Carmen

She was a bold beauty and a careful madness. A willowy storm filled to the brim with honey-coated words and sensual desire. I had been to hell and back with that girl and I could honestly say that she was nothing but an angel to me with the devil’s charm. The boys in town could brag all day about having her, but we both knew better. I was the only one who gave a damn enough to show her that she was worth more than a Gin Rickey and a pricey night at the motel. I never made myself out to be a hero because of it. I thought it was just common decency to take her away from dirty men and cheap drugs. I didn’t even recognize her at first, what with a few years of disaster taking away the light in her eyes. But sure enough I knew after a few words that it was her; That sweet girl I dated back in high school with her wavy blonde hair and her full red lips. God I missed the sparkle in her eyes. She took a few drags off the cigarette I gave her, saying she’d just been working as a waitress and living with a friend in L.A. I should have known better from the darkness under her eyes and the frailty of her frame. I’d come to find out that she was living in her car making money off the next customer that saw her strolling down the boulevard. She thought that was all I wanted at the time.

“Let me guess, you’re here to fall in love with me too huh?” she said, flashing me that Hollywood smile.

“Don’t flatter yourself honey.”

I took her out to dinner a few times. One night we sat in the diner talking until the sun rose. She was going on and on, laughing and smiling at me, reaching over for a playful nudge to my shoulder every now and again. Finally she rested her hands on mine.

“I feel like I could tell you anything.”

She looked at me with such dreamy eyes. There was no faking that look.

“Sweetheart, you know you can,” I said.

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Finding Home

“She’s just so moody you know…”

“So was I.”

I rubbed the handle of my coffee cup as my eyes traced the lines of the wooden table. He sighed again as he looked at me. A single breath traveling the lengths of many seasons to finally come to rest. I looked up.

“I know you. You get lost with people and you think you have to look beyond them to fix it. You think that talking to a girl who isn’t moody will make up for it. You’re not a boy anymore, it’s time to stop the games.”

This whole afternoon had become a game. From the embrace of our greeting to his eagerness to talk about all the good times we had. What was he trying to remind me of? What did he want?

“I’m not playing games, it’s just I know an ongoing problem when I see it. I feel like she doesn’t even try anymore.”

“Don’t you talk to her about it?”

“Of course I do.”

“Hm.” I pondered taking another drink. His eyes were pleading with me, looking for guidance. I had coddled him for so many years of our friendship. I had dipped sweet words into his heart when I called him mine. I was used to being the wrong one, the “moody” one. He was rarely keen on his own reflection. I wondered when he’d learn.

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Of My Darling

If you could powder up a storm and give it diamonds you’d call it Emily. Who but me would know that her hair was once untucked beneath the Midwest sun and that her breaths were girlish laughter instead of sultry sighs? It had escaped me then but her outer glow was the trophy of New York, at least to those blessed enough to kiss her hand and get tipsy on her conversation. I don’t think she’s ever fluttered her lashes so much or pouted those rosy lips until she danced across marble floors and broken hearts. And God how tempting she was, how seductively slender and impossibly charming that girl could be. Most would assume that shame had left her after girlhood, but I should know better. Beyond the champagne nights and glittering jewels was the home we had to come back to. The home where those heels fell messily on the floor as she whined drunkenly for her towel to wipe off her sultry mask. “What a darling wife!” they’d say, “You’ve got the best looking girl this side of Manhattan!”. Nobody knows that Emily has freckles or dying eyes or sickly breath. They don’t know that she can only stand to make love when she’s tipsy or that her face was actually more beautiful back in Iowa than under the chandeliers in Paris on our honeymoon. Nobody knows that she’s shattered as many wine glasses as she has hearts or that her only talents are for petty conversation and making the world believe she’s anything but a pretty face.

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