Her Gloves, His Hands
She enters the room like a cat, nudging the door open, her legs scissoring, heels clicking on the stone tile. He watches her from the couch, already playing out the evening in his head, ending in the bedroom. His eyes rise along her until he meets her face. Peeling the gloves from her hands, letting them fall on the kitchen counter, with a loud smack.
"I am pregnant."
The visions of a romantic evening crumple like paper in the fist of her statement. They had been going out for a year, enjoying a non-committal/committal relationship. Seeing each other nearly every day, but comfortable with going a day or two without. They were good friends, they were more. Hard as he tries to think of something encouraging to say, his thundering heart clogs his throat.
"Well," her tone pleads for a response, cuts him.
He turns his gaze to the television, studying the game he had been watching. He can remember nothing about it up to this point. Everything is a jumble as his mind turns over the ramifications. He was not looking to get married, that was a life killer. He watched friends slowly fade after being married, until no one saw them any more. throw in having a kid and he might as well...
"Aren't you going to say anything?"
He forces his gaze back in her general direction, but looking at her eyes is painful. He knows she can read his thoughts by the blank stare on his face. He tries to smile, tries to act happy, tries to think of anything he can say.
"Okay. What do you want to do about it?" the words explode from his mouth.
"What do I want to do about? You make it sound like I have the flu, Rick."
I am screwed, is all he can think. There is nothing he can say. Red klaxons flash in his mind, beckoning him to find a life raft. The ship is going down. He sits up, putting his face in his hands. Fire courses through his veins under the heat of her gaze, beads of sweat form at his hair line. He wants to leave, to get out of the room. Go to the store. Walk the streets aimlessly. Get hit by a car. Anything but be here, now.
"I knew it. I knew you were going to be just like this. We can't ignore this rick. We are having a baby. I know this was not in the plan, like there ever was a plan. We need to talk about this," she is moving around the counter, coming toward him.
His skin crawls. Honey barbecue corn chips scratch at the back of Rick's throat, attempting to make their own escape. He tries to breath, wheezing. His lips move, but nothing intelligible emerges, only a guttural moan, drawing her up short a few feet in front of him.
"Fine. I am going back to my place. When you decide to grow up, give me a call," peeking between his fingers he watches her heels retreat across the floor, shuddering at the force with which she slams the door.
'Get up go after her', his conscience screams, refrained by 'Are you crazy.'
He runs to the bathroom, vomiting profusely, then stumbles back into his bedroom, collapsing onto his bed, burying his face in the pillows. How did this happen? She was supposed to be on birth control. This was all her fault. She was trying to trap him. How did I even know it is mine?
His apartment is being dismantled, to make it safe for the kid, the entertainment center, with long glass shelves is replaced by a press board piece of junk from one of those big box retailers, his movies are replaced by sing-a-longs with big colorful animals. His leather couch sags where children have jumped on it, even though they have been told not to. Instead of his stylish button up shirt, he is wearing a spit stained sweatshirt to hide the extra twenty pounds he gained.
The trill of his cell phone ringing shatters the flow of images. Raising his head, Rick realises he must have fallen asleep. The clock says it is mid evening. He looks around looking for the phone, anxious that it may be her. Remembering it is in the kitchen, he leaps off the bed, dashing to catch it before it stops ringing.
Grabbing the phone from the counter, he answers, "Hello?"
"Mr. Calloway, I hope you are having a good evening. My name is..."
Thumbing the button to disconnect the call, he places it back on the counter, "Stupid telemarketers."
Before he knows what he is doing, Rick scrolls to her name in his contacts list, Marissa. He catches his finger as it is lowering on the SEND button. What am I doing? What would I even say? He pushes the phone away from him, sliding it across the counter until it stops against her gloves.
Her gloves, she must have left them. He moves around the counter, taking them in his hands. He is surprised at how warm they are. Soft, empty fingers drape around his hand. Salty air. Boards creak beneath their feet. The first time they ever held hands, after their first date, walking along the pier.
Now a little boy, his small hands engulfed in their own, swings between them. His sandy brown hair dances atop his head. The boy has Rick's eyes, but mostly he is Marissa. Beautiful like Marissa. Rick drops the gloves back to the counter, scrolling once again to find her name, when the phone rings.
"Hello," his voice cracks.
"Hi," her voice takes his breath, "Look, I was upset earlier. I know this is hard for you."
"Please, don't interrupt. This is hard enough for me too. I am not really pregnant. I just wanted to see, if you really loved me. I think I got my answer. Don't ever call me again Rick," the click of her disconnect roars in his ears.
He lowers the phone, staring at it. The little boy waves as he continues down the pier. The gloves stare at Rick, like a wild animal. Their crumpled skin seems to smile, mocking him. The phone clatters to the floor, as he snatches the gloves, squeezing, spinning around the apartment as if he is wrestling with them, until he falls onto the couch. . He howls violently, shuddering. They cling to his hands.
Even though they are far too small, he forces his hands into the mouths of her gloves. Seams stretch, then pop as he pushes harder and harder until they are around his hand. They are mere rags compared to what they once were, but they are there. He laughs the laugh of a man that has lost everything, including his mind.
A strange contentment settles on him as he runs a gloved finger along his cheek, tracing trails of tears. Using the remote, he turns off the television and goes to his room. Curling up on the bed he stares at his gloved hands until drifting off to sleep, where he dreams he is a boxer, in the late rounds of a match. He is beat up pretty bad, can barely see out of one eye. He is losing. He knows he can not win.
Posted over on his site Way Station One
Listed as #96 over on Magpie Tales 46