In Country (Short Story) – April 2013


IN COUNTRY

by Thomas Glenroy

~ for Stacey ~


Her vision sharpened as she gazed across the table at his collared lavender pastel shirt. He didn’t have a shirt like that, but it didn’t matter. His face slowly came into focus. He was smiling, as always, his lips curled upwards but relaxed. There was no stubble on his chin or upper lip. He always seemed to have just shaved.

His eyes widened as he started to speak, and she leaned forward. “I love you,” he said, simply, softly. It sounded just like him. He extended his left hand across the table. She noticed that his usually plain gold band was embedded with tiny rubies.

She enveloped his hand in both of hers, sensing its weight and the texture of his skin. She felt the urge to speak but never did. This was a time simply to be with him. Sometimes he spoke but mostly they sat quietly as she studied him. Many times, he would reach out to her. Those were her favorite times.

The restaurant was non-descript, hazy, beige, unlike any place she remembered. Indistinct couples sat at nearby tables, talking too softly to be overheard. Servers milled at the back of the room but never approached the table. Though she detected the faint scent of onions and the yeasty aroma of fresh bread, no food ever approached the table.

His eyes brightened again. “The cats,” he said. “They’re okay.” She felt the urge to laugh at this seemingly trivial information. “You asked about the cats,” he said, and for the moment it made sense.

Sometimes, a few brief moments would pass before the scene darkened. This time was longer than usual. She continued squeezing his hand, hoping it wouldn’t end soon.

His hair was short, the way she liked it, much shorter than the last time. After a while, he leaned back and gently withdrew his hand, still smiling. She sensed the end nearing and increased her focus on his face, his eyes, as the haze intensified.

A shaft of light slanted across the room as she opened her eyes. She realized she had overslept, but reminded herself that it was Friday. Her goats would be uncomfortable, but at least no one would be missing her at the agriculture office.

She rolled over and squinted at her phone on the bedside table. Almost 7:30. He would have finished dinner by now, and would either be going to the gym or working on one of his never-finished projects. Seven months into her assignment, she still found it hard to believe that they were separated literally by half a world, that her morning was his last night, and that they hadn’t seen each other face to face since she deployed. Soon he would visit. She had circled the date on her desk calendar in three different colors.

She pushed the covers down and squirmed into a sitting position. Stretching her arms towards the ceiling, she rolled her neck gingerly as the bedside table rattled. She reached for her phone. It was him. She cradled the phone and heard him breathe. “Good morning, beautiful,” he said.

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