The adults cleared away the dishes and sent the kids to the basement to watch a movie. Sarah put the leftovers in the fridge, retrieved her glass of wine from the counter, and joined the others at the table.
She and Brad knew three of the couples well. Or as well as you could know anyone from small talk on sidelines and school hallways.
Jack and Hope were new to the group. They were an attractive couple, Sarah thought. He was more outgoing than his wife, but Sarah liked Hope’s quiet humor and insights during dinner.
Jack had told a story that made everyone laugh and Sarah had met his eyes during the laughter. She was surprised when he held her gaze for a long moment. She had looked away, hiding her confusion with “Who wants dessert?”
And now Doug and Heather were discussing vacation plans.
“We leave in a week and I look so fat in my bikini,” Heather complained.
“Are you kidding?” Jack said. “Most women would kill to have a body like yours.”
Sarah glanced at Hope but she was looking at her glass, gently swirling the bit of wine that remained. Sarah took another sip of her own wine and realized she was buzzed.
“I’m making coffee,” she said, taking care not to wobble as she stood.
“Could you bring some more water while you’re up?” Brad asked.
“I’ll get it,” Jack offered and he followed Sarah into the kitchen. He leaned against the counter as she spooned coffee grounds into the filter.
“So you worked for a magazine,” Jack said. “Don’t you miss it?”
“Sometimes,” Sarah said. “I tried to work when the kids were babies, but I never felt like I was doing a good enough job at work or at home.” She laughed a little. “I guess I’m one of those people who can only do one thing at a time.”
He was standing very close and she saw that his blue eyes were flecked with green.
“Do you like your job?” she asked.
He shrugged. “It pays the bills. I wanted to be a baseball player, but that didn’t work out.” He smiled, revealing a dimple in his cheek, and she felt something tighten in her chest. She handed him the glass pitcher to fill with ice and water.
She brought the coffee pot into the dining room and set it on the table and excused herself. She went upstairs to her bathroom and dabbed perfume behind her ears and on her wrists. She brushed her hair in the mirror and wondered if anyone had noticed her flushed cheeks.
When she went back downstairs, Brad was still immersed in conversation at the table and didn’t look up. The women had moved with their coffee over to the sofas in the living room. She realized that Jack hadn’t left the kitchen.
She found him looking at photos on the refrigerator and went to stand next to him.
“Where was that taken?” he asked, nodding at a photo of her and Brad sitting at an outdoor cafe.
“You look fantastic,” he said.
She laughed, wryly. “That was a long time ago.”
“You still look fantastic.” His voice was warm and low and Sarah turned her head and looked up at him.
And then they heard small footsteps pounding up the basement stairs. The door flung open and Molly appeared.
“Mommy!” she cried, making a beeline for Sarah.
Sarah blinked for a moment, shaking off the wine, and shifted her focus to her daughter.
“I bumped my head!” Molly wailed.
“Oh, sweetie. Here, let me see,” Sarah picked Molly up and felt her head.
“It’s just a little bump,” she said. “We’ll put some ice on it and you’ll be fine. Go sit with Daddy and I’ll bring you an ice pack.”
Jack was still standing in front of the refrigerator and her arm brushed against his as she reached inside the freezer. She felt the cold air on her face as she dug around in the back.
“Ah-ha,” she said, straightening and holding up the ice pack.
He was so close, but she shut the freezer door and looked for a moment at the photo, at her and Brad before they were tired and crabby and careless with each other.
She smiled at Jack, c’est la vie, and went in to her husband and daughter.
I made a deal with myself that if I want to keeping blogging, I have to incorporate some fiction every week. Short Fiction is my attempt to open a vein in 500 words or less. The idea is to sit, write, ignore the internal editor, post, and move on.