She presses her cheek up against the oak-colored hotel door, and watches him through the glass eye.
You are beautiful.
The unwelcome thought stuns her and she backs away abruptly, bumping into the side of a writing desk situated improbably in the kitchenette area of the hotel room. The kitchenette and the writing table seem at odds, canceling each other out. No one is likely to write here. Nor eat here. She rubs the side of her leg that collided noisily with the desk and wonders if he heard her through the door. She imagines what he’s thinking as he stands there in the hallway listening to the muffled noises she’s making inside the rented room.
Did I scare you?
She tilts forward and sees him on the other side of the door.
He’s shifted several times and doesn’t seem to know which foot he wants to lean on. He’s still standing in front of the door, but he hasn’t knocked. There’s a rhythmic pulse beating relentlessly in her ears, but nevertheless, she’s sure she would have heard a knocking.
You look nervous.
He’s wearing a dark suit, and he’s strikingly tall. His face is turned to the side so she can see his profile and his symmetrical features are more haiku than sonnet and he is smiling, slowly and happily. He is waiting, patiently. All of these things alone would make him attractive, but together they combine into a formula that renders her speechless.
I want to kiss you.
The desire arrives in her brain and she doesn’t dare reject it. Instead, she imagines what it would be like to kiss this man who is standing in the hallway, his hands resting comfortably at his sides even though he looks otherwise nervous, shifting on his feet. Back and forth. Back and forth.
She pictures those hands on either side of her face while his lips find hers. She can feel his hands in other places too – on her neck, tracing her collarbone, her hipbones, the raised scar across her abdomen that divides her, top from bottom. She touches the scar through her nightgown, pressing hard as if to remember and also to erase it.
There. Right there.
The scar is a souvenir from a car accident in her youth. A missed curfew and a broken heart by a boy whose name she can’t even remember anymore clouded her brain that night. She said yes to a scruffy cowboy driving a pickup truck fueled more by beer than gas on a dark country road, who promised to make her whole again. Everyone said she should be grateful to be alive. They said she was lucky her drunk driver was the only casualty of the accident. She has never once felt lucky, of course. Under the scar is a body shifted and torn apart by guilt and remorse.
I want to forget.
The doctors say there is no medical reason for her infertility now. She points repeatedly to the scar with trembling hands as if it’s a disgusting secret. They shake their heads. They say her long ago injuries have resolved. At her last visit she was so filled with rage at the news that she was “healed,” she hopped off the table in her paper gown and ripped one of the framed medical degrees off the wall smashing it into tiny glass chards on the floor. Then she told the stunned and silent doctor he was lucky she didn’t smash it on his head instead. She’ll need a new doctor now, probably.
I’m right on the edge.
She hates the way James avoids the long, raised, purple scar when they are in bed. As if touching it will acknowledge the chasm of loss and grief that is too deep for either of them to cross.
With her eye pressed hard on the glass, and the man on the other side, her hand dips below her nightgown and reaches underneath. She traces the scar with her fingertip without inhibition for the first time. She is surprised and a little awestruck that this tall man with comfortable resting hands outside her hotel door can inspire a kind of release that has been eluding her for nearly two decades. For eighteen years, eleven months, three weeks, five days, to be exact. It’s not forgetting that she needs, she realizes with a pang. It’s something else, entirely.
I need to remember again.
She watches as he finally lifts his hand from his side and knocks – solidly, confidently, as she knew he would. She backs up into her room just after a pretty blonde woman across the hall opens the door for him and wraps around him in her own doorway. Enveloping him. Welcoming him.
James is awake now, summoning her drowsily with a quiet and firm “come back to bed,” and so she straightens her nightgown and retreats with surrender as she presses on her belly through the thin fabric one last time.
Yes, I’m coming.
Amy Impellizzeri is a reformed corporate litigator, former start-up executive, and award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction. Amy’s novels have won accolades including INDIEFAB Book of the Year awards, National Indie Excellence Awards, and features in Library Journal and Publishers Weekly. Amy is a Tall Poppy Writer, a past President of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, a 2018 Writer-In-Residence at Ms-JD.org, and the 2019 recipient of Ms. JD’s Road Less Traveled Award. She’s a faculty member in Drexel University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program and a frequently invited speaker at writing workshops across the country. Connect at www.amyimpellizzeri.com.