(for no particular reason, I’m imagining this story in a film-noir voice)


Facade

The morning started like any other. We’d stayed up late despite how early we had to rise; I woke up with my legs entwined with his, as if he was just another sheet to get tangled in after a bad dream. It was still dark out, the sun on a late streak these past few weeks. I swung my legs over the side of the bed, and his hand raised to sleepily stroke my hip. Is it already time? He yawned, rubbed his knuckles on the dip above my tailbone. I looked an impish smile over my shoulder at him then moved out of his reach, heard his hand drop onto the mattress and his breathing deepen again as I walked to the bathroom.

An hour later, bundled against the cold, we sat together in the car — he the driver, I the passenger. When he dropped me off in front of my building, I pushed aside his scarf and kissed him on the lips, then on each cheek, then squeezed his hand as I stood, half in and half out of the car. He smiled with his eyes, mine smiled back. I’ll see you tonight. I said. Can’t wait. He said. He honked twice as I ascended the stairs. I looked an impish smile over my shoulder at him.

At eleven the sun was up, greeting me through my office window. You’re late. I smiled through the tinted glass, rested my chin on my hands for one second. The door creaked and I turned my head slowly to take in my visitor. A coworker. A thud as an inch of paper landed on my desk. You might want to take a look at these. Hands still clasped, lips slightly parted, I looked up. What is it? I asked. Just look. He said, and left.

I was still reading at three as the sun began its descent behind the distant hills. Any other work was futile. Ink had begun to stain the corner of my mouth from my chewed pen. It spread to my cheek like an infected vein. In the same way, I felt the words printed on the thick stack of paper were infecting my life, were creating a stain that could not be erased. Embezzlement. I read. Prison. I read. Con-artist.

At five-thirty, an hour or two after the sun had descended, I descended the stairs from my building, the stack of papers secured in my satchel. He honked twice as I came down, and I bit my lip.

The next morning started like any other. I awoke with my legs entwined in his as if tangled in a sheet after a bad dream. The sun had yet to rise.