After Close

by Brandy Reinke

          

I.

If the clock rolls over to 4 a.m., you will lock the door. You think about going to class, how you need to be up in three hours. He said he’d be here, earlier, when he kept coming by to swipe a rag across the bar in front of you even though he knows not to come that close. His girlfriend watched you, watched him, from the other end of the bar. From your end of the bar, you watched her, watched him, thought mine, and squeezed your glass, hard.

“How was your day?” he said, trying to catch your eye, when she was gone. You turned away, feigned non-interest in his questions, in his voice, in his body, in him. You know the rules. After an endless repetition of “How was your day?” you looked at him and replied “Fine! And how was your day?”

“They found my cousin’s body today,” he said.

“Oh,” you said as an exhale. You briefly closed your eyes and thought: the last body, finally.

 

II.

 

Six weeks ago, his mother, step-father, grandmother, and grandfather were in a car

accident. Only his mother survived. She lost both thumbs. The doctors wondered if she was holding on so tightly to one of the others that the thumbs ripped off. You’ve met her. You know she wasn’t.

Four weeks ago two teenagers shot up another high school. You discussed it with him while you were lying in bed. He was showing you pictures of his mother’s thumb-less hands before her reattachment surgery. He said “I just can’t care,” and tried not to cry. You cried silently after he slept.

Two weeks ago his cousin went kayaking and never returned. He and his uncles dragged the river searching for the body, right after attending his grandfather’s funeral.

III.

Faithfully you play your role in this tragedy and asked from behind the rim of your glass “Are you coming over then?”

“After close,” he replied in a low voice while pulling the tap on the Harp, gazing at another customer.

IV.

You roll over, look at the clock again and are suddenly wide awake, awake to see his

silhouette in the door way. Standing there, he says nothing, gives no explanation. You quickly start in: “Its 4:12 in the morning! Where have you been!?”

“Take off your clothes,” he says in a dark voice. His shoes, then belt buckle hit the floor. Sound muffled, they make a thud against the concrete below the carpet. You feel that thud all the way through to your heart. His shirt next, followed by his jeans. Normally you’d smile to see no underwear but not tonight.

You sit up looking to escape.

V.

But he is there beside you, standing mostly in shadow, fully erect, pulling your shirt up. Off, he pulls your shirt off, and kneels to pull your panties down not caring if he doesn’t complete the act. They remain hooked on your ankle.

VI.

You start shaking when his legs push yours open. “Can I at least get a kiss?” you whisper. He puts his open mouth on yours. You taste a small hit of sweet, cocaine, a weird taste.

When he pulls his mouth away there is no breath left in you. He is pushing inside you. You turn your cheek and press it against his chest. The hair brushes back and forth across your face, not hard enough to leave a burn mark, you hope. You smell the Armani cologne you bought him, try to breathe it in. You can’t get enough of his smell. You struggle to expand your chest underneath his weight.

You feel yourself tear. Tear. Tear. Tear. You suck air in between your teeth. Over and

over he moves. One of your wrists is in his hand. You place the other against the wall to stop against the pounding.

VII.

He rolls away from you, off of you, out of you, onto his stomach. With a long exhale, he faces the wall. “Just don’t touch me,” he whispers, “please don’t touch me.”

You know how he feels.

VIII.

The line of light from the bathroom splits his back and left shoulder and your right foot, leaving the rest of your bodies in shadow. You use the light to watch him as he sleeps. You are so cold. You clench your teeth to keep them from chattering. You leave your hand next to his side to feel the heat coming off of him.

 

IX.

He is awake and in your shower. You lay under the sheet breathing shallow, trying to

make yourself as flat as possible. You want to take a shower but don’t want to stand up. You don’t want to see the blood you feel leaking from your body. You don’t want to stand and be crushed under the weight of what just happened.

X.

He comes into the bedroom wearing your purple striped towel. He sings to you as he

dresses. “I’ve got to get home. The girl will wonder where I am and I need to feed the dog,” he says leaning down to kiss your forehead, his hand cradling your cheek. “Okay. When will I see you again?” you ask, lying flatter than ever before. He gives you the usual reply: “After close.”

By day, Brandy Reinke is  a nonprofit accountant working in Phoenix, AZ. Brandy has been published in the Red Rock Review, HCE Review, and short-listed by the Fish Anthology. Ms. Reinke is working on two short story collections started via the Book Project at the Lighthouse Writer's Workshop in Denver, CO. Reinke is also a long-time member of the writing community in Phoenix, AZ and helped start the literary magazine, Four Chambers Press.

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October 2018

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