“How did Leo get his ‘M’ after all?”
Your hands flow over the cat in question, his striped and spotted fur rippling with occasional pleasure at your touch. Firelight has turned you to rusty gold, Leo to dull pewter. I think myself pale and clouded as alabaster, the very stuff of paperweights and ash trays and souvenir chess sets. The kinds of things people bring home from the airport for the people they remember at the last minute. I still have the pen holder you brought me from the Roman dig in York, just last year.
Your office door opens, without warning, with force. Rebounds on its hinges into the far wall and back, just shy of the tiny figure that propelled it. I say tiny only because Shelli makes me feel such a mammoth, lumbering around in a wooly sort of way. Leo makes his feelings clear; he digs in, you wince, and he launches himself into the dark by the edge of your chair, jangling the fire tools in their stand.
“Gil, darling!” Shelli’s bright lips frame the words, she arrows for you. Arms open, coat swinging, all in motion. Rising from your chair, you enfold her, blotting out all but the color and sound of her. I think one of those dead lady poets said it best—the red racing sloop in the harbor, little neck clams out of season. If I understood it, I could despise her even more. Instead, I watch as you break on the rocks that have lured you to her, as much a siren as ever brought a sailor low.
Leo stalks past my ankles, tail lashing, a cat scorned. I sit forward, soothing and smoothing his fur and his feelings. I know better than to try to hold him; his legs would bow out in scrambling resistance, his back stiffening into a curve of rejection. He wants little of me, except the brush of my fingers along his arching spine.
“Is there any of that tea left—the green jasmine?” you ask, not looking away from the woman in your arms.
(to be continued)