“And Will, how is he?”
“Doing just fine, mom.”
“A proposal in the works? A grandchild, maybe?”
“Not anytime soon, mom.”
“And what abo-”
“Hey, mom, I’ve got work to do, sorry to cut it short,” you bite your thumb, tearing a strip of salted skin down its length.
“Oh, of course sweetheart! I love you!”
“You too, mom. Bye,” you end the call before her inevitable One more thing!
You sigh, shift the pillows under your back and reach for the pack of Marlboros on your table. You light one with a match, pulling deep and watching the blue smoke curl out of your lungs into the air, slowly filling your room.
What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. You don’t necessarily enjoy lying to your mother, and you keep saying you’ll tell her the truth, but the reality is it’s just easier not to. Besides, the cigarette clicks as it exits your mouth, Baltimore is far from Salt Lake. She hasn’t visited since freshman year, when you were still in school and still living in a clean little dorm room just off campus. Five years was more than enough time for all your good habits to be replaced by chain smoking and cheap wine every night.
You’d picked Salt Lake City because it’s what a good Mormon should’ve done, and you realized you were stuck somewhere you detested for the foreseeable future only after breaking up with Will. You still miss him, sometimes, but then you remember that he cried after every orgasm and hated most of your friends. Nothing else should’ve been expected from a BYU boy. You still see him occasionally, on the TV, second row in the Tabernacle Choir.
You couldn’t imaging what your mother would say if she ever set foot in your shitty apartment, cluttered with its candles and incense, rocks, crystals and books filled with artistic portraits of naked women.
Being able to hold down a steady job is still a relief, and it pays well, a perfectly boring position that is suitable for saving money. Saving money, specifically, to buy a car and drive yourself out of this Mormon hellhole. That’s your daydream when you sit at a desk sending emails for someone else; racing across icy tundras or through the Amazonian rainforest. Maybe you have enough for a car, but you keep saving because your mind shouts coward! on repeat.
You’re lighting a second cigarette when there’s a quiet knock on your door. “You know you don’t have to knock,” you laugh a little. Emily pushes the door open, drowning in an XL BYU Class of 2015 sweatshirt and baggy cut-offs. She pads the short distance from the entrance to your mattress and plucks the cigarette from your fingers. You grab her free hand and pull her to you, her soft body folding easily into your lap. Her long chestnut hair settles wildly on her shoulders.
You pass the cigarette back and forth and watch the world slowing down outside your window. Emily takes the last pull and drops the butt into a half empty glass of water on the floor. The sunset spews gold light onto the accidentally off-white walls.
You brush her curls back and kiss her neck, thinking maybe this is why you’re still here. Not for money or cowardice, but because of her. Because this is the best part of every day, when she crawls into your bed in varying stages of undress and asks what you want for dinner. She’s wonderful. She stays wonderful. She stays.
P.S. None of my “you” characters are the same person, or even related. I’m just enjoying writing in the third person.