Photo by Airstream Inc. on Unsplash

End of the Affair

Excerpt from a chapter of Newspaper Gypsy

He woke up with dawn in the small windows of the trailer when Glenda climbed into bed with him. She snuggled into him tightly. Her cold flesh from walking through the cold morning warmed quickly.

“How did you sleep?” she whispered into his neck.

“Um. I — Okay.”

“Were you warm enough? You feel warm enough.” Her small hands were gentling him like a horse.

“I’m plenty warm,” he said.

“That’s good.” Her lips walked up his neck and across his face and he turned to meet them.

I am not awake, he thought. I am not here. She is not here. She did not sneak out of her parents’ house to bed me in their trailer. This is not happening.

“God I love sleeping with you,” she said against his lips. “Sometimes I think that’s the best part of all, just sleeping safe with someone you love. Do you suppose it would be all right if we just slept together right here, right now?”

“I’m not sure I woke up,” he mumbled.

“Good. Don’t wake up. I could go to sleep so easily here in your arms. Who knows when I’ll ever get another chance?”

Another chance? He left that strictly alone. As young as he was, he understood that he could not handle an on-again, off-again rhythm. Not even for Glenda, though his emotions ached all through him to have her so relaxed and comfortably in his arms again. He felt a kind of nervous dread that she was sneaking up on asking for sex. She had a very direct way about asking when she was in a certain mood and like quicksilver her mood could shift that way in an instant.

He dreaded her asking because he knew he couldn’t do it. He just couldn’t. Maybe Ribbit was right; maybe her leaving him had gelded him with his equivalent of a Jake Barnes war wound. It had not gelded him with the newspaper heiress, but that had been a different kind of thing.

“Are you asleep yet?” she said from under his chin. Her hands drifted slowly lower. Was she exploring, was she curious about the lack of reaction?

“I will be if you will hold still,” he said.

She giggled with delight. “Ah, okay. Then I better hold still.”

He breathed a sigh of relief. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. He thought that probably applied doubly to a woman who had been the first to scorn, though it didn’t sound logical.

She tucked her hands together on his chest and squirmed down into the curve of his arm and laid her head on his shoulder. There’s a song about this, he thought. Probably more than one. Maybe when I hear one of them I will remember this. He listened to her breathing as it evened out and deepened and she was asleep. He didn’t think he would be able to sleep for nervousness, but he did.

Her old man banged on the door a couple hours later.

“Rise and shine in there, breakfast is ready.” He had a laugh in his voice. Buck thought the old man liked him, and clearly doted on his daughter, and maybe he thought everything was going to be all right after all. That thought brought up a lump in Buck’s throat and he felt a sting in the edges of his eyelids.

Glenda stretched lazily. “The best sleep ever. I haven’t slept like that since, well — you know since when. Can I borrow a shirt to put over my nightie to get back inside? I don’t want to scandalize mom.”

“Sure,” Buck said.

He handed her his shirt from the day before. She kissed him once, lightly, and was gone, skipping through the heavy dew on the grass like a teenager in a man’s shirt, nightie and tennis shoes. Sockless in the winter, he noted.

Glenda was very decorous at breakfast. Her dad was smirking like an old goat. Her mom was the gracious Southern host doling out fried eggs and grits and red-eye ham with the efficiency of a short-order cook. Breakfast went a lot more quickly than supper had. Glenda made Buck a pot of coffee to fill his road Thermos while he went back to the trailer and freshened up and shaved. They all stood on the porch waving him goodbye, after Glenda dived up on tiptoes and planted one final kiss.

He was still in a daze, still feeling that last kiss, the one that he absolutely knew was the last one ever, a hundred miles later, when another god-damned Florida state trooper got him on the northbound at twenty-five over. The trooper was a smart-ass, and asked him what the hell he was running away from, there were no hurricanes this time of year.

“You just never really know, in Florida,” Buck told him.

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Professional writer, Pacific Northwest. 20 Books: “Sleeping Planet” 1964 to “Venus Mons Iliad” 2018–19. Most on Amazon for sale. Il faut d’abord durer.

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