She leaned back in the the chair, hoping that if she adhered her body more closely to the upholstery she might just melt into it. Ms. Jones sat and waited, blinking noncommittally at her. The clock on the loud was practically singing it’s minutes.
Banter was her weapon of choice. He didn’t understand what battle he had just gotten himself into. She tossed her hair, “What did you say?”
“You heard me.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t speak whatever primitive language you used just then. Perhaps you could try again?”
The music pulsed around her. She tried to weave her way through the crowd of people who were dancing, crushing up against each other, trying to get closer. She ducked her head and went as fast as she could. She had to get out of there. She had to find a way through. She finally reached the back of the mob.
The weather had turned sweltering overnight. Even in the early hours of the morning, she could feel the weight of the heat as she stepped outside. She closed the door and started down the street, her legs growing heavy in the humidity. “It’s just six blocks. Nothing more.”
“True. That’s true.”
“Um… well, I agree with you.”
“I don’t know. This is hard.”
“It’s not that hard. You just said you agreed, you just said I was right. If it’s true, then there is only one option.”
“Well, that’s not entirely correct. We could always ignore the truth and just do whatever we want.”
“I declare… I declare… Um, what can you declare?”
“Will you just get down from there?”
“No, I haven’t declared anything yet!”
“People are starting to stare.”
“Let them. This is my moment.”
“Just get down.”
The world around her began to crumble as she tried desperately to save herself from the words spilling out of her mouth. “I mean, what I mean, what I MEANT, um, it’s more like…” There was no stopping her and she could see each sentence corner herself further and further into oblivion.
She shifted the piece forward and gently removed her hand. She tried not to grin as he swapped her valiant pawn out for a queen, placing it authoritatively on the board. “Now, we have ourselves a game,” she thought. Her face did not betray her, but as she looked into his eyes across the board, she knew he was thinking the same thing.
She wiped her brow. Looking at the clock, her heart sank. It’s only been 20 minutes? That’s it? She stretched her neck and tried not to cry. She wanted nothing more than her couch and her tea and an arm around her shoulders, protectively.
The house sat, unoccupied, unnoticed, unloved for years. She passed that corner everyday and, though she wished she had been one of those people who looked at things and saw the beauty in them, she most ignored the house as just a general and unavoidable eyesore in her community.
She glanced around the rooms and her heart sank. Everyone in here was pulling out notebooks and pencils and they look eager to learn. Which normally would have been a good sign. But she stared down at her own paper, already full of notes, and realized she had come with a different purpose. She wanted so desperately to be right.
“I can’t take this.”
“Because I won’t ever be able to pay you back.”
“Don’t say that. You will.”
“No, really, I really can’t.”
“It’s better than you starving to death.”
“I’m not starving to death, I will eat when I get home.”
“Eat now. Take this. Buy food. All will be well.”
“Look, don’t be a condescending prick about it.”
She looked across the sea with excitement. “America. Hm.” The name rolled around in her mouth like a sucking candy. It tasted like licorice. “America.” The ship ahead of her suddenly wasn’t so daunting. It was merely a stopping point before “America.”
She rattled the bars. “Hello?”
Nothing. She squinted into the distance. She could outlines of distant object in the blurry light and the sleepiness of her eyes. It looked like…
It was only after she was fully awake that she realized how far she was suspended off the ground.
She felt it, between her ribs, as a dull ache. She turned her head away, but she could still hear the cooing and the laughter from the gathered guests. She started to pick up plates, as an excuse to get away into the kitchen where she could collect her thoughts. She exhaled. Hands on the edge of the sink. Head down.
She felt like a punch had gone right through her gut and left a whole straight through her. “You lied to me.”
“I like to think of it more like ‘I tricked you’? I BESTED you? I thought of something you didn’t think of?”
“I did think of it. That was my idea.”
He shrugged. “He said, she said.”
She held her breath, waiting.
He said nothing.
“Oh my god, say something!”
He shook off the shock and opened his mouth. “Um, wow.”
“Wow? Alright. That’s fine. Wow is an answer. Of course it is. It’s definite. It’s the same as consent or denial. Sure.”
“Hold on for like one second, okay, let me think.”