Sara by K.M. Fields

In the morning we would sit in the living room listening to the radio and getting high. She worked third shift and I worked second. I didn’t get home until late at night, but I always made a point of getting up when she came home in the morning after my wife left for work.

Sitting on the couch together she would catch me staring at her. She would smile and look away. Sometimes she giggled, and when she did the sound always reminded me of wind chimes in a soft breeze, not that it really sounded that way, of course, but that’s how I thought it should sound and so I remember it that way.

If she became quiet, I asked what she was thinking.

“Nothing,” she would answer.

But to me it always seemed like she had something else drifting just outside the edge of her voice waiting to be said. I understood this.

Sometimes she leaned back, closed her eyes, and sang a few lines from the song on the radio. She only sang bits and pieces of the song, a line here or there. But I wondered if what she sang might have a special meaning meant only for me, something only I might understand, something hidden in the lyrics about love and secrets and all those things summer songs are always about.

I tried not to reach too hard for it. I wasn’t quite certain why words like that might be meant for me. Even if they were, I was afraid of what I might find and what might happen if I found it.

I remember that once, sitting on the couch, she sat straight up and said, “I don’t understand him.”

I always knew who she was talking about, but I asked anyway. “Who?”

She looked hurt and angry. She said out her boyfriend’s name like a punctuation mark at the end of a sentence. “Paul. He’s so distant. We had thirty minutes together this weekend but that was all! Thirty minutes in two and a half days. I promised myself that I wouldn’t call him but I did. Why am I so stupid?”

Quietly, I said, “You’re not so stupid.”

She looked at me just a little longer than she might have, I thought, tilting her head slightly like she was looking at something in front of her and wondering if it were real. I wondered if she would ever tell me what she saw there when she did that, but she never did.

Instead, she asked, “Have you decided what you’re doing on your vacation?”

“I don’t know,” I replied. This was only half true, because there were only one or two things I had really thought hard about that summer, and one of them I couldn’t tell her.

“Who knows?” I said, laughing. “Maybe I’ll work on my book.” I laughed because I wasn’t doing very well with it by then.

She looked into my eyes and stared deeply, like she was trying very hard to see the secrets I kept inside. She smiled mischievously. “And what would this book be about?”

I had a lot of secrets. But when she looked at me like that I imagined myself floating in the deep chocolate sea of her eyes and grasping at the little flecks of gold and green there. I touched a summer freckle on the tip of her nose, and said, “I think it might be about a girl with brown eyes and freckles.”

“Oh, I hate my freckles!” she laughed. She wrinkled her nose and fell back against the couch. The sunlight from the window made her hair shine reddish brown. She looked sideways at me and smiled. “Do you know what I like?” she asked.

“What do you like?”

“Sitting here with you.”

When she said things like that my belly grew warm, and even though I knew it wouldn’t last I wanted it to because somehow everything seemed perfect that way. It’s nice to think you have something perfect even if you only have it for a short time, and even if it’s not really yours and only pretend it is.

We lit another joint and listened to the music some more. When her back hurt from standing all night at the factory, I would offer to rub her shoulders. She would fold her arms and lean forward against her knees. Her shoulders would be tight but as I rubbed, the muscles loosened up and she relaxed. When her hair fell away from her neck, I would rub her neck too.

I would do this for a while. Sometimes she would slide onto the floor and lie on her belly and rest her head on her arms. I would sit on the floor beside her, continuing to rub her back and shoulders. As she relaxed, she would giggle and purr like a cat. My fingers went up and down her back as she lay there with her eyes closed, breathing softly. I was certain she could hear my heart pounding.

As she drifted off to sleep there on the floor, I would quietly brush her hair from her neck. I wanted to lean forward and kiss her neck gently, once and only once. But because she was tired, and because we had gotten high and the fan was blowing and making her sleepy, she would whisper, “I think I ought to go to bed.”

It was hot that summer and we had no air conditioning. I would ask, “Do you want me to put the fan in your room?”

“Would you?” she would say, and smile sleepily as she lifted herself onto one elbow. Her hair would fall across her face, and I would brush it away from her eyes.

“Sure,” I would say, and lean forward and quickly kiss her on the lips. She would smile again and lay back down as I unplugged the fan and carried it into her room. At least that’s how I like to remember it, even if I don’t think it ever truly happened that way, my kissing her, I mean. But that’s how I like to remember it now.

After I put the fan in her room and turned it to blow on her as she slept, she would get up and come into the bedroom. As I left and shut the door behind me, she would nearly always say something so that I would have to open the door again. I wondered about why she always did this, but I tried not to think too hard on it.

She would lie on her belly wearing a T-shirt and panties. One leg dangled off the bed and her toes sometimes touched the crumpled jeans she had dropped on the floor. I could see the soft white crescent of her bottom peeking from her panties, contrasting sharply with tanned legs. “I said goodnight,” she would mumble. The words muffled against the pillow. Sometimes she would raise her head and smile sleepily.

And I would look at her, and my heart would flutter, and I would wish her goodnight even though it was now close to noon. After I shut the door I would stand in the hall, my heart beating fast, my belly warm, and my throat dry and tight. I would listen to the fan hum on the other side of the closed door until I was sure she had drifted off to sleep.

“Do you think this is sexy?” she asked me once. She was wearing a white sun dress, standing barefoot in the kitchen and looking down at herself. White string straps crossed her tanned and freckled shoulders.

I had been trying to figure out what to fix for dinner. I closed the refrigerator door and looked at her. “Whew,” I said, and meant it. “Very sexy. Very nice.”

Pleased, she spun around a few times. The dress spiraled around her. She stopped and looked at herself again. She wiggled her toes. “Do you think it’s too much?”

I shook my head. “Never,” I said.

She laughed.

Another day, she was wearing jeans and a white button up blouse. She seemed nervous. She asked, “You don’t mind if I don’t put on a bra, do you?”

I tried not to laugh. “Why would I mind? I think you look marvelous.”

She seemed relieved. She turned away from me and asked me to lift the back of her blouse so she could tie it up in front. When I did, she tilted her head and bared her neck. She tied the blouse and turned to face me again. Her belly was tan, and looked soft and firm at the same time. I pressed my finger into her belly button. “Beep,” I said, and grinned.

She grinned back. We stood there looking at one another. When I looked at her I wanted to say things I never did, and I remember it always seemed that she wanted to say things too, but never did. At least that’s how I remember it.

Her smile seemed to say that she understood everything inside me. Her smile reminded me of her older sister’s smile. It reminded me of my wife’s smile.

Late that summer she came home from work, packed her bags and stuffed them into the back of her car. As I stood with her in the driveway, she looked up at me and said, “I love you.”

I smiled a bit, and nodded. I didn’t say anything. She looked at me for what seemed a very long time. Her eyes welled up and began to glisten. She bit her lip and stepped towards me, stood on her toes and quickly kissed me on the lips.

This, I do remember as true.

She got into her car, and sat staring at the steering wheel a moment. Then she started the car and backed out the driveway. She waved as she drove away, and I stood there wondering what I had done to make her cry.

I went into the house and turned off the stereo. Summer was over and I was sleepy and high and wishing for things I knew I would never have. I felt old then because she wasn’t, and I knew nothing would ever be how either of us might wish it to be, and I wondered if we ever really did wish it that way, and how we had left it all unsaid.


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