This story was originally published on June 2, 2011. The author nominated it for Snake-Oil Cure’s First Short Story Contest.
hen Mark and Julie’s wedding rolled around, no one could remember how long they had been unhappy. While the blissful couple was being toasted and cheered, guests at the front tables whispered about the minefield between the grimacing groomsman and bored bridesmaid across the dining room.
The wedding was only the most recent in a string of disasters. That night, Sally slept on the loveseat in an elaborate origami of limbs and throw pillows, the emerald bridesmaid’s dress in a satiny pool underneath the cat. Tim rubbed his face and shuffled into the bedroom. He stubbed his toe on a box of shoes blocking the path to his side of the room. For a woman who was constantly on the verge of moving out, Sally occupied an absurd amount of space.
Tim sighed and sagged into bed. He kicked his shoes off against the closet door, leaving a black scuffmark on the white paint. His pants and shirt were tossed over the side of the bed; Sally had been wearing his jacket on the drive home; the cat was merrily rolling around the crumpled sleeves, leaving behind a trail of tabby fluff in his wake. The dry cleaners could revive the tuxedo in the morning. Tim studied the framed photos on the nightstand – the trip to Greece when Sally hid behind her favorite Hollywood-sized sunglasses; the New Year’s Eve party when she could taste the resentment in his midnight kiss. His favorite was the one he taped to the underside of his alarm clock. Sally’s 21st birthday dinner, her face lit up by a flock of candles; he swore that if he looked at the photo long enough, he could figure out what she wished for that year. In the decade since that photo was taken, he blew out his own candles wishing for a time machine to go back and make it all right.
The boxes still occupied the bedroom when Tim woke up the next morning. He had heard Sally fishing around for an outfit and squeezed his pillow around his head to block the noise. Vanilla steam seeped around the edges of the bathroom door. Sally emerged from her sugary shower and pounced on the bed, her hair dripping onto Tim’s bare shoulder. He could still catch the faintest boozy vapors in the cloud of perfume. She planted a row of tiny toothpaste kisses up his neck and along his jaw until she reached his lips, where she nibbled gently.
“Baby, wake up.” She cringed at the whiny intonation; it had sounded sexier, coyer, in her head.
Tim rolled over to face her but kept his eyes closed.