Selection from “Women Float”
The tide begins to pull out and before she can say any other stupid nothing, I pull her into a hug, and a huge wave crashes, spits water around our ankles, recedes, and we hold the embrace. I collect her body in mine. I roll outside myself, trying to heal the confusion I hear in her voice with touch. We crack, envelop each other, and there is a pain in my chest, a sore ache. Mia shakes, from her roots, as we let the waves pass over our toes, and I wait for her to let go of me.
“Win, I’m so scared,” she says.
“Talk to me,” I say.
“Can I talk to you about meconium? And fetal heartbeats?
And my grandma’s recipe for kick-ass chicken dumplings I’m craving?” she asks.
“Yep,” I say. “I can make them for you.”
She squeezes a smile from under her nose, and then it falls. The image of Mia’s stomach pushing out like a seal belly flashes and I want to flee again.
“Honestly, I wanted to be sure. I think I knew if I told you it would be real. I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. We were so dumb. After I told Cedric, he actually cried. Turns out he always wanted kids. We’ve been sort of secretly dating all summer. Just getting to know each other as lovers, sans sangria,”she says.
My heart beats fast because, finally, all I can do is hold her hand, say the words, and hope that she knows how strong she is. My loneliness falls flat at the feet of her crowded space, one baby growing into her life, and an unknown man hovering in the wings, like a rusting anchor. I am lucky to be able to run away. We keep talking and more details leak out, more than I want to know, but she needs to tell me these things. So we walk, arm in arm, back away from the beach, across the railroad tracks and to our houses next door to each other. She walks me to my door, and inside to my living room. I hold it together and play nice. But the charade is hurting my face and I can’t wait to close the door on this day. Forget tea, I need a tall boy of Island Brew Blond and then escape into bed.
Right before she walks out my house and across the driveway, I pull her into a final hug, which she ends by moving her face to mine. I wait for drifts of air on my ear, for a secret whispering. There, instead, she places the softest kiss, her lips lingering on my flushed face. Her lips flatten me, as she steps away.
A casual “See you later, my friend,” ends the moment. Too stunned to speak, I smile and watch her widening hips and thickening arms grow away from me, smaller, towards her home and inside the black door.
How many times have I wished for this? This kiss, which just fell, empty of passion, onto my cheek. I couldn’t have predicted that kiss, this moment, or the absolute satisfaction that I’m left with as Mia walks back to her house without me.
Back inside my house, alone in the dark of my space, I cry deep oceans. For Mia, for Janie wandering, for Aunt Selima, for me stranded, for years spent alone, for too much time lost on the wrong person. As the tears dry up, I fall asleep on my couch, and don’t wake until the end of a very long, dreamless sleep. I wake up disoriented in my living room, walk to the window and look out across my front yard.
Nighttime, the moon rises over the peak of the Chismahoo. The glowing lightbulb peeks over that hill that tacks Carpinteria onto California’s elbow. I stare at the moon for a second and think of my mother again. Where is the postcard? I left it at Mia’s, in her house. Oh, well. There are no secrets anymore. She’ll know
I was there but she won’t care. I toss off my clothes and sleep in my underwear, needing the softness of sheets directly on my skin, even though there is no warmth in my solitary bed. But I sleep best a little cold.
Maureen Foley is a writer and artist who lives on an avocado ranch by the sea in Southern California with her daughter, stepson and husband, writer James Claffey. She is the author of a chapbook of poems, Epileptic. Her writing has appeared in Wired, Caesura, The New York Times, Santa Barbara Magazine, Skanky Possum and elsewhere. She received a Master of Fine Arts in Prose from Naropa University and now teaches creativity, English, writing and more in Santa Barbara County. She is currently working on a new novel and developing a series of illustrations and text for a children’s book.
Beth Couture is an assistant editor with Sundress Publication and the secretary of the board of directors of SAFTA. She is also the fiction editor of Sundress’ newest imprint, Doubleback Books. Her own work can be found in Gargoyle, Drunken Boat, Yalobusha Review, the Thirty Under Thirty anthology from Starcherone Books, Dirty, Dirty from Jaded Ibis Press, and other publications. Her first book, a novella titled Women Born with Fur, is due out in the fall from Jaded Ibis Press. She teaches at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA.