Saturday, 5 October 2013

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Thirteen: Scorched

We stopped by a friend's birthday party last night, early and on our way out of town. I'd wanted to give her a hug at least and wish her well, even though we couldn't stay. Themed Dirty Thirties, it was bound to be an event to remember, complete with martini bar and sushi appetizers. Not to be missed. She met us in the driveway in a dress that fit the part—both sleek and frilled, with feathers in her hair to match, eyes sparkling in the evening light, the soft edges of her hips receding into the warmth of the doorway. On the way up the driveway, Christi said, Who's Sophie again?

Aaaaah...I started. Well, one of my exes, I guess.

Strawberry blonde and glasses? Christi added.

Yup, that's the one.

She made us each a martini while we nibbled at tempura, Billie Holliday's sultry voice smoothing out the wrinkles. There is nothing but ease between us now, thanks mostly to Sophie, but standing in her living room I remembered the Christmas we should have stayed apart and didn't. I thought of how easy it is to be reckless, especially when you think you're trying not to be. We joked about a four foot rule. We kept trying to break up but she was too hopeful and I was too...what? Bored? Drunk? Lonely? It wouldn't have been the first time. She was in love with me and eventually I couldn't stand the guilt of it reaching for my hand every time I rounded a corner towards her or passed her a coffee cup. When I think of us then, I think of Sophie sitting at Traci's kitchen table on Christmas Eve. I was dog-sitting while they were in Montreal visiting Jim's family—Never again, Traci had said when they returned. So much cheese and cream. My god. How do they live like that? I want nothing but broth for a month.

I wouldn't sit. I paced around repositioning salt and pepper shakers and tucking unnecessary condiments away in the fridge. It was probably close to midnight and I was hell-bent on waking up alone on Christmas morning. I've never done that before, I'd told her. By which I meant, I don't have it in me to pretend. Not tonight. Not on Christmas. She sat at the table with her coat on, watching me, waiting, tugging at the scorched red scarf still bundled around her slender neck, trying to decide if she should bowl me over with her passion—which she could have—or just leave quietly through the side door. The tension made me less drunk and more angry. We went for a walk in the snow and held hands. I wanted her to know I loved her as much as I could, but not as much as I should. How do you say that to someone who sees only the possibility of what will surely happen if only—

We sat in the lounge and sipped our martinis. She passed them to us apologetically but without hesitation. I've never actually made a martini, so... We chatted and mingled as she went over the list of preparations that still needed attention: a cheese and cracker tray, a disco ball, her makeup. I looked at her then and I wanted all at once for someone to come to her with their whole heart on a stake and say, take it; take it all. Or maybe that's just the remnants of indiscretion. If only we could go back, all of us. If only we could live a hundred lives with a thousand outcomes and no one ever got left behind. Is there a card for that? Happy Birthday! I wish I'd had the guts to love you properly. You deserved it. Maybe it's enough to know that now, to feel the tender burning in my heart, to say thank you for the drink, to get in the car and drive away.

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