When T. placed another dish and two steak knives below the water in the plugged sink, N. appeared behind her. She hoped he’d stormed out.
“I’m not upset. I took the smelly trash out to the dumpster,” N. said proudly.
T. hoped it was a flirtation when N. placed his chin on her shoulder.
“Before, you said something that I’d like to revisit,” N. said.
His chin was like the wide strap on T.’s old college backpack, now full of heavy sand. She held up a flat palm, all red and sudsy. She directed N. to look at the sink’s still waters.
“I agree,” N. said. “Not even a ripple for the rest of the night. I just need some further clarification.” His chin pressed down for emphasis before lifting.
T. had no clarity left in her.
“I know, but you said a specific thing that I can’t stop thinking about,” N. said.
T. wringed a towel with her wet hands and appealed to him.
“Why would I hurt you?” N. wanted to know. “When you hurt, I hurt even worse. Just stick it out with me.”
Stick it out now meant something completely different to T. than before N. came into her life. T. rushed out of the kitchen, followed closely by N., and down the short hallway. She escaped into the bathroom.
N. knocked politely. “Let me tell you what I’m thinking now.”
T. implored for no more telling her, telling her, telling her.
“Calm yourself. I’ll wait,” N. said through the door.
T. sat on the edge of the tub and pressed her fists against her eyes. She shuffled through the deck in her mind. But honestly, she couldn’t remember anything she had said that needed further clarification; T. said so little. Her family didn’t talk much and never argued. When they got together, the four of them usually ended up in four different rooms of her parents’ house. N.’s family would find a way to trip over each other in the laundry room, loudly debating over the best fabric softener.
One of the decorative bulbs over the sink burned out in an impressive flare. T. stared at the dark space on the track lighting. Next she imagined the two remaining bulbs flashing, one after the other.
When T. walked into the small kitchen, the water in the sink was overcast. She sighed, sensing N. behind her again.
“Let’s go to the couch for a minute.” Before he turned the corner, N. smiled in a way that made T. want to punch his thin lips. This surprised her. She had never had the urge of punching anyone her whole life.
For now, T. slapped down hard on the water. This brought no relief but a wet hem of her blouse. Then she noticed a new cloud forming on the roiling surface, and a tiny red rivulet leaking off the heel of her hand.
T. walked calmly in front of the coffee table. She held out a straight arm at N., her fingers widening, the drops falling faster.
“That needs a bandage,” N. said. He sat on the edge of the couch, already gesturing with his hands. “Now, you weren’t necessarily wrong with what you said.”
Dan Crawley’s stories have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of journals, including CHEAP POP, New World Writing, and New Flash Fiction Review. He teaches creative writing and literature courses in Arizona, and he reads fiction for Little Patuxent Review. More at https://dancrawleywrites.wordpress.com.