My therapist just got back from her engagement. Somewhere tropical maybe, or perhaps a lodge away from the world, campfires and swollen marshmallows that melt on tongues. She blushed when she spoke in our season about it, saying she shouldn’t have told me. Blushing violets and a newfallen snow type of love. I wanted to tell her it never lasts, but maybe that’s why I’m here in the first place. My jaded air, my lilac and black toenails, my enduring cynicism. She’s sitting across from me with eclipsed hued Doc Martens: really expensive but made to look like the laissez faire of skinny jeans. The rain pelting outside, the gray, ivy cobblestone sidewalks that lead to our classrooms being pelted, as if they deserve to be.
She leans forward. “It’s okay to be upset. About what happened.”
I hope she doesn’t see, doesn’t look at my ballet toes turned inward. Just a smidgeon of something on the heel. A beat out of place. I smile a cheshire cat smile. Think of a push, of floral blouses that now have rain gobsmacked on them. How she took from me.
“Your best friend who passed,” she says. “Only yesterday.” Her eyes scan mine, her pen clicks in straight marks. She takes notes even though I’m not saying anything.
You were my first kiss, my stolen vertical alignment. You checked to see if I had scoliosis, line by line. You told me my vertebrae, all jutted and swanlike, looked pretty. I’d laughed and ignored you. Or, I pretended to. Then we unpearled our blouses. Left them on the floor for someone else to fold and put back together. We didn’t want to fold in corners anymore. We blushed our faces peach, the magazines said that was what to do this season.
The week after, you smile and sneer at me, while wearing all red: toes, to lipstick, to newly dyed strawberry.
You snicker with the lacrosse boys, calling me names. Our love never mattered, the ribcages of the autumn trees seemed to pant and thrash against the windows. I bellow your name into my fairy tale plumed pillow.
I told you to meet me at the balcony after that day. The day you wore his navy cardigan sweater. You opened your arms wide, asking me to forgive you. We have to suffer here, or the gated colleges won’t take us. Our futures will be like those trees. Empty, and barren. We have to be perfect.
I took that word, perfection. Lolled it on my tongue like sour lemon drops. The way you folded at the bottom, origami bird you weren’t, was another way to make perfection happen. The rain hadn’t stopped since that night, as if to remind me, perhaps, of you.
I look back at my therapist, the clock, and ask her if she enjoyed her honeymoon. I always know how to get people to spill wide open. She smiles despite herself. “He indulged me. He was kind. I want that for you someday, really.” She places her slightly marled hand on mine. Her cool touch to my clammy, reptilian brain, screaming for me to leave. Do not get close or say anything.
I nod as if I understand. Thinking that I already found my honey in the power of pushing, in the downpour of unfolded love, in the taking away of structures and tightened shoelaces on boots. On the way the rain covered up the red, lapping it up, just like a kitten’s tongue tasting almost-spoiled milk for the very first time.
Leslie Cairns (She/her): Leslie Cairns holds an MA degree in English Rhetoric. She lives in Denver, Colorado. She has upcoming flash, short stories, and poetry in various magazines, including Cerasus Magazine, Coffeezine Mag, Swim Press, Bright Flash Literary Review, Londemere Lit, and others. Twitter: starbucksgirly