By Steve Merino
There’s a knock at the door and Jason leans his body sideways. He eyes the wooden door for a few seconds before hollering “just a second.” Determined to make himself breakfast, he cracks the egg on the side of the pan, lets it drop on the oil with a small splash which leaves spots on the belly of his white shirt. “Shit,” he mumbles to himself before wiping his hands on the towel above the sink. He searches the room quickly for his pants, squinting to avoid the late afternoon glare bouncing off the TV screen, but no luck; he walks to the door.
“Chloe…” he says.
“Hey Jason, long time.” there is a pause as she examines his wardrobe “I see you’ve finally said ‘fuck it world, white tees and boxers are sexy.’”
“Ya, well, you know.”
“So…can I come in or are you gonna just leave m–”
“God, yes, please, come in.” he says while letting her through the door.
She brushes against his side and he is reminded of the first time she came through the door of his apartment. It was Junior year of college and the two of them met at a bar across the street from the place he was renting with some friends. A few too many drinks and one nasty fall later, they ended up in his apartment. She looks just as she did then; pretty, but less drunk. He could tell then that she was more than another pretty face; most people don’t notice the way she observes everything as if she’s never content slowing down. That first night in the college apartment, she left him naked in the bed to go to the bathroom, 20 minutes later he walked out into the living room to see her naked and cross-legged on the floor, cigarette between her lips and a collection of short stories in her lap. He knew then, things were serious, he knew that she’d somehow trapped him. But that was years ago.
“Still haven’t kicked the habit?” he asks.
“Your cigarettes, I noticed them in your back pocket.”
“Staring at my ass again, Jason?” she says while raising her eyebrows.
“Well, no…only for a second.”
The pause is exceptionally long, longer it seems, than the time she has deliberately avoided him; 3 months and 6 days. Phone calls gone unreturned, email conversations left open ended; she is a hole in his life that he could never fill no matter how many whiskeys he drank each night at the bar.
“Hey are you cooking something, or were you, because it smells like–”
“Shit! Yes, eggs” he says while hurrying over to the stove “well I was trying at least. Seems to be a little…”
“Over hard” they say in unison.
He stares at her for a long moment, not knowing what his next move should be. She came back for a reason, she must have, right?
“So, where’ve you been, Chloe? I haven’t seen or heard from you in months.”
“I know. Sorry. I had to get away for a bit. You know, clear my head. It’s girl stuff.”
“Well is it clear now?”
“A little…” she walks close to him and whispers in his ear “maybe you could help clear it the rest of the way?”
He pushes the stray hair out of her face and wraps it behind her ear, closes his eyes and brings his lips close to hers. He can taste the last cigarette, the one she smoked while working up the courage to knock on his door, it was his, it didn’t feel right calling it theirs anymore.
“Oh just do it already” she says and she leans into him.
They kiss and disrupt objects all the way to the bed. He throws her down and she quickly turns on top of him just as the lights begin to flicker until they all eventually go out.
“You got a lighter?” she asks as they sit in the darkness.
“Uh” he leans over her and fumbles around the nightstand “here you go.”
She reaches for it “The white ones are bad luck you know.”
“Shit Chloe, you know that’s just some crazy myth…oh, no let me” he says as he cups his hands around her cigarette.
Their eyes meet for the first time since she came back, but only for a second and then she turns away as if she’s not sure what to say.
“You know I don’t need you to coddle me Jason, and to be honest, I don’t want you to, it pisses me off. Jesus just give me the lighter.”
“Ya, sure, fine. It’s yours. If you need one, I mean, feel free to keep it, it’s all yours now.”
“Thanks.” she takes a long drag from the cigarette “What was that by the way, with the lights?”
“Not sure, power surge maybe. It happened so fast.”
They both sit, heads propped up by their pillows. A boundary line of wrinkled sheets between them. The smoke drifts from her face towards the window. Everything stayed quiet. Neither of them moved.
Copyright 2014 Merino