(Portion of a novel I’ve yet to write.)
I thought he was my fiancé, but as I curl my body to press against him, I realize he’s not wearing a shirt.
Where’s his shirt? It’s freezing.
The frightening thought creeps into my brain that this is not the man I thought it was. Something is wrong, he seems much larger, there’s no shirt, very little chest hair, and the muscles over his stomach are very defined and tight, as opposed to partially defined with a loose layer of skin over them.
My body goes rigid, but just for a moment, then he wraps his arm around my back and inhales deeply once against head. Then, all is quiet. He returns to a steady breathing, a steady rise and fall of the chest, except this time I’m pressed against him.
His hold with that single arm is strong, and I know that there would be no way for me to get away if he decides not to let me. Still, I don’t panic. There’s something familiar about his smell. It isn’t like me to get in bed with a random stranger.
Is this a bed?
No, we’re on a couch. We’d fallen asleep watching a movie or something. I’m in some type of dress. My bare legs move against each other slightly, and the heat rises to my face. It fades just as quickly. I close my eyes.
I was dreaming. It was late at night, like when you wake up while your brain and memories are still sleeping, and you don’t even know who you are.
My fiancé died three years ago.
I remember that now that I’m awake.
I’m alone on the couch now. Wrapped in a blanket. It’s folded over me several times and tucked underneath me so tightly that I feel like a burrito.
Mickey is in the kitchen, and he’s wearing a shirt now. I recognize his dark red hair.
We’re in some type of hotel, and we’d slept on the couch, just as I’d suspected. I glance towards the windows, the massive windows that take up nearly an entire wall and drown the room in light. We’re in France.
“Scrambled?” he asks, already scrambling my eggs. I get up and am actually wearing a men’s shirt. Not a dress. It’s still long enough to cover half my thighs.
I go to the kitchen, and he already has the eggs, sausage, and toast set on the plates. He has fried eggs.
“You know, when I was a little girl, I was so amazed how an egg could be cooked but still have the warm, liquid yolk inside.”
“You’re weird,” Mickey mumbles and grabs both plates. His eyes are honey-colored in this light.
He sets them on the coffee table next to our drinks. Mine is a water and his is coffee. I hadn’t even noticed them.
Everyone talks like Mickey, Jason, and I are siblings, even though everyone knows we’re not. Some people act like Mickey and I are dating – or worse, that we’re married. That’s not true either.
We’re just the adopted heirs of our adopted uncles whose business was shady, if not devilish, but I had yet to figure out how they had so much money. I knew it couldn’t be good if everyone called them the Devil’s Dealers, and traffickers and government agents alike would turn pale at the sound of their names.
Mickey and I eat in silence. I have my book of Proverbs open on the table, and my food in my lap. He has his food on one knee and a Russian version of a Shakespeare work on the other.
He’d told me that’s how he learned other languages.
“I have Shakespeare memorized in English, so it isn’t hard to draw connections between the words and their meanings.”
I’d wrinkled my nose and said, “You have Shakespeare memorized?” not because I thought it was stupid, but because I didn’t believe it.
“Yeah, it’s a play, so it’s not actually that hard to memorize. Most everything rhymes.”
“Oh. Yeah I guess you’re right.”
“Mind if I record that? You saying I’m right?”
Mickey was dangerous. He loved nothing but himself, but his eyes, and his half-smile, and his devilish charm made people desperate to please him. To hold themselves in his attention and do anything to keep him from losing interest.
If Uncle Ron and Uncle Ralph were the Devil’s Dealers, most assumed Mickey was the devil himself.
Jason even said once that Mickey resembled Alexandre Cabanel’s Fallen Angel. We just came from Montpellier yesterday, and we had looked at the painting.
All Mickey had to say was, “My eyes aren’t blue.”
Now we are going to the Louvre.
“Hey, I thought we were going to grab breakfast at a café on the way.”
“Me too. Till you slept in.” He takes a sip of his coffee and peers over at me from behind the cup.
“Why didn’t you wake me up?”
He shrugs. “Jason will be late too. He left at like five this morning because he wanted to go buy ingredients or taste-test stuff.”
Jason was the culinary genius of the three. Mickey was just a genius in his own right, and I was a jack-of-all trades, master of none, type person whose only real talent was being able to survive just about anything.
“Death just doesn’t like you. I don’t know,” had been Mickey’s comment after my appendix burst, and sepsis set in, and I had only been in the hospital for four days. “Don’t ask me to make sense of it.”
I happen to glance at my phone and see where Jason has called twice.
“Hey,” I say standing. “I think Jason’s ready.”
“Alright, I’ll wait on you to get dressed.” He takes another sip of coffee.
He said he’s at some shop just two blocks away if you want to go on. He sent the address, so I can find it.”
“Yeah,” he scoffs. “Not only would you still get lost, but you’d probably get hit by another car too. Just hurry and get ready.”
Photo by Ben Kolde