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January 13, 2014

We Will See When It Gets Warm
By Leesa Cross-Smith

Finding their way through all of that winter clothing was as complicated as trying to land a plane in a hurry, Paul joked. Even the mention of flying made Beth anxious. She focused on getting out of her coat and buttons and buttons and zippers and clasps. Her wool sweater, long, soft-flannel sleeves. Once they got down to it, it was blue-ribbon married sex. As comforting as a whistling teapot, the smell of a hardware store. Cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning.

After, Paul went out for some real food. Their plan was to eat the sushi in their room, in secret. Clean and sneak the empty plastic boxes back home in their flowered luggage so the nice woman who owned the B&B wouldn't be offended. Paul had gone to Whole Foods for spicy tuna and ebi, little packages of electric-green wasabi, slivers of tacky, pickled ginger.
Beth was alone in the room. She eyed Paul's copy of From Russia With Love on the nightstand and picked it up, read a bit. Made sure to put the bookmark exactly where he'd left it. She looked through her suitcase, wondering if she'd packed a ribbon. The woman in the book was in bed naked wearing nothing but a black ribbon around her neck. Maybe she could do that later. Paul loved surprises, especially ones that began or ended with her naked.

He'd been gone for an hour, when it should've taken fifteen minutes. The roads were no doubt freezing over. She called his phone, no answer. She threw on a cardigan and went downstairs, made small talk with Martha, the nice woman who owned the B&B. Martha offered her hot chocolate with marshmallows. Beth took it. Martha pointed towards the glossy magazines fanned in the middle of the coffee table, but Beth didn't feel like reading. She was busy considering life without Paul.
Maybe he'd gotten into an accident, was somewhere dying in the snow, his last gasping breaths smoke-puffing out into the fucking depressing black nothingness of a January night. She checked her phone for the weather, saw it was five degrees. Five. She tried calling Paul again, no answer. Sent him two texts: why is it taking you so long i'm worried about you. it's so cold, i love you.

Beth imagined their boys growing up without a father. How could she ever do this to them? Have them? Bring them into this awful world where their mother or father could die at any moment and leave them alone? She felt the monster of a panic attack gripping her shoulders, opening its mouth to devour her.
She closed her eyes and prayed, sipped her hot chocolate. Walked over to the front windows to look out. Nothing. Just cars sleeping in the parking lot. Just snow and ice.
Martha asked where her husband went. Beth lied and told her he'd gone out for juice.
“Oh he shouldn't have done that. We got plenty of juice here,” Martha said.
“We didn't want to bother you,” Beth said, smiling as much as she could.
“Well, if you want anything else please come down and ask me. It's my job and I enjoy it,” Martha said.
“Thank you. The hot chocolate is really good,” Beth nodded.

She probably wouldn't feel right wearing any bright colors for at least a year after Paul's funeral. No thin, dandelion-yellow vintage summer dresses; no grosgrain carrot orange ribbons in her hair. Grief was a foggy liver-color seen through a glass, darkly.
Beth started to cry but didn't want Martha to see her, so she took her hot chocolate and headed for the stairs. She'd try to call Paul again. If he wasn't back soon she'd call the police, call her mother. Ask someone if she could borrow their car and go looking for him herself.

She heard the bell tinkle against the door and turned to see Paul in his hat, his hefty black jacket and red-laced hiking boots. He smiled up at her, stomped off snow.

Leesa Cross-Smith is a Kentucky girl, a homemaker. She is a co-founder/editor of a literary magazine called WhiskeyPaper. Her work has appeared in places like SmokeLong Quarterly, Juked, Carve Magazine, Word Riot, and Little Fiction, among others.
Find more at LeesaCrossSmith.com

"Siren" by Claire Ibarra © Claire Ibarra 2014

Claire Ibarra is a writer, poet, and photographer residing in Miami, Florida. Her photographs have appeared in numerous journals and magazines, including SmokeLong Quarterly, Blue Fifth Review, Poetics Pinup Revue, and Microw. A series of Claire's photographs is forthcoming in Lummox 2. 
You can see more of her photographs at www.claireibarra.com 

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