Touch

The steam is heavy in the bathroom. Kevin comes in still wearing his wool coat.
“Hey,” he says and closes the door.
I stand naked, my skin soft in the damp heat. “I’m getting ready to take a bath.”
“I won’t keep you long.”
I take his hands and place them on my warm, smooth stomach. “I was hoping you’d stay.”
He looks at me. His scent is heavy. “I’m leaving.”
“Tonight?” I place my hands – palms up – on his cheeks, fingers touching the grooves of his jaw line. I feel his jaw tense and I want the warmth of his skin to surge through me. “It’s our anniversary.”
He takes my hands and holds them at his sides. “I can’t be with you anymore.”
“What?”
The bath water roars. The bubbles skim the surface, milky-pink and smelling of roses.
“I’m through Caroline. We’re not working and it’s best for both of us if this ends.”
I turn off the faucet. The last plinks of water-drops pound in my ears.
“But things are good.”
He looks at me – at the cleft between my upper lip-ridge and nostrils.
“I need something more,” he says. “This is tying me down. You down. We want different things.”
“Do we?” I think of my white dress catching the sun, us painting the living room together, making love last night, our laughter. “Since when?”
He drapes his arms around my waist. He leans in but doesn’t kiss me. He brushes his lips against my chin – my cheeks. His lips move along my face – eyelids – brow line – the ridge of my nose – breathing into my nostrils. He memorizes my face and rests just above my lips.
“I love you,” I say. And I do, in that moment more than any other.
“I love you,” he replies, “but I’m not in love with you. Not anymore.”
I jerk away, bumping into the sink. I hit my hipbone and wince. The hairdryer and brush rattle on the sink stand. I was going to look good tonight.
“Caroline.” Kevin kneels down and rests his forehead against my belly. “You take care of yourself,” he whispers, lightly kissing my belly. But he won’t kiss my lips.
I reach for the hairdryer and slam it against the back of his head. He stumbles and I push him. His wobbly feet slip on the damp tiles and he falls. His head cracks on the lip of the bathtub.
He doesn’t move.
I cry silent, warm tears. I lift him by the arms, his shirtsleeves strain. His head lolls and I push it in the bathtub water. I hold him by the neck and push his head under.
His head wavers under water waves.
I hate him. I feel fooled and unloved and naked. I hate him for making me feel this way.
I sit, putting all of my weight on him.
Underneath the water his eyes flash open – sickly blue and afraid.
I hold him down.

Touch

courtmcdermott

New Hampton, United States

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