started throbbing too much. He got up and left.

When her bandages were removed and the stitches taken out, he stood with her in the driveway. They kissed deeply; then he pointed to the attic above them and told her to open the window to cool the house. She walked in and turned as he was walking away.

And he didn’t call.

Two days later she phoned him, got his answering machine. Left a series of messages. She drove by his house. Stopped across the street. There was a little red Honda parked next to his pickup. The front door opened and a woman walked out. He circled his arm around her waist.

She got out of her car and walked over to them. He introduced the two women and the other said she’d heard about the injury, how was the wrist?

He thanked her for stopping by, said they were leaving now and he’d talk to her later.

He didn’t call. Two weeks later, after she had left several messages, multiple hang-ups, and done quite a few drive-bys (the Honda was there each time) she drove to the bar in town. Slammed two shots and picked up a cowboy. He threw up in her bed and left his shirt when he walked out.

Hung over, she phoned him again. This time he answered. They talked casually and he asked about her pain, the physical therapy. She asked if he’d gotten her messages. A pause, and he acknowledged he’d heard them and he’d seen her driving by and parking across the street. He asked her to stop, please, it was scaring his girlfriend.

“Then what am I?” she asked. And hung up before he answered. She pulled the ladder down and climbed to the attic. The steps were difficult to maneuver with the sore arm. She pushed aside broken furniture and stacks of molding books. Layers of grease, dead moths, old dirt filtered the sun through the far window. She cleared a path to the window, opened it, looked down the three stories to the concrete driveway below. Closed the window, latched it, wiped away some of the dirt. She walked to the stairs and turned, visualized the run, the jump, the fall, impact, the blood, and his arms around her again, but her feet wouldn’t move. Her whole body resisted. She sat, raising a puff of dust that made her cough. Long, long after the dust had settled, she rose, dusted off her jeans, and climbed down the stairs.

Traci HalesVass wrote a poem when she was seven, to great familial reviews. She received so much exuberant expression, she got it into her head she was meant to be a writer. Thus, she subjected her life to the calling, much to the detriment of her pocketbook. She received a masters and an MFA in creative writing, and recently retired from a professorship in teaching writing. Her publications include short stories, flash fiction, and poems in literary journals and newspapers across the country. In her retirement she hosts a local radio program interviewing other writers.

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