Pure Slush

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The Perfect Equilibrium of Rectangles

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by Guilie Castillo Oriard

 

Guilie Castillo Oriard was first published online by Pure Slush in January 2012, and she was the Featured Author a year later for January 2013. She contributed a late-cycle story for gorge Pure Slush Vol. 4 (her protagonist is the last customer for the evening) and kicked off 2014 A Year in Stories by taking on the first day of every month. Her collection The Miracle of Small Things will be published by Pure Slush's sister press Truth Serum Press in late 2015.

 

Cheryl’s hips sway a tad more under the yellow satin of her dress when she walks away than they did half an hour ago, when I waved her over.

“I thought you were joking,” Darwin says. He’s watching the yellow dress fade into the crowd of tuxedos and glitter.

“She’s young. Witty, smart. She rescues homeless cats—“

“I hate cats.”

A lie, and he knows I know. “She wants kids.”

He raises his tumbler of whiskey to his lower lip but doesn’t drink. He just holds it there. Amber glinting. Ice clinking.

“You wanted kids,” I say.

“I wanted a lot of things.” His left hand grazes my skin just above the very low-cut back of my dress, and I shiver.

Perfection. For the quarter-century I’ve been in love with Darwin, he’s wanted—demanded—perfection, from himself and everyone else. But perfection rarely comes packaged how we expect.

His hand moves along the fabric’s edge, so slowly it would take more than a casual glance from a stranger to notice. But the skin he’s touching is on fire. For days and days that whole swathe of skin will feel tender, and—yes, alive.

Sheltered by the glass tumbler, the words he speaks sound brutal. “You really want me to find someone else?”

I smile and nod at familiar faces passing us along the stairway. The DJ’s steady beat will mask our conversation; only our faces can give us away. “I’m trying to save us.”

The crowd on the mezzanine shifts as light from the dance floor catches the chrome-plated bannister, and Bora materializes from the shadows. How long has he been watching? He wiggles the fingers of one hand at me, in that childish, slightly awkward way of his that makes me want to curl up on his lap and live there. But he doesn’t smile.

“What if I fall in love with her?”

“That’s the point.”

“You want me to stop loving you?”

“I don’t think you will.”

Darwin studies my profile. “You’re so fucking arrogant.”

Bora has faded back into the mezzanine crowd. Maybe he’s watching, maybe he’s not. Either way, he knows enough. Which makes me bold.

I reach for Darwin’s hand, twine my fingers through his. Surprise and pleasure, maybe a pinch of fear, swirl in his face. “I never stopped loving you. I found the perfect man, the perfect life, and still I never stopped. Why is it arrogance to believe it will be the same for you?”

Love is a maze of mirrors that bears no mapping. No reproducing, no retracing. Is any one image less real, even when it’s multiplied ad infinitum? If one image isn’t real, then none of them are.

“If I—find someone. After… a time. Will you—?”

“I will always be here.”

“But you’ll never leave Bora.”

“Never is a long time. But no, I don’t think so.”

Pride wars with logic. I see it. In so many ways, Darwin has changed so little.

“Triangles are overrated,” I say, and nudge closer to feed from his warmth. “The world demands pairs.”

He wraps his arms around me, throwing caution to the wind. “We’ll be a rectangle, then.” 

 

published 21 February 2015