June 20, 2021 by The Citron Review
by Sara Cappell Thomason
She’d always thought New Year’s Eve signaled a false changing of the guard. She believed a person could start fresh whenever they wanted. That’s what made the world exciting. The buzz of a manufactured new beginning was boring, and she had a new roommate who seemed the same—a little boring, so when he knocked on her door, handed her a glass of whiskey with two cherries in the bottom, and asked, what’s up? she was surprised. She had found him through a friend, but since he moved in, they had barely spoken a word. Every time she ran into him, he looked like he either came straight from a long meeting—exhausted in a tailored suit, wingtips clomping up the stairs, or directly from the gym—still sweaty in shorts and a tank top, holding a vibrant green drink pulsing with health.
Standing in her doorway wearing Levi’s and a flannel shirt, he became a different kind of stranger, and soon she found herself in a crowded bar, the ball about to drop. When she turned around, he was right there in front of her holding two beers by their necks. In heels, she was almost as tall as him, and he stepped in close until they were nose to nose. She grabbed one of the beers and took a sip. The bar was loud. He spoke into her ear.
“So, this is it,” he said calmly, as if they were returning to a conversation they’d had earlier. “Your only chance to kiss me.”
He moved his head, and there they were again, nose to nose. It was all so brazen and unflinching. She stood there stunned. The ball dropped, and everyone around them cheered, Auld Lang Syne seeping from the speakers in the corner, the crowd beginning its drunken sway. That’s when he reached around her, his hand on the small of her back and pulled her in until she was pressed right up against him. She bent her head slightly and waited for his mouth to cover hers, but instead he moved his head until his lips were back at her ear.
“Okay,” he said. “Let’s go home.”
They rode back listening to the radio in an inexplicable silence, tension building to such a degree that when he went to adjust his rearview mirror, she actually flinched. He looked at her and grinned. When they pulled into the driveway, she was halfway out of the car before he even had it in park—fleeing the scene, but he jogged swiftly past her to open the door, simply said, here, and turned the knob. When she walked in, he reached for her hand and led her up the stairs, back into her own room, shutting the door behind them. He placed his hands on her waist and said, Hey. She narrowed her eyes, but a smile was already forming. He backed her up slowly, until she was pressed against her dresser, Hi, she said. When they kissed a match was lit, fire set to a slick of oil, and that was it. They’ve been together ever since.
But this is not how it will always be.
Seven years from now, she will be eating marshmallow Peeps in her pajamas, about to que up Game of Thrones when he’ll appear, first in his suit walking past her, then in his gym clothes cradling a stuffed duffle bag like an infant, blocking the TV. She will think nothing of it at first. This was a marriage sustained by the silence of separation. And when he returned from a month overseas? After weeks of late nights at the office preparing slides? The heat of collision. But on this night, a bit of dark magic will have trailed in behind him, as revealing as shadow—a quick pinch of the wick. A sudden coldness. The affair will be a thin trail of smoke snaking toward the ceiling. An endless tangle in the fan. And here’s the thing—the interesting part—she will be genuinely surprised.
Sara Cappell Thomason holds an MFA in fiction from Sarah Lawrence College. She was awarded second prize in the Zoetrope: All-Story Short Fiction Contest. Her work has previously appeared in Tin House, SmokeLong Quarterly, Witness Magazine, and Atticus Review, among others. Currently, she lives on Isle of Palms, SC where she is hard at work on a novel about prehistoric monsters.