He touches her there like she’s a coveted magazine spread of his boyhood—imploringly, careful not to crease the pages or smudge their glossiness with haste. For years he’s touched her there like that, sweet as a Regina Spektor ballad, teasingly as a John Donne elegy. But now he pauses.
“It’s not going to bite you,” Molly says.
Ezra takes Molly’s foot in his hand, presses his thumb into the arch, cups his fingers around her warm toes. “Tell me about her.”
“Something old or something new?”
“Something real.”
Molly leans her other foot into Ezra’s chest, dips her head back against the pillows like a pinup girl, although her shape is less supple than it was in her twenties, when their encounters were natural and easy. “She’s the coolest fucking woman you’ll ever meet. Everyone loves her.”
Ezra sits onto his calves, his thighs bare and slender and pale. He kisses the arch of Molly’s foot. “Go on.”
“She’s a scientist. She travels all over the world. She’s on her way home from Australia right now, where she talked to thousands of people about the Zhangye Danxia landform in Gansu, China.” This was true five years ago. Most recently, her wife’s farthest travel was to hospice, last week, blocks from the flower shop in Cambridge where Molly will ask Ezra to drop her on his way to work. She presses the pads of her toes against Ezra’s groin, palpates it to keep its attention.
“But is she beautiful like you?”
“I’m going to miss you, Ezra.”
Molly pulls her foot from Ezra’s mirthful nip and heels him on the cheek. She pushes off his chest with her knees, sits up and straddles his thighs with a carnal grace. She catches his hand about to cup her chin and plunges it between them, into the magazine spread. “Why won’t you touch me there? With your hand? Like you mean it?”
Outside the Beacon Street loft, morning signals. The Russian barista across the way drags on a cigarette and thumbs through the Globe, undisturbed when the T grinds along the tracks and rattles the windows of his small establishment. Soon, Ezra will have to leave for office hours, student conferences all day, and Molly will have to pretend she’s planning to meet her wife at the airport with the flowers she will purchase at the shop in Cambridge. She will give the flowers to her wife, even though her wife has been in a morphine coma since Monday. Today is Friday (the doctor said it could take up to eight days). Molly has been with Ezra all week.
“Do you believe it’s possible to love someone, I mean really love someone, without knowing their secrets?” Molly notes how Ezra’s fingers tense between them while other parts of him settle. “Please, we can’t end like this,” she says, startled by the pulse of her words.
Ezra scoops his arms around her and arranges her neatly beneath himself. They’ve rarely done it this way, definitely never in the morning; they cringe slightly from the awareness of unwashed flesh and breath. “You said you would leave her, it was the first thing you ever told me about her, but I knew you never would.”
Often when they kiss, they kiss to speed the passing of seconds they aren’t sure how to otherwise fill. When Ezra kisses Molly now, he kisses her farewell. He is more than her wife in some ways, less than her wife in others. He has waited for her, decades, answered Molly’s phone calls every time her wife boarded a plane. But they’re in their 40s now, and Ezra wants at least one biological child. The practical mind must finally lead the impractical heart.
“I really should be going,” Molly says, propping onto her elbows to leverage out from under Ezra.
He lets her go, and she grabs his hand once more and places it.
“You could poison her, your scientist. We could run off together like we talked about,” Ezra breathes onto her neck, whispers along her clavicle. “You told me once you love me that much.”
Molly laughs and pats Ezra’s hand. “Didn’t your mother tell you no one’s ever honest in bed?”
After, when Ezra drops her at the flower shop, kisses her ferociously right outside, Molly tells the approving florist (“What passion. Keep that man!”) that her husband is the fucking coolest. A scientist who travels all over the world. Just got back from Australia, where he talked to thousands of people about the Zhangye Danxia landform in Gansu, China. Then, she plucks two snapdragons from a bouquet by the cash, one bilabiate flower a bright, young pink, the other a serene, mature purple, and asks the florist, “Which would you recommend for a loved one’s funeral?”


April Ford’s books include an award-winning novel, Carousel, and story collection, The Poor Children, and a chapbook of poems, Death Is a Side-Effect. She’s a Pushcart Prize recipient for her short story “Project Fumarase,” and has enjoyed fully funded residencies at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and Ucross Foundation. Her essay “I Will Tell You This Much, and Then We’ll Never Talk About It” was a Finalist for The Lascaux Review’s 2021 Prize in Creative Nonfiction.