by Than Pence
Holly has set up her boyfriend to catch him in a lie.
|Holly came in and looked down at the shoes.
She saw the strings, unmoved.
Days before, she had draped a pair of thin strings over the shoes as a means of telling if they had been worn or not. They were Gary’s shoes. He was unemployed for two months now. Holly worked until the eleventh hour most nights at the nearby Exxon. She was also pregnant with Gary’s child, going into the eight month.
When she shut the door, she heard no sounds except the television in the next room. When she rounded the corner, Gary was there on the couch, his head knocked back, his eyes closed. Same pants, different shirts. Gary always wore two shirts: one undershirt and a normal shirt, usually a button-up. Holly knew the pants were the same because of the odd patterns worn into the kneecaps. One looked like the silhouette of a Great Dane.
She set her keys on the coffee table, inside the porcelain bowl, letting the loud rattle disturb Gary’s slumber. The sound wasn't gratifying in her own ears but Gary woke up and blinked rapidly. His dazed eyes found Holly’s and he licked his lips and then quickly wiped them. Standing, he leaned awkwardly over the coffee table in an attempt to hug Holly.
Holly accepted the embrace but only because she was sure that Gary would lose his footing and fall onto her keys. She noticed that his keys weren’t in the bowl and thought that was odd since he obviously hadn’t used his shoes to go anywhere. Holly looked around and quickly saw his small set of keys on top of the TV. “Hey, babe,” he said in an unnaturally loud manner. “How’s work tonight?”
She decided not to mention the two customers that scared her out of her wits: how one had come in and paced the little aisles for a few minutes, casting glances into the mirrors and cameras. Holly had feared for her life, even, not knowing the man’s intentions. When he paid for a candy bar and a drink, she tasted terror and knew she was sweating profusely. But he left without a word or even a nod. And an hour later, another man did the exact same thing, only with a different candy bar-drink combination.
But she didn’t mention that and just said “Good. Same as always.”
Gary cracked a smile as if he knew but he didn’t. And she knew it. He has never worked in the same field as her. He’s always worked factory jobs and been “let go” or quit when a supervisor said the wrong thing about his work habits. He’s never known the menial tasks of working in a fast food joint or a grimy gas station. Just the impersonal factories and the gaps of life between them.
She goes into the bedroom to unload her purse and heavy coat, feeling the baby kick ever so slightly. She needs to pee again and goes into the bathroom swiftly, hoping that she might even slip into the bath for a bit.
When Holly arrives at the toilet, she grumps about how she has to put the seat down. She grabs the lid and sets it down, not wanting to let it bang too loudly against the bowl for two reasons: she remembers how unsatisfying the key-clatter was and she doesn’t want to make Gary feel bad for leaving the seat up, despite how many times she’s mentioned how she likes it to be left down.
When she settled the seat down, her fingertips brushed against a wet patch on the bowl’s edge and she quickly pulled her hand away in disgust, flicking the liquid away. She bit back a curse and sat down. She was done in no time, feeling little relief from the effort, and she started to fill up the tub. Gary called from the living room. “Whatcha doin’, babe?”
She muttered to herself how the unmistakable noise of a tub filling up should tell Gary exactly what she’s doing. Holly took a breath, letting it wash a demeaning tone from her voice. “Just takin’ a bath, Gare.”
“Want me to join you?” She didn’t hear the smirk but she knew that Gary was obviously tickled with his own suggestion. She just rolled her eyes.
“I’m just gonna be a few minutes. Long day at work.” Her excuse echoed insincerely off the bathroom tiles.
“You said it was fine at work.”
She remembered that she had omitted parts of her stressful night but didn’t want to relay them now. “It was same as always, Gare. And I always come home with sore feet and that nasty sheen of sweat on my skin.”
“That’s your glow, babe.”
She felt like vomiting but she was certain it was because of the pregnancy and not the comment. The tub filled up and no more words crossed the apartment. She slipped in without looking at herself in the mirror. Resting her neck against the unforgiving basin, she closed her eyes and slipped away for just a moment.
When she woke up, she heard softer noises coming from the living room. She didn’t know the time but she knew the water was colder than she liked. And she immediately thought how it might not be good for the baby to be in it for much longer.
Holly climbed out of the tub almost like she was born in water: no loud drips, no excessive splashing. She wanted to try and listen to the noise coming from the living room and discover what it was before she could see what it was.
When a soft moan was heard, she knew exactly what was going on in the living room. She wrapped up her stringy hair and put on her worn out robe and went into the living room. Gary flinched at the sight and started ducking forward, covering his crotch while trying to pull his pants up and reach for the remote at the same time. Holly glanced at the TV and saw two women together for an instant before the channel changed to an older man and a young woman hawking diamond bracelets and earrings for four easy payments.
After a subtle zip-up was heard, she looked at Gary and the odd shadows behind him that the TV produced. It reminded her of ghosts and she thought again of the Great Dane-hole on Gary’s jeans. felt like watching an old Scooby-Doo episode.
With the TV providing the only light source for the room, Holly couldn’t tell if Gary’s face was red but she felt it should’ve been. She walked in on him more frequently lately and she knew she had passed the stage of wanting sex all the time. She was just glad he was spending the time with himself and not with some other women.
She sat next to him while grabbing the remote, well aware that she was getting the sofa a little wet. She started to skim through the guide in hopes of finding a classic Scooby-Doo. Gary stared between her and the TV, oblivious to what she was doing. She knew that he probably wanted her to go back to the pornography but that wasn’t going to happen.
No Scooby-Doo was on at this hour and she remembered that she had forgotten to drain the tub. “Gare, can you go empty the tub for me. I still need to dry off.”
He stuttered out his reply and quickly went to empty it. Holly smirked at his departure. But her periphery picked up the shoes by the door and she remembered the unmoved strings.
The shadows behind the shoes looked like sleeping ducks.
When Gary came back in, he sat down and leaned back, content to watch whatever Holly chose. “You put in any applications today, Gare?”
His answer was quick and she thought of his piss on the toilet bowl for some reason. “Yeah. At Sheila’s and I filled out the computer stuff in Wal-Mart. Maybe they’ll call.”
She didn’t want to refute it and start a fight this late at night, not with the sweat so freshly removed from her skin. And the baby was sleeping soundly inside her for once. Holly told herself that the strings would be moved tomorrow, coiled up like a snake on the floor after he finally lifted the shoes.
She hoped so, at least.
She told Gary she was going to bed and he said he’d be in in a few minutes. Holly accepted that with a dry kiss and went into the bedroom. The lighting that bled into the bedroom changed into more of a flesh tone color but not before the volume was turned down. Holly could still hear the TV though, the women moaning, and she fell asleep holding in the urge to pee yet again.
Word Count: 1,478