She throws the hand-painted gravy boat at him. It hits the door frame and shatters.
He shouts, I wasn’t with any damned librarian. They held me late at the docks, a shipment of oysters. Ask anyone, ask Mr. Lambert for God’s sake.
He leans against the folding table. Even in this moment she is breathless, his sleeves rolled up over his muscled arms, his cap tilted just a little to the left. Even in this moment she wants to touch his angry lips, worship at the altar of his long lashes. She closes her eyes, shakes her head fast.
Her grandmother’s mahogany hutch looms over the table. She runs her hand over the glass door and turns the handle. Looks at the space where the gravy boat was. Takes out the teapot and weighs it in her hands, feeling the slightly raised tulips under her fingertips. You looked at her, she hisses. You looked at her how you never look at me, you never once smiled at me like that. Never. Never.
You think I was with Mrs. Hill? She’s older than Methuselah. I can’t believe –
No, no, the one on the third floor, she shrieks. The one who knew what number the books about the Lusitania were without even looking it up. The smart one, the smart one.
He moves towards her, a hand out. He says, bewildered, Who?
She throws the teapot at him and it hits him square in the chest then thumps to the floor. It doesn’t break. He grunts, leans over with his hands on his knees. Then he runs towards her. She puts her hands in front of her face but he doesn’t stop. Just pushes past her, runs through the kitchen, and out the apartment door. He shouts, I’m not
coming back. I’m never coming back. Even in this moment the raw break in his voice makes invisible pinches all over her skin, he loves me, she thinks, he loves me really.
She can hear him on the stairs.
Then she runs, but not after him. She goes the other direction, down the long straight shot of their shotgun apartment, dining room – one foot now bleeding from the shattered gravy boat – living room, stuffed with her grandmother’s overstuffed couches and armchairs and ottomans, and now the bedroom, all bed and no room, the open bedroom window and her next step takes her out down dress rippling in the wind
And he’ll be sorry now, he’ll cry now, he’ll wish he’d –
But instead of the sidewalk, instead of her blood pooling around her halo of butterscotch hair. Instead of the cries of strangers, it’s his arms. She falls into his arms. Limpid, her bare feet dangling, like the cover of an All True Romance magazine.
And it must be True Romance, she thinks, leaving lipstick marks on his salty-tears chin. How could it be anything else?
Sage Tyrtle is a storyteller whose stories have been featured on NPR, CBC, and PBS. She is a Moth GrandSLAM winner. When she was five she wanted to be a princess until her dad explained that princesses live in a dystopian patriarchy, so she switched to being a writer instead. Twitter: @sagetyrtle.