by Dan Davis
In the room is a woman. She isn’t Janice, but Janice’s sister, Jill. Right now, Jill is thinking about Janice’s boyfriend, David, whom she has loved only thirty minutes less than Janice. Janice met David at a party, and introduced him to Jill, and Jill fell in love. It happens. No one wants it to, but it does.
The problem isn’t that Janice and David are mismatched; the problem is that they’re too perfectly matched. Janice is tall and dark, her green eyes carefully highlighted by just the right amount of mascara, her lips touched up by just the right amount of gloss. Her shoulders are always visible to the world, even in winter (but then, only indoors). Her legs are sleek but not too thin; she has a runner’s legs, the legs of a woman who uses them. David is broad-shouldered, short blond hair. His neck is thick and strong, and his chest is flat. Jill has seen his abs; they are impressive but not extraordinary. David doesn’t look like a movie star; he looks like the guy movie stars are always trying to be. He looks ex-military, which he isn’t, or like a man who’s very self-conscious about what women think of him, which he probably is. He wears casual t-shirts that cost more than you would think, and jeans designed to highlight his attributes. He wears cologne, something dark and woodsy, and his eyes are the light blue of June skies over cornfields.
He and Jill have had only one conversation of any length. His voice is soft, magnetic; his laughter—he didn’t laugh while talking to her, but she has heard it on other occasions—youthful and energetic. Jill has laughed with him, although it was a private joke between him and Janice. Most things between the two of them are private. Jill does not exist in their world. At the moment, she does not even exist in her own.
Where are they now? She does not know the name of the restaurant, but judging by the dress Janice wore when she left, it is not a place David can easily afford. He is treating her tonight; true, Janice deserves to be treated every night, as do all woman of her beauty, but tonight is special. It is their anniversary. Six months. Jill knows this because it is also her and David’s anniversary. After all, she met him the same night as Janice did.
Jill has no one to acknowledge the occasion, but that is okay; she is used to being self-sufficient. At least, that’s what her parents have always called it. Jill doesn’t have a name for it; it is simply the way she is used to living. If no one is there for you, you must be there for yourself. It is logical. So she lays in bed and stares up at the ceiling, and she holds her hands above her face. The night-light plugged into the wall is waning, but she can still see her hands, the wrinkled skin of her knuckles giving way to a youthful smoothness that will disappear long before Janice’s does. This is natural, in fact preferable; what a cruel world it would be if a woman like Janice lost her beauty before someone like Jill.
Still. That is the probable future, not the definite now. Jill closes her eyes, lowers her hands to her chest. She can feel her heart, beating steadily, gently slowing down. It is like meditation, but isn’t. It is dreaming. It is wanting. “David,” she says, turning the name over, drawing it out into four, five syllables. It feels good on her tongue, comfortable. She says it again. Time slips away from her.
There are footsteps in the hallway. Jill hears but doesn’t react. She listens as the door opens carefully, the creak of the hinges a bare whisper against his name.
He says, “Jill.” He doesn’t draw it out like she does. It is short and direct.
He closes the door behind him. Somewhere, Janice and David are enjoying a meal that costs a month’s paycheck, and other things that cost even more. But right here, right now, David belongs to Jill, and she to him. She says his name again, she doesn’t stop, not even when he does, not even when he is no longer there. She says his name for another hour, until she falls asleep as the sun trudges to duty across the horizon, but he doesn’t return.
Dan Davis was born and raised in Central Illinois. His work has appeared in various online and print journals. You can find him at Dumpster Chicken Music .