By Selena Thomason
Night was falling, but I wasn't home. I was sitting in a smoke-choked bar, soaking up his presence, trying to feel close to him even though we weren't together.
I could see him across the room having dinner with his wife. I tried not to stare. They looked so happy.
Andy only ever complained about her, how she didn't understand him, how she criticized. To hear him tell the story, they were always fighting. Yet, there they were, enjoying a dinner out, laughing, talking. He filled her wine glass for her.
They were flirting. I had to look away, concentrate on my vodka tonic, forget the sight of him reaching for her hand across the table.
The bartender asked me if I’d like another drink. I nodded, but it wasn't another drink I wanted, it was another Andy, my Andy, the one who was happy only with me, understood only by me.
I could hear his laugh from across the room. His wife was laughing too. Sue was her name. She was more beautiful than she had seemed in the picture. He hadn't meant to show it to me; it fell out of his wallet when he was dressing. Andy, Sue, and their two children: The perfect family.
I should have known then, but I'm a little slow. It hurt to realize that Andy loved his wife.
The bartender set my new drink next to the old. I stared at the pair of glasses and wondered if it was possible to love two people. I’ve never been able to. My love is single-minded and obsessive. Clearly, it wasn't the same with Andy.
I heard them heading toward the door. I hoped they wouldn't see me. They passed without incident. In the doorway, Sue shivered. Andy placed his jacket tenderly around her shoulders.
I snapped in that moment. I placed my hand against the cool, wet glass of my new drink and shoved it away as hard as I could. It crashed onto the floor behind the bar. I stammered an apology. I paid my tab and left.
Andy called the next day, but I didn’t pick up. He sent me email, but I left it unread. After a couple weeks, he gave up.
I saw them again, months later, Andy and his wife, and this time Andy saw me. He stopped talking mid-sentence. I turned and walked away.
I was fine. At first, I had dreaded running into him, but, somewhere along the line, I forgot about it. When it happened, there was no desperation, no drama, simply the choosing of another path, an act so instinctive that it couldn't even be called a decision.
Selena Thomason writes mostly science fiction, but sometimes feels called to other forms and genres. She is on the editoral staff of both The Sword Review and Dragons, Knights, and Angels. Selena's previously published works are available at her website.
Photo "Take The Heat" courtesy of Mari Stobie, Zillah, WA.
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