My hands are cold. I notice this as I shake hands with her fiancé, whose meaty grip seems incomparably warm. Cold, and almost trembling as I take her coat, his coat, and hang them one after the other in the closet. This while Tina brings them into the living room.
This coat is the same one she wore last winter. The same one tossed casually over a chair as I gave her a backrub through her sweater. And through her turtleneck. No cold hands then as I pressed them to her naked flesh.
A cup of tea might help. I hear their easy conversation from the living room. I go into the kitchen and turn on the burner with the kettle on it. She and Tina have enough to talk about so I can hide for a moment without being awkward.
I pace, the water heats, and John tells some joke or another. The laughter of the two women is lyrical.
I go into the room and give again my hellos. She and John smile warmly at me. I am more well-loved than I would like. I give her only the barest glance, and then I sit down squeezing up next to Tina and kiss her on the cheek. Tina leans against my shoulder and John begins to tell a story that I would ordinarily be interested in.
My lips start to mouth "excuse me," then stop, then wait a few minutes more. Tina has to finish dinner preparations, so she goes into the kitchen. Finally the kettle boils shrilly and I must say "excuse me." A pause. "Would you like some tea?" I ask. Neither of them would, so I go into the kitchen and leave her and John to amuse themselves.
The kitchen is full of Tina's thinking. It's not good thinking. I take the kettle off the burner and the whistle stops, and in that sudden quiet Tina says "Do you still love me?"
Still. What a word. For three long seconds, my silence answers no. But then I say yes, of course I still love you with all my heart, and I enfold her in a hug that convinces us both.
"Give it!" She tried grabbing the marker out of my hands but it was no use.
I fell onto my back. She fell on top of me. (in a way I found quite nice) This from a girl whom I could barely give a backrub to a week ago.
John came back into the room with a cup of tea. He grinned faintly at the two of us. He sat back down on the floor at his place next to the game board.
"She cheats," I said to him happily. She hung on my shoulder, thwarted. "I won the magic marker fair and square," I continued.
Graceful in defeat, she said "oh go ahead." I took the cap off the marker. She leaned forward and I drew a few freckles and cat-whiskers on her face. It was quite cute. The dots were where I wanted my lips to be.
The game went on. It was sometimes quiet, sometimes
lively. In between turns, I could feel my silence smiling back at me.