Those Three Little Words

Those Three Little Words

by Karen Heslop

I’ve gotta tell ya, I said it but I didn’t mean it. How could I? Let’s keep that between us though, alright? I mean there he was looking at me with those sappy-please-don’t-kick-me-kick-me-like-everybody-else puppy dog eyes, silently pleading with me to say it back. Of course the first words that came to my mind was Are you crazy? You’ve known me for like a month for Chrissake! But my mama didn’t raise no blabbermouth.

“Janet,” she used to say, “You take care o’ that tongue o’ yours. Don’t let out nothin’ you can’t take back.”

So I think a lot more than I talk but I gotta tell ya, I almost let those words in my head get out. Even with my tongue just about glued to the roof of my mouth.

We were just sitting there eating our ice cream like every other Sunday and this dude goes and turns it into a big deal. If I know Dave and I’m pretty sure I do, he probably rehearsed saying those three little words a thousand and twenty times before he even picked me up. I wondered how the conversation had gone in his head. Did I tear up, grab his hand and say it back all dramatic like in the movies? Did I just take my ice cream sundae and walk out? Maybe I pretended I didn’t hear him. Kind of like I did for about a minute after he said it. I couldn’t even pretend like my mouth was too full to answer cause we were eating ice cream, not the big thick burgers we had the night before.

But while I’m slowly chewing on the cherry from my sundae, I hear my mama again.

“Janet, we was never meant to be alone but lemme tell you somethin’. You better stick with a man who treats you right and loves you more than you love him.”

She should know too cause she loved my Daddy lots and all that got her was some hospital visits and a cramped little spot in the cemetery across the way when he was done pretending to love her. So I said the three little words back and his face lit up like a kid who’d got a candy jar that ain’t never gonna run outta candy.

All I know is some love type kinda feelings better start growing in me real soon cause if I know Dave and I’m pretty sure I do, he’s got a ring picked out somewhere. And I gotta tell ya, I’ve faked a lotta things in my life but a marriage ain’t gonna be one of ‘em.

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Karen Heslop
Karen Heslop writes from Kingston, Jamaica. Her short stories have been published or are upcoming in a Devolution Z anthology, 101 Words Magazine, Bloodbond Magazine and Bards and Sages Magazine.

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Night of the Living Shed

Night of the Living Shed

by DJ Tyrer

It wasn’t Hallowe’en, but it should’ve been. Hallowe’en is the sort of night such weirdness should occur, not a warm summer’s evening. Equally, had it been a gazebo, I would have found it more believable; I’ve always felt that word should be the name of a monstrosity. But, it wasn’t. It was a shed, and it was a balmy summer’s evening and I was terrified out of my mind.

It all began innocuously enough. I’d offered to help my girlfriend’s father out, for the same reasons young men have made such offers since time immemorial. He’d bought a rundown house he planned to rent out for an income and the garden needed dealing with. You doubtless have seen such overgrown plots filled with chest-high grass and brambles, with the odd shopping trolley concealed amongst the growth. In the hopes of increasing the chance of physical pleasures, I was busy hacking away at it all with a strimmer and had been for some time. I’d uncovered the aforementioned shopping trolley and the shed and had stumbled into a weed-choked fishpond. The garden still looked awful.

As I worked, the full moon rose in the sky and a pallid glow washed over the garden.

I was startled by a sudden wrenching sound and was startled to see the shed tearing itself free from its foundation to stand on a pair of spindly legs that looked like garden hoes. The door flapped open like a misplaced jaw to reveal teeth made of shears. To either side of it, two small windows stared balefully at me.

It began to chase me.

Have you ever been chased by a shed? Of course not. You probably haven’t even been chased by a tiger and that at least, compared to this, would be a mundane occurrence. Well, let me tell you, being chased by a shed is a terrifying, confusing experience. And, when it chases you down a street and people stare at you in surprise, rather embarrassing, too. After all, nobody should be scared of a shed.

But, believe me, it was scary.

Now, I’d abandoned the strimmer and so was quite unarmed. I called the police as I ran, but the moment I shouted that a shed was trying to eat me, they hung up.

What was I to do? What would you do?

Not one of the gawking onlookers moved to assist me.

I was on my own and I was screwed and not in the manner I’d hoped the gardening would lead to.

A bonfire might have done, but you don’t see too many of those these days.

The shed’s door-jaw snapped open and nearly bowled me over; it was right on my heels.
Then, a thought struck me and I ran towards the highway, the shed snapping at me as I went.

I dodged out amongst the traffic. Thank goodness folk drive out to clubs and pubs in the evening! Horns blared and brakes screeched as I leapt around cars. Then, came an almighty, splintering crash as an SUV ploughed into the shed. I felt fragments of wood strike me.

I let out a cry of delight and began to dance for joy: I was safe!

That was when a Ford Fiesta clipped me, putting me here in hospital. But, still, I was safe.

Only…every now and then, I’m certain I hear the click-clack sound of hoe-blade feet on the passage floor outside the ward…

No; it must be my imagination.

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DJ Tyrer
DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing, was short-listed for the 2015 Carillon ‘Let’s Be Absurd’ Fiction Competition, and has been widely published in anthologies and magazines around the world, such as Warlords of the Asteroid Belt (Rogue Planet Press), Strangely Funny II and III  (both Mystery & Horror LLC), Destroy All Robots (Dynatox Ministries), Steam Chronicles (Zimbell House) and Irrational Fears (FTB Press), as well as issues of Tigershark ezine, and also has a novella available on the Kindle, The Yellow House (Dunhams Manor).

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Starter Marriage

Starter Marriage

  by Sharon Frame Gay

“Look,” he says, cupping my chin between his hands like he always does. “This happens all the time, Sarah. Some people call it a Starter Marriage, a Mulligan, a Do-over.” He wipes the single tear that pushes its way down my cheek with his thumb, and I think to myself,  No.  It’s called heartbreak.

James wheels around the apartment, fetching things that belong to him, gifts I have given him, favorite items, dropping them into an old U Haul box. I follow from room to room like a disciple, inhaling his scent, his cologne, committing it to memory, like learning a sad song.

“Why?” I manage to stammer. “Am I not pretty enough? Is it because I cry at those beer commercials with the horses and dogs? I bet it’s my nose. I know you hate the bump in it, and maybe I can get it fixed. Or, maybe because I never liked your alcoholic brother and his bitch of a wife?” I pelt him with words, then, listing my flaws, tossing them like a ping pong ball, hoping he will volley back, give me something to understand, to at least chew on after he’s gone. I am instantly ashamed of myself, draw my arms across my body, hunch over.

He stops abruptly, blowing out through his lips and running his hands through his hair. “Look, it’s nothing in particular. Your nose is fine. You’re pretty and smart and everything great. It’s, well, it’s something I can’t put my finger on. It just is.”

“Just is?” I marvel sarcastically. “Like the way you like mocha lattes, then all of a sudden one day you don’t like them at all?”

He brightens. “Exactly!”

I sit down hard on the sofa, watching his back as he roams through the apartment. “Do you want this lamp?” he asks. I shake my head. “Do you want some of  our wedding pictures?” I venture, and he says no, he doesn’t need any. “Not even one fucking picture?” and my chin trembles, my hands shake a little. He stops, turns towards me, feeling guilty. “Okay, pick out one you think I’ll like, and send it my office.” I nod, knowing that I never will, imagining it going straight to the waste basket, or burned in an ash tray. I pick at the threads of the sofa, furious, hurt.

I feel panic rising, and stand up, pacing, angry and sad and confused and scared, all at the same time. He was enough for me. I was able to look down the corridor of time, year after year, see him standing there when we grew old, his ancient hand reaching out for mine, his eyes, the same brilliant hazel, same boyish grin. Now, I  will have to imagine a ghost, a vapor trail, leaving our tiny apartment and disappearing down the street along with the phantom children he never gave me. In my heartache, I blurt out “Well, can we still be friends at least?”

He grins with relief, reaches down and plants a kiss on the top of my head. “Yes! Friends! That would be great! I still want us to be friends. Always!” I see the wheels turning behind his eyes as he pictures us meeting on sidewalks in the springtime, light rain falling on our clothes, our hair, hugging each other in the middle of the crowd, old friends who stop for a moment to chat, then move on before we are wet with regret.

He takes a step away, then turns back, his smile broad. “Friends it is!” A moment’s silence, then the sound of words testing the waters, hitting the shore like diver birds, crashing upon the rocks. “I think you’ll like Emily. Maybe someday you two can meet.”

There’s no air, I simply think to myself. I cannot breathe. Don’t let him see you cry. Don’t let him know that you never suspected that there was an Emily. Take your last bit of oxygen and get back to the couch.

I am curled in a fetal position under a blanket when he lets himself out, leaving his key on the table with a tinny ping, a last curtain call, as his footsteps fade away down the hall.

Through the haze of tears, I see the empty space where my wedding ring used to be on my finger. The skin is indented, an angry red, slightly bruised.

I realize then that it hadn’t fit in a very long time.

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Sharon Frame Gay
Sharon Frame Gay grew up a child of the highway, playing by the side of the road.  She is an internationally published writer, her work found in many anthologies and online.  She is a Pushcart Prize nominee.

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Life Inside David Cameron’s Head

Life Inside David Cameron’s Head

by Joseph Robert

This is not a political polemic, nor an allegorical satire. No, friends, this is a true story, the like of which aren’t being written down enough these days, for you see, this is a fairy tale. That is, this is Life Inside David Cameron’s Head. So briefed, let us proceed with the public relation of the exportable narrative product…

One upon an election cycle, let’s call it The Year of Our Lord, two thousand and ten, there was a happy, legally married couple who lived in a council flat. They had names of course, but that’s hardly relevant here, although, if desired, the electoral rolls might be consulted, for they did possess a credit score, low but unbroken. However, what is of real import here is that they were makers and doers: a taxed native-born maker of construction equipment deliveries and an untaxed Commonwealth immigrant doer of massages, respectively. These two lived in a magical age of minority government under the pleasant-enough protection of the moderately godly, gaily green family man Prime Minister, David Cameron. He was a handsome Conservative young thing, Eton-educated, Bullingdon-baptized, Radiohead-enamored etc. And, well, the man of the council flat was rather taken with this David Cameron’s rhetoric about benefit cheats and the need for austerity and a sensible immigrant cap, etc., and therefore they voted the Tory ticket, with some reservations.

Now, a few years later, something rather remarkable occurred, something that is not representative of the population as a whole and bugger-all to do with your life, mate, you see, they won a medium-sized jackpot in the Health Lottery. A measly £250 that they drank up in the local boozer with their friends in a single, surprisingly warm and dry winter’s day. How extraordinary! Nevertheless, this is no fairy tale, despite being extremely unlikely, so, perforce, something truly insane had to happen.

Therefore, the very next day, the doer found a proper lottery ticket in one of her client’s pocket trousers. This gilded ticket also won them literally millions of pounds in new taxes to try to avoid paying. Finally! Now they we’re cooking the books with REAL small-fry nouveau riche money, on the scale of tens of millions of pounds.

With their winnings to spend, the maker and doer became subject to unhealthy whims: quitting their jobs (and thus leaving employment); travelling to fragile ecosystems for their own amusement; eating chicken livers at The Fat Duck restaurant; getting plastic surgery; entering into a consultation regarding the possibilities of undergoing private IVF fertility treatment. Oh, these were bad enough, but true decadent indulgence struck when they won laughs from their sycophants over a magnum of champagne and an ironic plate of caviar about a fevered joke that their idle riches would idly make real.

First, they bought a second townhouse, a cute and trendy, top market rate home in a mews in Notting Hill. Second, they talked to a Spanish designer and erstwhile artist, for they were going to do something truly worthwhile to celebrate their fortunate life. Third, they awaited the delivery of the sculpted fiberglass sections which had to be made in Germany and then painted in France. Fourth, they lounged on an exclusive Jamaican beach whilst Polish workmen installed the fiberglass sculpture over the front of their second London home. Fifth, they returned to live for a lark for a week inside David Cameron’s head, the erection of which they had not bothered to seek planning permission for.

The neighboring absentee landlords were aghast when their agents sent them photos of a giant, realistic-looking fiberglass bust of the Prime Minister which had so suddenly sprouted on their street, and which would certainly imperil their properties’ value. It was quite clever though, in its vulgar way; two windows served as the pupils of his eyes while the dryer’s exhaust had been rerouted to billow from his overhanding nostrils. One had to watch their step over the garden-gnome-sized teeth of the lower jaw as they entered the gaping mouth to finally gain access to front door after wiping their feet on a tacky, tongue-shaped doormat. But what was so amazing was the incredible way they had captured David Cameron’s hair. That knighted hairdresser’s work was faithfully recreated over the roof of the house in three dimensions with what looked up close to be a forest of thin plastic tubing.

And so the days passed and the former maker and ex-doer responded to a phone call question of an Evening Standard reporter by affirming that “It’s nice and cozy here, living inside David Cameron’s head.” However, within the fiscal quarter, the former maker and ex-doer ran into severe personal and financial difficulties which all their accountants, solicitors and surgeons combined could not save them from. So FUCK them. I mean, we’re alright. Right, Jack? Look, they got their ring-fenced NHS, they should be grateful, the mugs.

As for the meaningful material matters regarding David Cameron’s head, well, the day the first payment was missed, the bailiffs came and seized everything of value inside. Then they nailed ugly signs like open sores over his cheeks about how you shouldn’t even think of robbing the place. Before long the council came to rip his face off, but it was too late. A pack of squatters had moved in and really trashed the places hiding behind David Cameron’s shuttered eyes. The Metropolitan Police were called. The Council, at last, was free to do its duty.

And so the property developer who refurbished that house on the mews sold it and lived happily ever after until the housing market bubble burst.

The fiberglass sections were disposed of in a manner in accordance with environmental legislation.

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Joseph Robert
Joseph Robert’s fiction has appeared in Kaleidotrope, Farther Stars and Mad Swirl. His poetry has appeared in numerous magazines and in 2015 he was longlisted for the Melita Hume poetry prize. His work has been reviewed in Locus Magazine, SFRevu and Sabotage Magazine. He currently lives in London with his writer and poet wife, Leilanie Stewart.

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The Tanagra

The Tanagra

 by Lorell Hernandez

It amused Monica to think how she had come to marry Arthur, a man she would not normally have given a second look. Now here they were, about to retire to Chile, in all respects a desirable haven, not the least being its great distance from Philadelphia. “Everything’s done, Arthur, and we’re running out of time.” Monica knew that to deliver the package and make their flight, there was time only for a last check of the empty apartment and a call to the desk for help with the bags.

Arthur gently laid a little figure on the kitchen counter. About ten inches tall, made of terracotta, it was a female form, ancient, rare, and of extraordinary beauty. He mummified it in a length of cashmere, put it in a velvet bag, and encased it in bubble wrap. Thus cushioned, the figurine sank into its wooden box, swallowed by a sea of styrofoam peanuts. He closed the lid, bound the box with packing tape and affixed a letter addressed to Dr. William Walker Hensley, Director, Institute of American Art.

In the cab, Arthur directed the driver to stop at the Institute and then to take them to the airport. Monica saw his hands tremble and his lips quiver slightly. In her best “there, there” manner, she moved close to him and stroked his cheek. “It’s going to be all right. Everything’s going perfectly according to plan.” Her own feelings were a mixture of anticipation–Santiago’s soft, welcoming air, the Andes’ eternal snow–and anxiety about the business at hand. Now, she was newly astounded at the brazenness of what she and her colleagues had done nearly two decades ago.

To look at them then was to see three aging docents, who might have been discussing grandchildren or medical benefits in a corner of the Institute’s café. In fact, they were making an almost absurdly audacious plan.

She could see Sylvia, her steel-gray hair and designer clothes, her jewelry, restrained and real, and those practiced, long-fingered hands that so gracefully put them on and took them off. She was as smart as she looked. “Then we’re in agreement,” she said. “We share the risks and the rewards absolutely equally.”

Monica thought, too, about Patricia. “I’ll need time,” she said, “but I can do it.” She was dumpling round, neatly but boringly dressed in bulky sweaters and too-long skirts. She looked like she’d be most at home rolling out pie crust. But she was not only smarter than she showed–she was also superb ceramist.

Monica, in her fifties at the time, was the youngest–a bit too young in dress and makeup, still flirtatious and always aware of attractive men who might meet her high standards. She was divorced and, unlike the other two who were widowed, thought she might try again, but only if she were to marry up in a significant way. It was Monica who reasoned finally that the simplest plan would be the best, and that their decades-long presence in the museum would place them above suspicion.

These were respected docents, who revered the Institute and were an important part of its life. To them, American masterpieces by artists like Eakins and Sargent, and Homer belonged to the public and on the Institute’s walls. But, as docents will, they played the game of what if–If you could have just one work in the museum, what would it be? There came a time–and an ideal work–when it seemed the fantasy might become a reality.

When the cab reached the Institute of American Art, Arthur got out and mounted the steps to the front entrance. Inside, he approached a smiling, young woman who greeted him warmly and asked how she might direct him. He handed her the box as tenderly as though it were a newborn. “I am going to ask that you personally place this box in Dr. Hensley’s hands. Is he in now and can you do that?”

“He is,” she answered. “I’ll be glad to bring it to him. Would you like to wait for a response?”

“That’s not necessary, but I will appreciate your attending to it at once.” She rose as he spoke, and he watched her head off on her errand.

Waiting, Monica gave a last look at her beloved Institute, and remembered the long years of illuminating American art–from Colonial to post modern–for audiences young and old. All three loved what they did and did it well. What seemed at first sight like one more dusty marble statue came to life with their words, and they could make skeptical viewers reconsider a stuffed goat with a tire around its middle or a canvas titled “White on White.” They knew the Institute inside out: not only what was on the walls, but what was in the archives, what was coming in or going out, what works the conservator was restoring, what new exhibits the curator was planning. They loved it all and, in particular, they loved one piece beyond all reason.

Commanding the far wall of one of the 19th century galleries was a large painting called Two Beauties by Elgar Hoagland. The subject was a life-size, full-length, formally dressed woman, gazing upon a small figurine, on a table top, seemingly in deep contemplation of its beauty. Called a Tanagra because of its origin site in Greece, the little figure dated from the third century, BC, and was unearthed, with others like it, in the late 1800’s.

Through the fortunate collaboration of a former director of the museum and a highly placed Greek diplomat, a long-term loan of an actual Tanagra had been arranged, enabling the public to see the real thing alongside the painting. Placed on a polished wood column and enclosed in a glass case, she had the grace and charm typical of these figurines. Her clothing was softly draped so as to reveal the contours of her body; she wore a shallow, broad-brimmed sun hat tied beneath her chin and she carried a delicate fan; tiny upturned tips of her shoes showed beneath the folds of her garment. Made of terracotta, she was painted in water color which had faded to soft, matte shades of red, pale orangey pink, reddish purple, and a hint of blue. She emitted an aura of serenity, and her downcast eyes and quiet expression suggested a gentle knowingness. She embodied beauty in a way that spoke to the very souls of the three conspirators.

They knew everything that could be known about the figure. Patricia, in particular, had learned every detail about the process of its creation, from the components of the clay to the molding, the firing, and the painting, how it was applied and how it aged. After weeks of skillful experimentation with materials and process, she produced her stunningly accurate replica of the original. When she said, “I’m satisfied,” Monica and Sylvia agreed she had performed a miracle. Now they had to wait for the right moment.

The exact location and task of each of them was determined. Sylvia would make the actual exchange, replacing the authentic figure with the copy, and Patricia would be the roving look-out. Monica was the obvious choice to distract the backdoor guard, since the sight of her reduced him to a stammering, blushing, clearly love-struck state. She, for her part, paid him no attention, other than to have noted that he was a nice guy whose close-fitting security uniform revealed a great build.

On a certain evening, they made necessary explanations about having to tend to some after hours docent business, a not uncommon occurrence for docent committee members. That day, Marcella, the conservator, had removed the Tanagra from its vitrine and carried it to her lab for its periodic head to toe inspection. This also allowed access to its housing for cleaning and inspecting. The Tanagra would remain there for one night.

The Institute closed in its usual manner, its imposing iron gate pulled across the front entrance. This left only one means of entrance: the rear door of the building–which could be opened only by a guard in a glass-enclosed, camera-filled office just inside the door.

Sylvia, dressed in black, moved warily on the second floor of the two-story building, staying close to the walls, and entered the conservation studio. From her over-size designer bag, she withdrew the copy and quickly put it in the place of the original. She entombed the original in cotton batting, added two used tubes of water color paint and several used brushes, just in case, and nestled all securely in her sturdy bag.

Patricia, meantime, stopped the night gallery guard on his rounds and engaged him in a long stream of chatter. He liked Patricia and they occasionally passed time discussing art, giving him the opportunity to display knowledge he had acquired over the years. “I should go now, Patricia,” he said, heading toward the second floor. “Oh, Ben, what do you think of ‘Abstraction on the Fence’?,” she asked, referring to a show of wooden fences, covered with swirls of primary colors broken up by occasional graffiti. “I’ll stick with what I like,” Ben said, happy to embark on a favorite theme–the foolishness of bothering with art that you can’t make out when there’s so much really good stuff. Patricia kept him on the topic long enough to feel sure that Sylvia had come and gone from the conservation lab.

Downstairs, Monica, poised on a corner of the backdoor guard’s desk, was being her most alluring self. She suggested it couldn’t hurt if they shared the remainder of a bottle of wine left over from a lunch event. He found her distraction an unexpected delight for a time, but out of habit his eyes began to rove over the cameras aligned above, where he could easily have seen Sylvia. At once, Monica swooped down and planted a long, moist kiss on the guard’s lips, which formed an astonished ‘O’ before they relaxed into the moment. “Oh, shame on me, Arthur,” she said, “but, you know, I’ve always wanted to do that.”

A few minutes later, Sylvia and Patricia entered Arthur’s office and said they had finished their work and were ready to leave. They bid a warm goodnight to the beaming guard as he opened the door for them. Not long after that, an ardent courtship began, and not long after that, Monica and Arthur were married.

Over the years, until Sylvia and Patricia died, each regularly had six months of cherished time with the Tanagra. They rationalized that their superior appreciation of its authenticity and beauty, and the fact that no one suffered a known loss, justified the deed. But Monica knew when the time had come to set matters right.

“Oh, look,” Monica shook Arthur awake. The early morning sun shone on the spectacle of the Andes as the plane descended, and they reveled in the sight. Her excitement and happiness were contagious and he felt overwhelmed by his good fortune. But Arthur still, after all these years, had not made up his mind if he would ever tell Monica about that night. Would he tell her that in the midst of their impassioned kiss, his eyes, by training, scanned the cameras and caught sight of a dark figure emerging from the conservation lab? Would he tell her that a powerful, almost instinctive sense overcame his first impulse and told him that it would be best for everyone if he just closed his eyes again?

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Lorell Hernandez
As a long time docent at several art museums, Lorell Hernandez has found them to be a valuable source of story ideas, incorporating the setting, staff, artists, and public to be found there. With that as a start, she has been encouraged by one acceptance and a number of positive personal responses to expand to other areas. Though starting very late in life, she finds story writing a challenging and rewarding experience.

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No and Yes

No and Yes

by Susan Pepper Robbins

Wesley had not seemed angry because Aline said no, she was not interested in lying down on her bed with him and watching television, so he had said in his matter of fact way that he’d be pushing off. It was almost dark and night driving was getting harder. He’d spent a pleasant afternoon with Aline, his friend for many years. They driven over to Appomattox again and gone through the McLean House and re-commented on the ironies of being the house at the beginning and end of the war. They enjoyed going to Appomattox and thinking how Faulkner was right—the past is not dead, not past either. They hoped they had the words right.

Wesley had postponed his cataract surgery again, what his friends—the ones who were still around, and had been so kind when his wife Grace died—had told him about: go in to the doctor, come home, and the next day, he’d be reading the paper without glasses.

Then, Wesley, standing at her door saying again that he’d be pushing off, invited her to come to his wedding. Aline said no, but meant yes, because she went to the wedding a month later, a big church wedding, to see Wesley’s grown up sons acting happy, relieved that their dad would be out of their hair for a few years anyway. Louise was the bride with grown daughters, and they looked relieved too, though not as much as Wesley’s sons.

Wesley asked Aline to dance, but she said no. It was that kind of wedding, with a fancy reception at a country club. Louise was busy checking on the caterers when Wesley asked Aline. When Louise came back from the kitchen, she put her arm in beige lace around Aline’s shoulder and smiled, “Wesley has a problem with the ladies.”

“What do you mean?”

“Moths to a lamp, bees to honey.” Then Louise took Wesley’s hand and led him out on the little dance floor. For a widow in her late sixties, she was on it, holding her lacy arms over her head and waving them, like wild flowers who loved music. Very natural looking. Dance lessons, Aline thought, having heard that dance lessons were replacing casselroles as ways to get new husbands.

Aline wondered if Wesley’d come back to see her, dropping in on a Sunday afternoon, to go for a drive to a battlefield and then for a hamburger. Would he want to come in and ask her to lie down and watch the Ken Burns documentary on the Civil War. This would be after his cataract surgery that Louise had gone with him to have, had driven him to the doctor’s office.

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Susan Pepper Robbins
Susan Pepper Robbins’ novel There Is Nothing Strange comes out this month from Holland House Books in London. Her collection of stories was published in 2014 and her first novel in 1993, when she was fifty, One Way Home. She teaches writing at Hampden-Sydney College and lives in rural Virginia where she grew up.

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