They had tended to a love of ten years and now lay in parallel under a quiet roof, watching a night storm crawl towards them over a circuit board of cityscape. From the bottle between them he poured a glass for her and then for himself. A friendly breeze went for a turn in their yard all alone.

“How close are you to me?” she said.

She took a bit of wine and swirled it in her mouth. Each day she found new spaces in his mind which unfurled from her playful prodding like a hidden field of shining fruit trees or a dense constellation of orange coals burning alone in a soundless forest. These spaces, she could not hope to explore them all, but there was something good in the trying.

“How can I measure the distance between a thing and itself?” he said.

She liked that, and she smiled, that the moment might linger. When he did not continue, she pressed. “But where do you keep me?”

The man turned to look at the profile of her face. The skin of her forehead stretched down the bridge of her nose and curled inward to meet the crest of her upper lip, like most, for this was the way of faces, but he felt that if hers had done so differently he might never have loved her. As it was, he did love her, but where he kept her he could not say.

“Perhaps I keep you in my blood? In my bones?”

“Not close enough.” She took a bite of his sleeve in her teeth and looked up at him.

“I know,” he said.

She poured her wine into his cup and took it from him, sipping and simpering, staring at him through the distortion of the red-stained glass, a girl with a crush.

“Are you still falling?”

“Oh yes.”

Now the water from the pillows in the sky fell in sleepy sheets. For some time they gave in to the rain’s suggestion and then awoke when a bright rope of lightning whipped the canvas of the black sky. Midnight came and went and the morning hours dawdled by them like children holding hands across the street.

He placed his hand on her stomach.

“Don’t, please.”

She sat up. She turned away. There was a moment and then she lifted the glass and poured the wine out slowly onto her feet. The red rivers flowed through her wiggling toes and soaked into the warm brick beneath. He propped himself up and stared at the back of her neck. He always felt that was where she kept her goodness. And his, too. In her neck.

“He was our blood. He was our bones.” She whispered.

“I know.”

“Where do we keep him?”

“I don’t know.”

He moved and sat beside her, filling the glass anew from the bottle. Then he lifted her in his arms and stuck her feet out from under the porch, letting the rain wash them clean.

Zetetic separator

—Derek Baril studies Creative Writing and English Literature at the University of Arizona. As a native Tucsonan, he finds Mexican food to be on par with oxygen in terms of substances he needs in order to survive. He has been known to write poetry and short stories on occasion and has even gone so far as to threaten his parents with the idea of becoming a writer.

This is the fourth of five installments from this collection. Click on the author’s name above to see the others.

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