Chumming the Waters
It’s become a ritual to clean the bedroom after they’ve fooled around, although he’s never thought to ask why. After playing along a few too many times, it felt tacky to start asking. She’s particularly obsessive when it comes to fingerprints, which she scrubs and wipes away from every surface, shoulders tense like she hasn’t been touched in months.
She’s bristling tonight. She goes over the small table next to the bed with particular fervor, yellow rubber gloves nearly reaching her elbows, exaggerating her frantic movements, and he can’t help but chuckle. He leans back against the dresser to light the cigarette he knows he shouldn’t even think about smoking.
It’s not the smell of smoke that catches her attention, but the hand he flattens on the dresser to steady his exaggeratedly casual pose.
“Get your hand off that, I just cleaned it,” she orders before returning to her chore, distracted for a moment, but waiting. When she looks back up, he’s placed the other hand down.
“Clean it again.” The cigarette stuck between his lips bobs with each word and she watches the glowing end with a scowl.
“I’ve been doing all the work. You clean it.”
Silence fills the space between them as she turns her attention back to the paper towel in hand. Smoking with no hands is actually a bit of a challenge, he’s finding, but he doesn’t budge. It’s childish and he knows it; he’s just not sure he has it in him to care.
He’s about to say so when suddenly she’s on him, closing the space between them with a few quick strides, the mirror behind him rattling as she shoves him back.
That’s when she hits him, open palm connecting with the right side of his face. The cigarette flies, sizzles, bouncing down the front of his shirt in a trail of startled sparks before falling onto the crumbling carpet.
“Stop fucking around,” she says calmly. “And pick that up before it burns a hole.”
Momentarily stunned, he looks down into her eyes and sees nothing but black. The black eyes of a shark smelling blood, of a tiger staring down its prey. The hum of the muted television in the corner is a sudden roaring in his ears, but she doesn’t wait for a response. She leaves his personal space as swiftly as she had invaded it, and the air is cold in her wake. All he can do is peel his hands from the dresser, swallowing around the surprise and arousal that’s suddenly dried his mouth to silence.
She hates when he smokes, but he likes it when she slaps him, so from that point on he makes sure to keep a pack on him at all times, the shape of it defiantly taut in the front pocket of his shirt.
About the author:
Jess Gonzalez is a Texas-born Jersey girl who makes a living building websites and peddling books to the masses. When she’s not busy entertaining delusions of Sorkin-level grandeur, she spends her free time volunteering at film festivals and learning complex programming languages for fun. She can be found here.