Out the window, autumn the season of change, orange and crisp; he looks backward to the bed. She is there crumpled and gorgeous between the sheets; she smiles and there is change. Outside the leaves blow and the paperboy, breath like dragon smoke, flies by on a skateboard and chucks a tightly rolled paper into the dormant brown grass then disappears.
“I’m going to take a shower,” she says. He can hear her stretch, soft and slow.
He turns, her hair is dirty blond; her face round and familiar. He realizes, with no discomfort, she looks like a picture he saw of his grandmother when she was a young woman. She had taken the time to wash her makeup off last night — drunk with wine and anticipation — she had scrubbed her mask away for him.
“Okay,” he says and thinks about fresh coffee, and he wonders what has changed in him. Inside his chest he has always harbored bits and pieces of former lovers. Now they are gone, digested, fully absorbed.
She gets up, and he watches in the reflection of the window, she is an opaque ghost, he turns to catch only a glimpse as she disappears into the bathroom. The shower runs, the toilet flushes. Change, he thinks — it hurts — he wonders what she’s done; perhaps it is what she hasn’t done.
In the kitchen he grinds coffee, warms still shelled eggs in water, he knows the secret to a great omelet. He has a tiny herb garden on his window sill and he harvests basil and rosemary. She comes fully dressed and takes the coffee without reply.
“Cream?” he asks.
She shakes her head no.
“Omelets,” he says hopefully. “I make good ones.”
“I have some time,” she says, “if we hurry. I have to meet a friend later.”
He doesn’t know who could possibly be more important than omelets. Panic, fleeting, in his throat — part of the change.
“Okay,” he says and cooks them.
At the front door he puts his hands on her waist.
“Can we meet later?” he says against his will; it is not supposed to be so frightening.
“Maybe, call me,” she says, looking unnerved.
Out the window, it snows, tiny tightly rolled pellets of ice gather in layers. He dials her number on his cell phone for the third time. This time he hangs up instead of leaving a message. He searches himself for what has changed. I was alone yesterday, and am alone today. For a fleeting moment she was here, that was all, he reasons.
The phone rings, he looks at it, overwhelmed, confused — the caller id flashes her name.
“Hi,” she says. “I can’t meet you today.”
“Okay,” he says. “When then?”
“Some other time, I’ll call you,” she says. “I’ve got to run. Goodbye.”
The phone is dead in his hand, cold, the display darkened.
Out the window, autumn the season of change, orange and crisp; he watches the reflection of the window, she is an opaque ghost, he turns hoping to catch a glimpse of her, crumpled and gorgeous, but she is not there.
Bosley Gravel was born in the Midwest, and came of age in Texas and southern New Mexico. He has worked numerous dead end jobs, and now makes a living working on computer networks and various related activities. He has been making up stories from an early age, and from time to time they end up on paper.