"Hi, Jessica. How're the beasts?"
I'd walked in with two glass bottles clinking against each other in my arms like bells, and only just set them down when my... roommate came out of her office. She was wearing the warm sweatpants from her last birthday, was sipping cold coffee from the mug we'd picked out, and was, as always, beautiful.
"Hey. The birth went well I hear, I'll get to see the calves tomorrow."
"Ooh," she laughed, somehow. "Well, blessings on Bess' new brood."
"Tess', actually" I mumbled, a little too curtly. "Ah right, sorry," she said, a little too sincerely. I hung up the farmer's jacket in the silence.
"So," I pressed on automatically, "how's work going?"
"Much the same," she called from the kitchen, "frustrating but manageable. No fresh new developments to speak of." I followed her to put away the bottles, still chiming with my steps. We passed each other by the fridge, her with her mug refilled and me with my milk, the brief social pleasantries executed as best either of us could manage and now finally over, I hoped...
"Hey, any luck with bed research?" I froze by the counter.
"Nnno, sorry. I'm sorry. My headaches were too much today, I couldn't stay focused on the screen."
"Mmm, I getcha" she mused quietly. "Well, pick something out and I'll order it for you, okay? But I don't want to make that choice for you."
"Yeah, I know. I will."
"Thanks." She stepped toward her office door.
Like everybody, I need help with things sometimes, and unlike everybody, I need help with most things. That wasn't ever the problem in our relationship, per se; over time, I just forgot how to make choices for myself at all. At first that was fine, hot even, at least to me, but it just... she never agreed to it, she didn't want it, I couldn't expect that of her. She wanted an equal, not a pet. I get that. I do.
I'd been trying to build up my independence, hoping that the bit of exercise from volunteering would slow my muscle atrophy. But since couples therapy and the divorce it's felt like a downward spiral, like I'm clawing back up at the person I used to be and the things I used to do. So had I failed my marriage, and so was I continuing to fail even my small duties.
But now she'd go back in her office, and I could be alone with my thoughts again. Sit down at the computer, get some research done, suggest her something tomorrow.
I had my head in the fridge when I heard "Is it alright if I have someone over tonight?" and to my credit I didn't drop anything. I didn't keep silent too long. And I didn't show her the look on my face.
In all our years of open marriage I'd never once felt jealous. In the rare times I wasn't welcome in bed with her lover, I'd just power up the air mattress -- never two nights in a row, my back couldn't take it. And all through the last few months she never once asked to take the bed. That's the thing: she *is* kind. She is unafraid to ask for what she needs. She will avoid twisting the knife any deeper than she has to. She even knows I value saving face, even though that's caused so many problems for us, so she waited til I could hide myself in the fridge to ask a question she'd denied herself all throughout the divorce, all for my sake.
For my disgusting sake.
"...sounds good. I can manage for a night."
"Thanks, Jessica. Just a night. I'll be around if you need anything."
I waited til I heard her office door close to crumple, grasping my face like I was palming a basketball. I let the open fridge door rest against my head, resisting the urge to slam it down. Of course I wanted to tell her no. Of course I wanted to tell her my back pain had become near-constant and I'm not sure I could last a night. I had to do what she asked of me. I had to repay her kindess. She had earned that much. I owed her that much.
I looked up at one of the milk bottles I'd just placed on the shelf. It shone in the fridge light's shine, and shook with the compressor's whisper. I stared at the label:
I felt my legs press up from the floor, felt my back straighten upright, felt my fingers clutch the bottle and shut the door, felt my feet walk me to the bathroom with the full-length mirror, felt my wrists turn the camlock and flip on the heatlamp, felt my ass hit the cold tile, felt my teeth pulling off my long-sleeved shirt, felt my breasts flop down from the sportsbra all fluffy and bouncy, felt my left hand press at my clit and my clit sing back to my left hand, i felt my right hand grab bottle and raise it to my lips and finally -- finally -- i felt that thick cream hit my tongue like a drug, felt a single drop flee my greedy lips down my chins, felt the cool milk wash down my moaning throat, felt the drop squeeze past my heaving tits, felt my stomach fill out and down with new liquid weight, felt the drop pass the seam where one day maybe a second belly would bloom, felt the thick wet on my hand drip down to the floor, felt the drop pose itself inches from my clit as the last gulps of milk hit my mouth, and at that moment i opened my eyes to the girl in the mirror: beautiful, pathetic, glowing, unwanted, heavy, hungry, crying, dripping, moaning, tears, milk, wet, longing, regret, gorgeous, alone -- and i watched her come, then collapse. she and i laid there for a while. half-asleep. dreaming of someone kind brushing our hair on a sunny afternoon.