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David tripped over his own words. “Kim’s the goalie on the school soccer team. She’s convinced she’ll play in the World Cup one day. Matt’s still fixated with bugs — bees, ants, grasshoppers.”
“Is Kim excited about starting middle school?”
“She was, until she realized that the rest of the soccer team wouldn’t be going to the same school as her.”
“Do you have any pictures?”
David took the phone out, swiping carefully through the pictures he’d taken until he could find one with just the kids in it. He settled on a string of photos he’d taken in their backyard, the kids building snowmen and watching the cardinals and chickadees at the birdfeeder.
“Kim is growing up so fast,” Maryanne said. “And Matt looks just like you.”
For years it was a forgone conclusion that she and David would get married and start a family. She wondered what their kids might have looked like. Their mothers sat around the living room, drinking tea and eating cookies, planning their wedding. But David’s mother died suddenly in his senior year and all her plans went with her.
“He has his mother’s eyes,” David said.
David checked his watch again. It was quarter to three. Sometimes they were lucky to be in the same town at the same time for two or three days in a row. They made love in their motel room with the TV on after a night at the bar. David thought about taking her to the backseat of his car, like he did when they were in high school. He looked at her across the table, sipping her coffee, and longed for the simplicity, the enchanted gravity that brought their bodies together and caused their clothes to fall away.
“Is she doing all right?” Maryanne said. “Allison, I mean.”
“Yeah, she’s fine. She got a promotion about two months ago. She’s the branch manager now.”
“Good for her.”
“I’d like to settle down like that one day.”
Maryanne’s food came. She drowned her pancakes in maple syrup and slapped a glob of ketchup out of the bottle for her sausages. David looked toward the door when he heard the door chimes, as though one of his and his wife’s friends might be wandering around here, in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, at three in the morning. It was a man, dressed like he was on a hunting trip. He blew into his hands and rubbed them together.
Maryanne looked tired, and he noticed how thin she was, how her brown eyes had begun to sink in their orbits. “Have you been sleeping?” he asked.
Maryanne smiled and David’s worries were swept away.
“You’re sweet,” she said. “I’m fine.”
“You look a little haggard yourself.”
“It’s the road,” he sighed. “It’s wearing me down. I’m not as young as I used to be.”
“Look at it this way, you still have all your hair and you haven’t grown fat,” Maryanne said. “That gives you a leg up on half the alumni Facebook group.”
David chuckled. It was funny how football-star muscle turned to fat, how golden blond hair that all the girls loved could fall out at age thirty. The junior varsity quarterback had turned into the uncle you only remember from old Polaroid photographs.
“You’re still the best-looking one,” she added.
That was her exact thought when she laid eyes on David again, years after his mother’s death and his father’s slow spiral into alcoholism. Their reunion wasn’t planned, it was just happenstance. The odds were astronomically against the two of them staying at Crosby’s Motor Inn in Apopka, Florida, miles away from the towns either of them called home. David had been married only two years then, Allison was pregnant with Kim, and David still called home two or three times a day when he was out on the road.
Then when he saw Maryanne sitting at the edge of the swimming pool, kicking her feet in the water, he thought he was dreaming. Then he thought he was mistaken as he saw the tattoo of feathered wings that stretched across her back. But it was her, in the flesh, and his phone calls home grew shorter as he met Maryanne for dinner and took her for drives down to the lake in the rental car. Maryanne saw the wedding band on David’s finger and didn’t ask about it until their last night together.
“I don’t know what I can say, I love her, I know I do. She was there for me...” David spoke as if to an audience on the other side of the dark motel room. The TV on the dresser was barely visible. Motorcycles tore up the highway. The sound of frogs filtered through the window screen.