He hands me a place card, high rag-content, from our glittering table with someone else’s name in calligraphy so elegant I can’t read it without my glasses, and he says, “Pretend this is a hotel room-key for two nights.” He curls my hand around it. We are in a too-red, too-green banquet room for the club’s annual Christmas party, surrounded by too many blistering poinsettias, which I recall are poisonous for cats. A string quartet, thoughtfully in black, is sweltering near a fake open fire, playing soporifically muted Christmas chestnuts. He is a neighbor from two streets over, our children have known each other since their same mean, pre-kindergarten play group, and his law firm is my husband’s fierce competitor. I am wearing my too-red dress with the low-cut back. He is wearing Drakkar Noir—everywhere. I step in very close to him to whisper, “Well, I would have to know time and place, place being a suite in a four-star hotel, time being when we are both going to the same conference, or board meeting, and who brings the wine, or should it be champagne, and thankfully condoms and pills are no longer a question, but does he mind that I always travel with a reading light, and I do wear teeth guards, and does he snore, because I do, I do snore, and…” He unfurls my hand from around the place card. He takes it back.
Pamela Painter’s flash collection is Wouldn’t You Like to Know. Her stories appear in numerous journals, and in the anthologies Sudden Fiction, Flash Fiction, Microfiction, New Micro, Nothing Short of 100, and Best Micro 2020. Her next collection, Fabrications: New and Selected Stories is due out from Johns Hopkins University Press in Fall 2020. She teaches in the Writing, Literature & Publishing Program at Emerson College.
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