She lay naked on her futon, shivering despite the sticky midday summer air. She felt the tap of hairy knuckles on her bare hipbone and turned her head to see him smiling at her. He rolled onto his side and kissed her tenderly, first on the lips and then on each eyelid, his enervated organ flopping wetly against her thigh. Then he let himself roll back over away from her.
Angie waited patiently until his breathing slowed to the rhythm of sleep before getting up to rinse herself. Then she took a long, hot shower. When she came out of the bathroom, he was sitting, still naked, on the futon, eating a ham sandwich. He ate quietly, discreetly, in dainty bites, holding the saucer close under his chin. He said, between bites, "You know what you need?"
She wrapped her bathrobe tightly around herself. "Huh."
"A TV. There's nothing to do around here." He took a bite, chewed it carefully, swallowed. "Not a fucking thing."
Around a mouthful: "What?"
He finished the sandwich. "You need a TV."
She walked across the studio apartment to the kitchen area. "Why don't you buy me one?"
"You're the one with the job."
She made herself a sandwich. "No, I have two jobs. And I still can't afford a TV."
He walked up behind her, slipped his hands up her thighs, underneath her short robe, and kissed her lightly just beneath her ear. She turned around to face him, paused, took a breath. "Besides, I don't want one."
The old man hollered above the crowd's polite cheer, and after it died down he was the center of attention. The band's frontman grinned and, looking at him, shouted, "You like the blues?"
"Who doesn't want a TV.?"
"I like the quiet."
"You live in fucking Chicago."
"You know what I mean."
His hands slid off of her hips, out from under her robe, and slapped sharply on the counter behind her. She was trapped. He loomed in, inches from her face. "No. I don't. It's weird. You never want what normal people do."
She shrank back, cringing, hating herself for it. "Look, maybe — maybe we can go half on one."
He slid his right hand up her back and behind her head, a smile touching his lips when he felt her flinch.
"Maybe." He kissed her on the forehead. "I love you."
"You, too." He caressed her face. Then he turned around, put on a pair of boxers, and flopped down in the ratty armchair that rounded out her furnishings.
She threw her sandwich away, picked out her clothes for her evening shift at the club, and shut herself in the bathroom to change. She wrapped a black ankle-length skirt around her hips and slid into a fitted black T-shirt, one that still made her feel vaguely sexy despite the way she had come to fill it out in the past year. And he always confirmed it for her — when she left the bathroom, he rose and embraced her. She spun around in his arms, letting his hands — now not even slightly threatening — take in the contours of her body and forgive all of its flaws.
"I love you," she said softly in his ear.
"What time will you be back?" he replied.
"Around three. Same as always."
"I'll miss you til then."
"Yeah?" He nodded. And she slipped out the door before anything more could be said or done between them.
Story Copyright © Chris Jones