He didn’t look up. A furrow appeared on his forehead. “Not really, no. But I seem to be able to get through it, and reading has been rough since the world caught on fire. Er, caught on fire again. Moreso. It’s bad but I’m hoping it will help me get back in the habit.” He turned a page.
They gave a small, unseen smile. A lot of things had been more difficult lately, but he seemed like he was in a good space. They felt like they were in a good space. Old, familiar urges that had been hard to find with everything else going on were coming back. They took a deep breath.
The first step was always the most difficult. The moment of vulnerability in telling him they wanted to hurt him and the risk that he would smile and say “I’m not feeling it tonight, is that okay?” but really mean, “You fucked up and I don’t want to do that with you anymore.” But if they didn’t take the step there was also the fear that it would slowly get pushed back again and again by both of them until it just fell behind other things and was gradually forgotten. Just as lost, for different reasons. They let the thoughts torment them until they lost their edge, then took a breath, bit their lower lip, reached over, and carefully slid his glasses off his face.
He sighed theatrically, but smiled and set his book down on the floor. “Yes, ma’am?”
They had started. The first moment of inertia was behind them and they had started. “I have something I need you to do for me.”
He laughed, and stood up. “Yes, ma’am, I know.” He walked out of the room.
They frowned and watched his back. Had they been wrong? They picked his book up off the floor, slipped a bookmark in it, and put it on the coffee table. They debated going after him as the exhaust fan from the bathroom began to drone, and then there was the sound of running water. Was he taking a shower? He did that first sometimes, but he usually asked if he could.
Their eyebrow raised as the smell of bleach and sound of cupboard doors opening and closing reached them. They shook their head, but sat back down and picked up the game controller, unwilling to interrupt what he obviously thought he should be doing.
A while later he came back out and flopped down. “I plead guilty to criminal putting off of my turn to clean the bathroom in the first degree, but it’s done now. I think. Let’s just say it looked clean to me.” He held up one hand before they could reply. “In determining my sentence for any errors I would also like the magistrate to note that there is a tub of hot water ready, bath bombs arrayed for selection and deployment, and the smelly candles ready if you’d like a relaxing bath. If not, no big.”
They were glad the look on their face was a blur to him. It hadn’t gone the way they’d planned, but it had gone anyway. Things weren’t lost, just waiting to be picked up again when they were needed. Maybe looking a little different or changed, but still there, like the two of them. “Thank you. I suppose…” they let the pause linger. “You could watch if you liked.”
“Oh, well, that sounds very nice.” He got up and stuck out his hand. They let him pull them to her feet. “Could I please have my glasses back to watch better?”
They stepped close enough to him that their smile wasn’t a blur anymore and held onto his hand, stepping backwards, pulling him along. “Get some clothespins and meet me there. We’ll see what happens.”
Copyright Jerry Jones. Unauthorized use is prohibited.