by Jennifer Springsteen
Lucy and Thomas sat in the restaurant across from the theater and discussed the story of the opera. The cast. Thomas thought Lucy loved the opera, and he kept buying tickets and pulling out his gray wool suit and his credit card to get her there. They'd stopped for wine and appetizers ahead of time and found a place at a tall bar table. They nibbled on mushrooms and cheesy bruschetta, wiped their mouths with white cloth napkins. People around rushed to put on their coats, find their umbrellas, and race across the street to get seated. Thomas wished he and Lucy could stay in the dim light of the lounge, order another glass, order figs wrapped in prosciutto. He'd rather be here across from Lucy watching her wide mouth, her long neck, the thin bones that stood out across her chest.
Opera didn’t interest Lucy. People were supposed to like it and cry and Lucy always cried, but she cried over all sorts of things. She wanted to go see something snappy like Oklahoma! Or Hair. She once saw a production of Hair in college where the cast streaked down the aisles dancing to the Age of Aquarius. Lucy was astonished at all the penises knocking against men’s legs and the black fuzz clotted under their belly buttons. The women's breasts circled in shades of brown and pink, pricked excitement.
Thomas and Lucy made it on time to their seats—good seats—both a little flushed from the cool rain and the climb up the marble stairs. Thomas could smell the sweat under Lucy's perfume. He wanted to place his lips on her hairline and feel the damp there. Pull her in with one deep breath.
Lucy liked how Thomas grabbed her hand and took the steps two by two, his cheeks blotched, laughing like a boy. It made her shiver thinking of how free she'd be running down these aisles tonight, her bare feet on the plush theater carpet.
The usher lighted the way to their seats.
Lucy took her scarf from around her neck, placed it carefully on the back of her chair.
“Let me help,” Thomas said as Lucy shrugged out of her sweater.
She stood up again just as the house lights flickered. Felt her nipples against her soft bra. She turned her back to Thomas, swept her hair up from her neck with her hand. With the other she reached between her shoulder blades, pinching at the dress’ zipper.
“What are you doing?” Thomas asked.
“Can you get this?” she asked with her head tilted. Her neck so long.
She hadn’t worn pantyhose and her shoes were already off, toes cool on the concrete.
The sound of applause muffled the zipper’s pull, but it was loud in Thomas’ ear. His hands rested on her shoulders and pulled the dress sleeves down her arms with his caress. It pooled at her feet; she stepped from its circle.
Thomas’ hand trembled on her elbow, holding her steady. She turned to him, her eyes fierce, and stepped naked into the aisle.
Jennifer Springsteen's short stories have been finalists in contests and have been published in literary journals and anthologies. Two were nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Jennifer is the co-founder of PDX Writers, a literary organization offering workshops and editorial services to other writers, and co-founder of Liars’ League PDX (an affiliate of Liars’ League NYC), bringing short stories to actors at a live, local event. In addition to teaching with PDX Writers, Jennifer guest teaches at First Unitarian Church in Portland and the Sitka Center for Arts and Ecology in coastal Otis, Oregon.
In January 2018, Jennifer Springsteen received two grants from the Regional Art and Culture Council in Portland. The project grant was to further research for her novel-in-progress “The Wise Silence”, and a professional development grant allowing her to attend Boston’s Muse & Marketplace Conference this past April. Jennifer is a 2008 recipient of an Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship for fiction and a 2015 summer fellow at Fishtrap Writers Conference in Eastern Oregon.