Tandem

The lovers were in bed, and the party was over.

A trio of white and blue helium-filled balloons nestled in the shadowed corner above the door frame while a fourth had fallen, its trailer of red ribbon tangled over the back of the chair before her vanity.

The man said, “That one’s gotten old.”

“It’s only deflated.”

“It has stretch marks.”

They lay there like that.

The woman said, “You’re not playing fair.”

The man said she smelled wonderful and burrowed his wide forehead into the curve of her neck.

“It will be limp by morning,” she said. “And the others will be there, higher than it, stronger.” The woman was looking at the balloons shifting on currents above the door frame.

“So?” the man said.

The woman petted the hair behind his ears and told him how awful he was, but he was warm and sleepy and hardly heard her. He was thinking of a girl whose hair spilled across her back in long strands of braided honey. She had been very thin, and he had made fun of her breasts, which were like a boy’s, only tipped with soft, brown nipples. Now he missed her. He thought about not knowing her last name by marriage–he imagined her married–or where she lived, and it seemed odd to him that they had never kissed.

“I should take your head off,” the woman said, kissing him, his head cradled firmly against her swollen chest.

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