Dancing Pink RosesDanny Bracco
Later that afternoon, Edna waved Ed in from his garden. He held up the tomatoes and squash to make sure he had pulled enough.
“Looks good,” she shouted.
By the time Ed came into the kitchen she had poured two glasses of wine.
“Wine already? I’m afraid to ask how your first day went.”
“It appears as though Billy and Brian have switched roles this year,” she said, and she buried her face into her hands. She laughed about it now with Ed as she took her first, long sip of chardonnay, but she had almost cried in the car. She hadn’t expected a smooth year—she knew better than that. But she wanted a smooth first day. Billy had already found a group of younger boys to follow him blindly in crafting paper planes and passing rude notes to the older girls in the class.
Ed hugged her from behind. “I’m sorry, honey.”
“It’s okay. I’ll survive. He may not, but I will.” They clinked their wine glasses together. “How was your day? Did you get a chance to look at that woman’s truck?”
He explained that the problem went beyond his capabilities here, and put forth no effort to hide his relief. Edna smiled. She was sorry she had ever told the parents at school that he was still willing to work on local car issues. She had thought his role as househusband would wear on him quickly, and wanted to build in some paid work for him to do, too, never imagining that he would be truly happy working on his garden and around the house ten years later.
As she took another sip of wine, she realized she was still in Ed’s arms. He rubbed the sides of her torso, and her mind left the school day and went back further to her moment alone in the kitchen and to the night before. She hugged him back, and wondered what would happen when they went to bed together tonight.
She told Ed more about her day over dinner, but her mind kept wandering elsewhere. She wondered if Ed had retrieved the underwear he threw out their window. She remembered the look on his face when he did it. He looked like a twenty year old streaking on a dare by his friends, full of energy and without a trace of inhibition. She wanted then to stand up and throw her shirt out the kitchen door, but she remained on the chair, talking about her day. They hadn’t had a night like that in years. She didn’t know what caused it, or what could take it away.
The rest of the evening played out more typically, ending with Ed washing the dishes and passing them to her to dry. She made her way up the stairs to go to bed when she heard the feet stomping behind her. Before she could turn around, Ed swept her up in his arms and rushed up the last few steps and into their bedroom. She burst into a laugh, and thought she even heard herself cheer. Ed was already naked, and he tore through her clothes to free her from them.
Edna woke the next morning feeling even more rejuvenated, knowing it was her that had caused this change. It wasn’t the last night of summer, or a successful car fix, or any other silly cause for celebration she had considered yesterday.
She pulled on her nightgown, still in the same place on the floor from two nights ago, and went to make breakfast again. She wanted to keep this going, whatever this was. She again warmed a plate for him and brought it upstairs. When she woke Ed, she saw the same look in his eyes she’d seen from him the last two nights. He pulled her down to him and tucked her under the sheets. His hands were moving up and down her nightgown at alternating speeds, even going under as he kissed her. He kept the nightgown on her for what felt achingly long—she wanted to be pressed against him without a barrier, no matter how thin. Finally, he pulled the garment over her head and entered her.
Afterward, Edna got ready for work faster than she ever had, washing her whole body with shampoo to save time and putting her makeup on in the car. When she bounced out of the bathroom, Ed was still lying naked in bed, and she found herself desiring him still, and she smiled. She smiled while she kissed him goodbye, smiled while she gathered her school papers and supplies, and continued smiling when Billy and the rest of the students filed into the classroom.
Ed lay in the bed for an hour after Edna left, doing his best not to move, not to let any more of his skin touch the sheets. The breakfast beside him had lost its warmth long ago. He knew he should get up—that he should shower, maybe even change out these sheets. But he couldn’t get up. Dust circled up from the mid-morning wind into his nose and he sneezed—his body jerked further into the sheets, and that was all it took. He leapt out of bed and grabbed the top sheet. He ran to the mirror and saw himself in the sheet again. He tried to remember the shape of it from yesterday morning, pulling it up over one shoulder and letting the other side fall to his waist. Once again, his hairs seemed to pull out of his skin to reach toward the sheet. The itch was incredible.
He pulled the sheet tighter on the side that draped over his shoulder so that the fabric pulled against his still fairly flat stomach, forming a curve between his chest and his hips. He turned his body again to see himself from behind, and maneuvered the sheet to hang just below the small of his back. The itching subsided, but he felt the sheet threatening to drop or shift at any moment. He tip-toed to the dresser beside the mirror, careful to not let the sheet fall. He reached into Edna’s sewing kit atop the dresser and pulled out a handful of safety pins to keep the shape of the sheet on his body. Indiscernible music filled his head, blasting over any other thoughts that might have dared enter his consciousness. He placed one of the pins over the fold at his shoulder, and the others throughout his mid-section to keep the sheet tight around his waist but loose on his chest. Finally, he bent down to grab one side of the sheet that was still scraping the floor, and pinned it to a place high on his thigh. He took a step back to the mirror to see.
The loose material at his chest made it appear as though he had breasts, adding a new dimension to his reflection he had never seen before. His skin celebrated the cotton stretched over its hairs and pores by sending waves of warmth through his stomach and up to his head.
Ed stood rubbing the sheet curving tightly around his body until he could no longer ignore his stomach’s plea for food. He then carefully unpinned his sheet and placed each safety pin back into the sewing kit. As he stepped out of the sheet, a rogue and opened safety pin scraped against his thigh, as if one of the roses had grown thorns. He plucked it roughly from the sheet and tossed it into the sewing kit.
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