Dancing Pink RosesDanny Bracco
While Ed brushed his teeth, Edna opened the medicine cabinet next to him to reach for the aspirin. The cabinet’s mirrored door captured a quick image of their bed before Edna shut it again, but in that moment Ed remembered the sheets. He rubbed his thumb and the side of his finger softly, remembering the feel of the fitted sheet. He pushed his toothbrush over the bottom row of his teeth quickly, spit, and did all he could to not rush into bed.
Edna had lifted their bedroom window open and a warm evening breeze filled their room evenly. A nearly full moon outside cast a milky blue light over the floor, over the bed, and over Edna’s body as she undressed. She laid her summer nightgown on the bed and bent over to pull her pants over her feet so as to not wrinkle the linen. She lifted her white blouse over her head and undid her bra. Her back shone in the moonlight; shadows hugged her lower back, leaving room for the light to hit her hip and the top of her leg. She faced Ed before putting on the nightgown to ask something, but was struck by him watching her.
“What is it, Ed?” she asked, but she already knew. She let the nightgown slide through her grasp onto the floor and crawled slowly onto the bed. “Now you,” she said. Ed continued to look at Edna for a moment. The blue light was caught behind her and Edna’s features dimmed to a curvy silhouette. “Come on,” she cooed.
Ed let out a small laugh. He unzipped his jeans and kicked them off his feet. He pulled his shirt over his head from the back, the way Edna used to love to watch him do. He stood in his Hanes and walked to the bed.
“Those, too,” Edna giggled.
Ed’s hand was close enough to brush against the sheets. His fingers moved swiftly across the cool cotton, and it sent a shiver up his spine. He grinned. He slid his underwear off and jogged to the open window and, looking to Edna, threw his underwear out the window. Edna gasped. Her husband’s body, only slightly altered since the first night she saw him naked, looked like it did on their honeymoon.
They made love two times that night, an endurance feat their marriage hadn’t seen for years. They were intimate regularly—almost routinely—but this night was different. It was young, carnal, hormonal. Ed felt for the sheets as he felt for Edna’s breasts. The small dance in his stomach took over his body and charged him with renewed vigor. They had began under the sheets, then wrapped in the sheets, and finally tangled within the sheets’ layers, but Ed made sure they were never free of them. The soft material, those pink roses—they were always touching him, rubbing against his body, connecting him with Edna. They fell asleep sweaty and intertwined, the top sheet sticking gently to the patches of wet skin on Ed’s body.
The next morning, Edna pulled herself gently out of Ed’s arms to get herself ready for the first day of school, feeling like she had slept far more than four hours. Standing beside the bed she felt her nightgown at her feet. She stepped over it and walked down the stairs to start the coffee in the nude. She realized that, prior to last night, she had unconsciously felt her life shifting to a slower speed, a lower gear, and had thought she was too tired to do anything about it. She hadn’t been unhappy, just not excited. She didn’t know what had changed from the last few years to this warm, bright feeling she now had, but standing naked in her kitchen, she knew it was Ed who brought on the change. She looked down at her body, a body she had grown discouraged and angry with ever since it forbade her from having children, a body that had let her breasts sink and hips widen anyway, and saw something different in the light that poured in from the kitchen window, as if honey coated the entire room. She saw skin that, in spite of her breasts, remained fairly tight and a stomach that had stayed put since her late twenties. She gave herself a small hug and thought of her husband’s lovemaking that had taken place only hours ago, and she knew the gears had shifted again, only finally, welcomingly, they were shifting higher.
She made the coffee, cooked breakfast and tidied up the wine glasses and dessert plates from the night before, delaying the thought of showering and dressing herself up to become a teacher once again. She ate alone in the kitchen, keeping Ed’s portion warmed on the stove. The dark wood chairs were still cold from the hours without sunlight, and her backside tingled with small doses of pain and pleasure when she sat down to eat. When she finished, she made a plate of food for Ed and brought it back up to their room, where he was still sleeping, the sheet wrapped tightly around his body. When she placed a hand on his shoulder, he jerked awake and motioned to get out of the bed.
“No, Ed, stay. Relax. Breakfast in bed. Enjoy your morning. You can have one more day of summer.” She leaned down and kissed his lips, swollen from their hours of kissing just as hers were.
“I love you,” he said.
“I love you, too. Wish me luck.”
Ed knew half the day had already passed by watching the light change on the bedroom walls. The bright yellow from mid-morning had relaxed into something tamer. Ed hadn’t yet found the motivation to get out of the sheets that lay twisted over his body. With every slight turn his body made, the sheets tickled his skin. His skin felt sticky and rough from the layers of sweat that had dried over him. He had been in a state of partial arousal all morning. He thought of staying naked in bed all day, waiting for Edna to come upstairs asking for him so he could pull her into the bed once again.
The bedroom window Edna had left open since last night filled the room with crisp morning air that hadn’t yet warmed up in the early afternoon. Around what was usually his lunch time, Ed was forced to get out of the bed to relieve himself, and he wrapped the sheet around his body as he made his way to the bathroom.
When he walked back toward the bed, he caught a glimpse of himself in the full-length mirror in the corner of their room. He looked again, sure that he would look ridiculous wrapped in this floral sheet. The sheet draped over his body asymmetrically, with only one of his shoulders covered. It dipped on one side all the way to halfway down his hip, exposing the top of his buttocks. He stood frozen in front of the mirror, trying to get himself to move. All he could do was turn to face the mirror straight on, and he studied the shape the sheet had taken against his body. His stomach began dancing again, faster than before. The sheet dangled close to his skin. His body hair, dark and thick on his legs and chest, small and wispy on his back and buttocks, stood straight out, desperately reaching for the sheet where it was just out of reach, sending a universal itch across his skin. He tore the sheet off himself and threw it onto the bed. He felt his skin cool and his hairs relax under the complete force of the sunlight. He showered in cold water.
He had trouble focusing the remainder of the day. A woman who lived a half-mile down the road had brought in her truck the week before for him to look at over the weekend, and he had successfully avoided the task until her phone call that afternoon. He explained that he had been sick over the weekend and was only attending to it now and would call her this evening with an estimate. He opened the hood and stared at the metallic interior. He always felt as though he only knew about cars on a surface level—which was usually enough to get the job done. But he couldn’t put the details he knew into the bigger picture of how a car actually worked. If a five year-old was standing with him and asked how the wire on this side worked with the pipe on that side to make the car go fast, he wouldn’t have known what to say.
He would have known the wire was the high pressure fuel injection line, the pipe was the glow plug harness; he knew how to fix them, what they connected to. He could draw the kid a diagram of a car engine from memory. But how did a car run? He didn’t think he knew.
As he tested for the various common engine faults, his fingers rejected the icy steel of his tools and the rough black parts of the truck’s engine. His mind crept back to the sheet, to the shape the soft material took on his body. Finally, Ed solved the puzzle—a busted cylinder. Fifth on his list of things to check. He was relieved—it was a job he could not do from his own garage. He called the woman, said there would be no charge for his delayed inspection, and gave her his brothers’ contact information and shop address in the city.
Edna would be home soon. He went to the garden to pick tomatoes and more squash. He saw that the flowers growing from the onion plants further bloomed, and darkened in their lavender color. He skipped over the onions as he watered and fertilized the rest of the vegetables. They were a lost cause.
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