* * *
Heart in her throat, she sat on the back of the couch and kept her arms wrapped around the guitar. She had been playing, aching for hours now, callused fingers against fret and string, breath caught, muscles thrumming. He would be home, soon.
She looked toward the kitchen, and out the window above the small counter, that led to the fire escape. The blinds were down, and she could see out–to the night where the stars were lost in a sea of light pollution–because she was in the dark.
Stay away from the windows.
That was the last thing he’d said, before he left. He never looked at her.
She watched the clock numbers change, and she stayed out of the scotch, off of the computer, out of the cupboards, because she couldn’t bear to touch anything, change anything of his.
Because she didn’t know if it was hers, too.
She perched like some overgrown flamingo meant for other waters, other skies, her long legs bent strange, elbows tucked while she held the guitar like a familiar lover, the tumblefall of her riotcolored hair laying past bared shoulders, curls swaying when she turned her head to look from left to right hand, to watch herself play.
Her voice felt small, at first, humming along as she played. She had dropped the pick into the couch some time ago, so she was just using her fingers, biting her lips if a single string cut through the itching buzz to sting her fingertips. Eventually, her voice rose in concert with the sound of the guitar, and she made up words, memories of things that never were, and promises broken before they were ever made.
The hours rolled by. She still had time to make some kind of escape.
Even as he came in the front landing.
Even as he came up the stairs, fishing the keys out of his pocket.
Even as he cursed, fitting the keys into the lock.
She could run. She could get to the window, out the window, fling herself off the fire escape and keep running. She could go, and she’d never have to wonder if it was their scotch, and their couch, and their bed.
She’d never know, but she’d never have to wonder.
She kept singing, because he had already heard that much.
She kept singing, even as he opened the door, and stepped in, and watched her.
She kept singing, even as he came in, and she got down from the back of the couch and went to him.
She kept singing, even as she set the guitar down, and reached for him, the way she never had, the way she had been afraid to, until she decided it didn’t matter if she was afraid.
She kept singing, right up until the instant she covered his mouth with hers.
The last note hung in the stillness of the room, caught and trembling in the first kiss.