J. Michael Keith
I see her on the holidays.
Tonight she glides past the blinking tree, making it invisible. She's got dark silky hair, a thin feisty figure, and she's still sprouting a nice collection of freckles on those cheeks.
She's my friend's wife.
Each year, each occasion— Christmas, Easter, Labor Day— we meet along with our spouses and children and friends. But no one knows what we do. Don't get me wrong; the others are there. They can listen, but not hear us. They can look, but not see us. They are there... but not aware.
And it's not like we sneak away to a back room and rip our clothes off. It's not like I sit close to her on the couch and cop a feel. There's always some distance between us. But that distance, that passion-gap, if you will, simply doesn't exist. Not for us.
As the party wears on, she'll make her way over to talk. And with the right sequence of words, she'll open up to me.
"I drove by your place," I begin. "You sure were pulling hard at those weeds in your flower bed. Must say that you looked a bit frazzled."
Her eyes brighten. "Saw you walking those two white labs of yours," she counters. "You make quite a team, don't you. Exploring all those tree lawns together."
I chuckle, nod slowly. "Saw you in the van a few weeks back, chatting with an officer on Carnegie, just past that stop sign. Did you charm your way out of that conundrum?"
Her face flushes red. "Saw you at Halloween, dressed up like a scarecrow," she says. "I must say, that's a perfect look for you."
Ah, so she thinks I'm afraid. "But I passed out the most delicious candy in town," I say.
Her chest throbs with laughter. The room is getting hot now. I search for the right words to bring her home.
"Did you hear about that eagle?" she asks, kicking back her hair. "The one that got sick and crashed through my neighbor's bedroom window."
She is ready. I can tell. And then it hits me.
"Ahhhh, an illegal," I say with a devilish smile.
Her mouth opens.
I explode with joy as she arches her head back and releases... with uncontrollable, pulsating, laughter.
She looks at me then, a curious look with no barriers, no constraints, and no apologies. She eyes me closely as her face softens. Her look says: was it good for you?
And as always... I slowly nod.
She closes her eyes and takes a long soothing breath. I watch her slowly walk away toward the ladies in the kitchen.
I'm elated and blissful and reborn— yet smug. There's a swagger in my step as I join the men downstairs engulfed in a meaningless bowl game. My best friend brings me another beer and we make cheers. No one has a clue.
I see her on the holidays.
I'd like to see her more.
J. Michael Keith is a writer from Cleveland, Ohio. His story, Party Animals Inc., received an honorable mention from the Ohio Writers Fiction Contest. His novel, The Interwoven, is seeking publication.