A Transient Visitors Teaser Tale by David O’Boyle
Mom begged, so he gave the girl another chance. This time they found firmer footing. She relaxed, dressed less dowdy. He subdued his prejudgments, abandoned trademark rigidity for charm, shared intimacies that males stash away for harder seasons.
In between Netflix binges, the den became her workout studio and her lecture hall. Enemy podcasters that ‘went there’ were blasted away by Taylor Swift on surround sound, forsaken for an extra set of crunches. Showers happened, but not before she hurdled her sweaty body over the couch to be next to him for the last inning, the final drive, or the last few minutes of a silly sitcom.
If it were up to him, it wouldn’t be a holiday, weekend or special occasion sort of thing. Every morning, before she left, he told her so. With actions though, not with words. That is what needed changing. Some things, no matter how glaring, demand verbal declaration.
At dinner the following evening he planned to honor that demand. Italian food, paired with something bubbly to drink, felt occasion-appropriate. When she texted him that she’d pick-up takeout, in line with their typical Friday routine, he had his order ready. Nothing too fancy. Nothing too innovative to draw suspicion. Just slight additions drizzled over the ordinary to prime a good mood.
The cannonade of water droplets sucked up most sound around the shower. But for her wearing heels, the accoutrements of a demanding day job, he would have been oblivious to her entry. Afraid she’d hear his rehearsal, he rushed through his scrubbing, transforming his microphone back into a shampoo bottle. By the time he was out and dressed she had the kitchen table sponged and set.
“Alexis, play Kasey Musgraves,” he said. It wasn’t exactly man music but it was what she liked.
They embraced. A small candle surfaced from his pocket. Below the glass wick was a little black switch. He flicked it aglow, then set it on the table beyond the two slices of pizza awaiting him, steaming like geysers
Both slightly browned on the bottom, thick crust, cheese crisped on top, just right, down to the finest detail…like her. Precise as pincers, she tweezed toppings off his plate with her fingers each time she returned from the other side of the kitchen, a privilege he afforded no other.
“Ice?” she asked, twisting the tray so the cubes of frozen water fell into the wide glass bowl below her with a clang.
He nodded. “And for you, light or dark?” he said with an arm outstretched towards the bottles.
“Light’s good. Careful though. They rolled out of the trunk before.”
He poured her a glass. It bubbled, then fizzed up the flute, then spurted over the slightly tapered opening. White foam fled down the glass and escaped onto the table between the plate and the pizza box.
All that practicing for nothing, he thought to himself. Consumed by frustration, he did not account for history repeating itself with his own beverage.
“Not too much for you, you’ll be bouncing off the walls,” she said.
“Tonight we should be bouncing off the walls,” he said.
“What’s the occasion?”
“Today’s the day I tell you I love you,” he said, extending his glass towards her for a toast, then lowering it to his mouth for a sip of Sprite.
“Aww that’s so sweet. I love you too. Have you ever said that to your other babysitters?”