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Twenty Minutes

Jaime Morelli

It was now four o'clock, and Will realized he'd been sitting in the same position for twenty minutes. Head on his hand, elbow on his knee, hunched over, he was staring at the clock without reading it.

           She strutted everywhere, especially once she started to show. She'd walked like that before, practicing maybe. Her arms made a protective arc.

           Will sat up and his knee shook. Where was her mother? He scratched the spot above his eyebrow. "I can't look." Someone had to get in there.

           Her face was always shiny. She stopped wearing makeup because of the heat, and pulled her hair back so that it swung in tune with her stride. Left, right, left, right. He carried her bag. He didn't want to interrupt that perpetual evenness, the clipping of her flips against her heels. She put a hand on his arm so she could get a tissue from her purse and wipe her forehead. A piece of tissue stuck there and he plucked it off. "Ha, ha," she laughed.

           "You can't smoke in here." He hadn't noticed that he'd pulled out his pack and lighter. He stepped out into the hallway and found a door leading to a parking lot. Here he could watch for the car.

           At home, she liked to wear shirts that displayed her belly. He traced his fingers across an elongated scar. She giggled and put his hand on her breast instead. "They're so heavy," she complained, but smiled when she said it. He moved his hand down to her legs, strong and tanned, muscles defined and untouched by her weight gain. "I'm going to miss this," she told him, her lips wet.

           The door was locked. Unbelievable. He knocked, no one listened. He started around the building, another cigarette for the walk. No cars entered the lot. A fence blocked his progress on one side. He cursed and retraced his steps. An exiting orderly held the door and he found his way back to the waiting area. Still no mother-in-law. He sat down only to decide to get up a minute later to leave another message. Then he remembered -- Florida this week, and he'd left the number at work. He traced a circle around the sectional. It would take at least twenty minutes, and anything could happen in twenty minutes. Just because she hadn't asked for him didn't mean she wouldn't. He scratched above his eyebrow, bringing skin this time.

           She felt like polished marble, like a smooth stone column. She gleamed porcelain in January, but July was gold.

           He checked his watch, compared it to the wall. The silence made his teeth grind.

           These last few nights, in her sleep, she moaned. It woke him. He would watch her for signs of awareness, but she was deep elsewhere, wrapped around the body pillow, every crevice of her body supported. There was so little he was capable of. He would touch her damp cheek, or pull her hair back behind her ears, to see if she needed him. She never woke, just breathed in, out. In the humidity her body glistened. He could just make out the places on the pillow where her arms and legs sweated into the cotton, creating uncast shadows. He wanted to think of something to say, something worth waking her for.

           Someone screamed and it was a sound in the distance, a movie effect, surreal.

           "She's asking for you."

           Will touched the place above his eyebrow. Gingerly. The tip of his finger held a smear of blood. "Yes, I'm here," he said.

About the Author (click here) © 2003 Jaime Morelli, all rights reserved
 appears here by permission

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