Joseph Shults

duplex

She came in through his bedroom window. It was late, a little after two in the morning, and not even the strays were awake. She parted the quilt he was using as a curtain and for a moment you could see the shadows the branches of the oak trees cast along his neighbors’ wall, but then they were gone and she stood alone in the dark of his room.

How many times had she done this?

She sat on the edge of his bed and put her hand on his back and began to rub it. He stirred but didn’t wake. She stood up and undressed and lay down beside him. It was cold in his room. She drew the blanket over herself and lay down facing him, him facing the wall, and thought about the life they could have had if he had been someone else.

“Hank,” she said.

He groaned and rolled over onto his back and she laid her hands on his chest and began running her fingers through the hair that grew there.

“Is it okay if I sleep here?” She said.

“Yes,” he said.

In the beginning he had talked to her about a lot of things. Now he mainly said yes or no.

There were drawings of him in her notebooks and on her canvases, and in most of them he was sleeping, and when she looked at them she felt as close to him as she did now. “Did I wake you?”

“Yes,” he said.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“It’s okay,” he said.

“Quiet man,” she said.

He laughed.

She ran her hands around his neck and through his hair, across his ribs and along his thighs. He trembled when she did, though he didn’t speak.

“I wish I could show you what you do to me,” she said.

“Why?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” she said.

He sat up in bed and leaned over her to open the window and lit a cigarette. He offered her one and lit it for her and they sat side by side in his bed smoking and ashing into one of his sneakers. She laid her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes.

“Do you think it will ever be any different?” she said.

“Will what be any different?”

“You know,” she said.

He sighed and put the cigarette out on the inside sole of his shoe. “No,” he said. “I don’t think it will ever be any different.”

She nodded and put her cigarette out and took the shoe and sat it beside the bed. She closed the window and lay down beside him.

He ran his fingers along the inside of her thigh. She shivered and grabbed him by the wrist and set his hand aside.

“I can’t sleep with you,” she said.

“Okay,” he said and rolled over to face the wall. It wasn’t long and he was sleeping again.

After a while she got out of bed and dressed and left through the window, only now the sun was rising and the neighborhood was washed out in the pale blue of early morning. She passed by the garden she kept in his front lawn and through the gate of her own property and then into her home, her bedroom, where she undressed and slept alone.

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Joseph Shults was born and raised in Texas. He now lives, works and writes in Richmond, Virginia, with his girlfriend and a three-legged cat. He can be contacted for whatever reason at jshults.writing@gmail.com.

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