Backstage, Roxie peed on the stick, placed it on the vanity, and waited. Panic dried out her mouth, and her tongue felt enormous. Cherry was onstage doing her throwback number, while Beyonce’s “Naughty Girl” blasted in the dressing room. Roxie smoothed her tear-away schoolgirl outfit and applied more lip gloss. There was only another minute before Cherry’s song ended, and Roxie was supposed to be on stage, sassy and sultry, no matter what the pregnancy test revealed.
She paced the stuffy dressing room, forbidding herself from looking at the stick too early. As the music faded, the timer on her phone rang, and she cradled the test in her hands. Two lines. There were two of them now. She was pregnant.
“Welcome to Throwback Night!” Ted, the announcer, crooned into the microphone.
Roxie staggered to the backstage waiting area on her platform heels, feeling like a baby deer learning to walk for the first time. The weak spattering of applause was comforting. Fewer people meant fewer tips, but it also meant there weren’t groups of bachelorette parties. Men were easy to please. Women were the most raucous patrons, and Roxie didn’t have the mental strength to entertain them tonight. She clutched her bare midriff, still flat and taut, and marveled that there could be another person in there, another problematic black hole of neediness.
Roxie fought a wave of nausea, not from the pregnancy, but from remembering how she’d ended things with the baby’s father, Nolan. Gentle Nolan dressed like a frat boy but still managed to win her over. He volunteered at the senior center and often took Roxie there on Bingo dates. Roxie had prided herself on never hooking up with the club’s patrons, never needing money and material goods like her fellow dancers. Despite making that distinction, the strip club culture had infected her relationship with Nolan. Roxie smelled perfume on him and assumed he was cheating like nearly every man she entertained at the club. Later, when she realized it was her own perfume she was smelling, a free sample from the department store, she was too embarrassed to go back to Nolan. Growing up in foster homes taught her that moving on was easier than having to apologize.
“Please welcome to the stage, our favorite little schoolgirl, Roxie!”
Britney’s “…Baby One More Time” pounded through the speakers, and Roxie staggered to the centerstage pole for support. She squinted against the light, something the floor manager, Mike, had told her not to do, as it made her look “blind and unsexy.” The usual paltry Tuesday crowd waited, drinks sweating rings onto the tiny cocktail tables.
“Dance!” shouted an elderly man in the front row. He puffed on a fat cigar and coughed, adjusting the oxygen cannula in his nose. His tuxedo and silver hair placed him in a sophisticated father-of-the-bride category that seemed confusing at a sleazy club like Prowlers. “Move!” he demanded, louder now.
Her legs were weak. There was no way she could swing upside down on the pole tonight. Roxie wasted time swaying her hips and tossing her pigtails until the motion made her dizzy. She struggled to take off her top, her hands like clumsy mittens. Typically, she would cup her exposed breasts and squat by the edge of the stage, the perv row, to receive tips. But today, her nipples were so tender and chest so heavy that she did little more than lean against the pole as she half-heartedly tore away her plaid skirt.
She considered the tuxedoed man in the front row, probably with a pocket full of tips—no sense in letting the shocking news ruin her chance at making money. Roxie sank to her knees and sexy-crawled to the edge of the stage, trying not to think about how her tits must be swaying like full udders. At the same time, the elderly man cocked his arm, as if to throw the money from a great distance. When he released, it wasn’t paper cash in his fist, but a gold coin. The coin connected with Roxie’s mouth, splitting her lip and chipping her front tooth into a fragment that landed on the stage. She fumbled onto her stomach before sitting up, probing her bloodied lip with one hand and clutching the warm coin in the other.
“You chipped my tooth!” she shouted over the music. “Who the fuck throws coins?” Red splotches dripped onto her breasts and knee-high socks. The song ended, and Prowlers was bathed in a vacuumous hush.
“That’s a $20 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle,” the man said, leaning forward and puffing his cigar. He looked as if he wanted a thank you.
Roxie searched for Sean, the bouncer, but his usual chair was empty. The bartender was missing too—likely in the backroom. There was no one to help.
The emotion of the last few hours tore through Roxie, and she heaved a guttural sob. Twenty dollars wasn’t going to pay for a kid, or an abortion, or to have her tooth fixed. As blood, snot, and tears smeared her makeup, she forgot that certain men preyed on wounded women. Prowlers was full of these types, and Roxie was already a target because of the burn scars on her thighs, the last thing her mother gave her. She should have remained composed until she could skitter to the dressing room. One of the regulars stalked to the stage and stroked her spine with the back of his hand, the wiry hair on his knuckles like a scouring pad. Predatory greed clouded his gaze as he moved his hand down and rubbed his thumb across her scar, a weak point he must have found erotic. A second man approached, lingering a few paces back from the first, licking his chapped lips.
“Get the fuck away,” she screamed at them, spittle and blood flying.
Sean, the MMA-style bouncer, was back in his chair, faking sleep. Now Roxie understood why she should have shared her tips with him like the other women. She sucked in a breath, ready to yell his name, to offer him all of her money from tonight in exchange for help, but the men retreated.
* * *
Roxie was supposed to remain calm and collected, but the gold coin to the face was over the top. She’d endured so much already—unwashed men blowing in her ear and tearing at her dance bottoms, high school boys shooting illegal video while shouting insults about her ass, and filthy propositions from half-interested businessmen posting pictures of their kids on social media. All of that she endured, but a gold coin had toppled her professional wall.
“I’m sorry, kid. My throwing arm isn’t what it used to be.” Tuxedo lowered his cigar, digging in his pocket. Roxie flinched, but he only produced a handkerchief and a business card. “Come to my office tomorrow,” he slurred. “I’ll cut a check to fix that smile.”
Backstage, Roxie wrapped herself in a blanket and sat on a folding chair, holding the gold coin in one hand and the pregnancy test in the other. Her heart throbbed in her split lip, and she still tasted a trickle of blood.
“Lucky,” the oldest stripper, Venus, said. The sweetness of baby powder barely masked Venus’s yeasty odor or the alcohol on her breath. “That was Doctor Rosenbaum. He’s loaded.” Was Venus referring to the coin, or did she think that the doctor was the father of Roxie’s baby? Roxie moved each hand up and down like a scale.
She opened her mouth to ask but was distracted by Venus’s jagged c-section scars and the silvering stretch marks across her soft belly. The smoker’s lines, the bruises, the patchy hair on her veiny legs—that could all be blamed on Venus and her lifestyle choices. But the destruction to her torso and tits? Giving birth had done that. The preview of Roxie’s possible future body was terrifying.
Venus had complained when Roxie was hired for the Tuesday night shift, arguing that aside from the scarring, Roxie wasn’t a weeknight stripper. She’d hog all the tips. Venus was right. Roxie’s body was tan and tight compared to the other women, but Roxie had refused to move to weekends. She dedicated that time to her college work, studying, writing papers, and preparing for the week ahead. The other dancers soon learned that Roxie wasn’t a threat. Her thinly veiled contempt for the customers and refusal to baby-talk like a dolt lowered her tips considerably, but she still made much more than at a minimum wage job.
“Dr. Baby Daddy,” Venus said. Her orange lipstick had migrated onto her teeth, and Roxie was suddenly sure that Venus had dentures.
“Nope,” Roxie said. “Dr. Throws Coins at Strippers. He cut my lip…chipped my tooth.” She opened wide for Venus to see.
Venus made a disapproving mouth noise. “Haven’t seen idiocy like that since the 70s.”
“Makes sense,” Roxie said, “this guy’s from another era.”
“You keeping it?” Venus asked.
“Of course.” It was only later that Roxie understood Venus had been referring to the baby, not the gold coin.
* * *
The next day, Roxie decided to skip her classes for the first time in four years. Decision making was new to her; foster kids had few choices. Anxiety bloomed in her chest, but she told herself that it was a logical choice to get the money to fix her smile, which earned the tips that put her through school.
Doctor Rosenbaum’s practice was on the fourth floor of a mixed-use building. She bought a coffee in the deli downstairs and took her time perusing the carpeted halls. Like most of her actions, it was a habit formed from moving to new foster homes. She couldn’t sleep until she’d inspected every room, closet, and door. The new foster parent and the caseworker impatiently waited as Roxie tried the windows, learned which stairs creaked, and what her footfalls sounded like on the flooring. College couldn’t come soon enough. Four consistent years of on-campus housing was a balm to her nerves, but if possible, she still took extra time in new spaces.
Roxie moved her exploration to the fourth floor. She wandered a long corridor where the paintings turned from office-appropriate landscapes to bright tapestries and handprints on canvas. Stopping at a glass observation window, she looked in on a daycare, overrun with a squealing mass of toddlers. She stared until her coffee cooled, trying to imagine mothering one of them. Could she love the baby right away, or did that emotion come later?
“Can I help you?” an older woman asked, cracking the door open. A warm feeling of recognition quickened Roxie’s heart rate, and she wondered if this was how people felt around family. It was Rebekka, her court-appointed advocate from when she was a kid. She hadn’t seen her in years, not since her last hearing, but it was hard to mistake her for anyone else. The same two long, now greying braids fell down her rounded back, and she still wore the same long, flowing skirts she was partial to.
“Roxanne?” Rebekka’s voice had aged into the shaky tone of an elderly woman, and Roxie was saddened to see that she shuffled more than walked. “You’re a beautiful woman! Look at how lovely you are.” A spark animated her gaze, and she waved Roxie into the chaos.
The room reeked of paste and urine, an uncomfortable olfactory sensation that made Roxie feel like a kid again, being shuttled from psychologists’ offices to temporary housing and new schools. The daycare was filled with squishy toddlers who grabbed at her jeans, their sticky hands depleting her energy reserves, sapping her patience. Rebekka glowed in the way Roxie imagined a grandmother would, squeezing the tiny bodies into hugs before moving them aside to create a path for Roxie.
Roxie nudged a toddler aside with her foot and stepped into Rebekka’s firm hug.
“I’m happy to run into you,” Roxie said, inhaling Rebekka’s peppermint lotion. “All those years, and I never thanked you. Thank you.” She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, fighting the encroaching judgmental thoughts. You’re weak. Stop showing emotion. She won’t want to be near you if you cry. “I know I only saw you for court dates.”
“—there were a lot of those!” Rebekka said.
“Sad,” a curly-headed baby said on repeat. Roxie couldn’t judge the toddler’s age. One? Three? Rebekka picked him up, and the smell of shit wafted to Roxie, making her stumble back a step to get away. Odors were uncomfortably intense now because of her pregnancy.
“Yes,” Roxie agreed. “I know I didn’t live with you or anything, but I wish I could have. You were the only one who listened to me.” She exhaled the last part of her sentence on a sob that turned into ugly crying. “Sorry. Hormones. I’m pregnant.” Roxie regretted sharing the news, putting too much of her real self out for judgment.
“Sad,” the kid said.
“Sit here, honey.” Rebekka guided Roxie to the only adult-sized chair in the room and handed the shit-smelling baby to another woman.
The kids seemed to take Roxie’s seated position as an invitation to swarm. She politely shoved their warm bodies away, remembering the overcrowded foster homes and how the littles teemed around anyone older. Emotional vampires. Her anger flared. She stood up on rigid legs, resisting the urge to yell in their small faces. Again, she tried to imagine caring for one of these clingy monsters, sacrificing her personal space, but the thought was revolting. She had herself to worry about and nothing extra to give.
“Are you sure a baby’s a good idea?” Rebekka handed Roxie a box of tissues. “Your mother’s still in jail?”
“She died,” Roxie said, monotone.
“I’m so sorry—”
Roxie waved away the condolence. “She was a stranger to me anyway. Haven’t spoken to her since I was two when they took me away.”
“And am I remembering right, there’s no other family?” Rebekka asked.
“The father of your baby?” Rebekka continued.
Roxie shook her head.
“What is it you do for a living?”
Roxie couldn’t determine if the setting was triggering her anger or if the turn in conversation was to blame. She considered detailing her stripping career, nonchalantly mentioning that she grinded on repulsive men, fighting against their probing fingers and eager tongues for pocket change. Instead, she talked about school, her undergrad degree, and her plans to earn a doctorate and practice psychotherapy.
“Congratulations!” Rebekka eyed Roxie’s chipped tooth as if she knew there had to be more to the story. “Now, how would you like to have a puppy from a litter my dog just birthed? Sure, you can still go on and do all of your schooling and have your dreams, just with a puppy in tow.”
Roxie paused, tracing her tongue over her scabbed lip and wondering if Rebekka was losing her mental faculties. “Oh, I see. No,” she said, deflating at the realization that she’d been tricked into a lesson. This was not how she remembered Rebekka, as someone who pushed toward certain decisions, told her what to do.
“Sad.” The curly-headed boy was back with a clean diaper.
“You don’t believe I could take care of a baby?” Roxie asked, hating the tone of defensiveness in her voice.
“And work, and continue postgraduate studies, and start a career, all without a partner or health insurance?” Rebekka asked. “No, I do not. Do you think you can?”
“I’m not sure,” Roxie conceded.
Rebekka seemed content to let the heavy silence settle between them. It was something Roxie remembered loving about her as a kid—she let Roxie think, didn’t rush to fill the air with needless chatter.
“My mom—she started her meth lab on fire and didn’t think to rescue her baby. I’m told the neighbors grabbed me.” Roxie had been sleeping when the fire started. She remembered nothing but sometimes had nightmares choked with thick smoke.
“I recall your file,” Rebekka said, seeming annoyed at having to rehash the conversations from years in the courtroom.
“I’m not like my mother,” Roxie said.
“No, the fact that you’ve any forethought at all proves that,” Rebekka said.
“But what if I am like my mother?”
“Roxie, you’re not a drug addict. You wouldn’t—”
“She kept coming back. She’d try to get clean, petition the courts to reinstate her rights. How many times did she try to come back?”
“Honey, I’m not just talking about abortion. There are open adoptions. You can remain in this baby’s life, but not be responsible for the day to day care.”
“I lived with too many supposedly well-intentioned foster families,” Roxie said. “My trust’s broken—won’t do that to another kid.”
“Adoptions are much different,” Rebekka said. Her wrinkled mouth fished to continue her argument, and suddenly Roxie was sure she didn’t want to hear what the woman had to say. Her life had been full of adults directing her choices, sometimes to disastrous results. She didn’t want her last memories of Rebekka to be about pushing toward a regrettable decision. Roxie stood and hastily moved for the door before Rebekka could continue.
“I have an appointment. It was good seeing you,” Roxie said. She moved fast, knocking over kids and focusing on the sound of her breath over Rebekka’s voice at her back.
Dr. Rosenbaum’s office was around the corner, and Roxie slipped in quickly, fearing Rebekka had followed her. She stood against the closed door for a moment, centering herself and taking in the new space. The waiting room with its paneled walls, hard chairs, back issues of magazines including Highlights, and a sputtering fluorescent light, was a throwback to another era. Roxie stifled a laugh—in this modern building, the doctor likely had to pay extra to have his office retrofitted into a horrible flashback. No wonder there weren’t patients waiting.
A blue-haired receptionist extinguished a cigarette. “You the stripper?” she asked.
“Here,” she waved a business card in the air. “Dr. R left for the day. You can visit him at his home address. Roxie must have twisted her face to reflect the fear she felt inside. She didn’t make a habit of walking into strangers’ homes, especially men. “Don’t worry,” the receptionist said, lighting another cigarette. “He’s harmless. Hasn’t been able to get it up since 1982.”
“Come in,” Dr. Rosenbaum said around a mouthful of potato chips. He opened the door wide, and she danced in place, hesitant because the thick slab and cold air reminded her of a tomb. Roxie slipped in as the doctor began closing the door.
The interior was as she’d expected, rich with polished wood floors, chandeliers, oil paintings of uptight ancestors, and old-fashioned crystal vases. Doctor Rosenbaum still wore the rumpled tuxedo but breathed heavily without his oxygen as he ate. Roxie gagged as she inhaled a putrid odor.
“You’ve got vomit on your jacket,” she said, pointing to the tux while unsuccessfully fighting the rhythmic heaving.
“Sorry about that. Use this,” the doctor said, handing her the nearly empty chip bag.
Roxie puked. She stood in the fancy foyer holding the hot bag of vomit, burning with embarrassment. The doctor removed his coat, grabbed the barf bag from Roxie, and tossed the whole pile behind a door to his right. As usual, Roxie’s body itched to either explore the new space she was in or leave.
“You’d make a horrible physician if bodily fluids bother you that much,” he said, leading her into the house.
“I’m sick because I’m pregnant,” Roxie mumbled, feeling absurd for having freely admitted this twice today. She balled her hands into fists as the mean voice in her head criticized at hyper-speed. You’re so stupid. Why are you telling a stranger about your body? Are you looking for his sympathy? He doesn’t care that you got knocked up. He barely cares that he ruined your smile.
“What’s your name?” he asked as they rounded the corner into a kitchen more immense than any of the homes she’d ever lived in. “Your real name.”
“What’s yours, doctor?” Roxie asked. She went on the defensive because she knew his type—the older men doctors with brusque bedside manners and cocksure opinions about her body.
“Ian,” he said, offering a hand for shaking, wheezing for air. “Call me Ian.”
Roxie ignored his hand and sat on an upholstered bench in the breakfast alcove. Ian shrugged and removed two crystal tumblers, generously pouring a brown liquor.
“I’m pregnant,” she repeated.
“This isn’t for you,” he said, double-fisting the drinks and chugging, saturating his chin and soiled shirtfront. He opened a prescription bottle, shook pills into his mouth, and chewed them like candy.
“Party’s still going strong, I see,” Roxie said.
Ian got a clean glass, filled it with water, and placed it in front of Roxie. He grabbed reading glasses from the breakfast table and perched them on his face, slightly askew. “I did a number on your lip, huh?” he asked, weaving closer than she wanted. “Did you clean that out?”
“Of course,” Roxie lied.
“You need stitches. I’ll get my bag,” Ian slurred. His odor made Roxie’s eyes water, and she wondered if he’d shit himself, like the baby at Rebekka’s daycare.
“Not necessary,” she said. “I’m here for that check you promised.”
Ian gasped for air and sunk to the floor by the table. “I need to know yer name ‘fore I can…”
His slurred voice slipped into incomprehensible mumbling, heavy eyelids closing. Ian pointed to an adjoining room and panted, “air.” Roxie knew this type, a whirlwind of self-centered catastrophe, always manufacturing drama. More often than not, she’d seen it in the foster parents who collected kids for their salacious stories and disabilities so they could play the martyred parent. She preferred the money-hungry guardians that only fostered for the checks.
But the man couldn’t pay her if he were dead. She walked to the room adjoining the kitchen, a dim and leathery office and retrieved Ian’s oxygen tank. Back in the kitchen, she secured the cannula while holding her breath; Ian had vomited again. He’d passed out on the floor, but at least he was still breathing.
“Ian? I’d really like to get that money today,” Roxie nudged his bony frame with her foot. “I’ll give you a minute, okay? Take a self-guided tour of your place?”
She wandered the main floor of Dr. Rosenbaum’s mansion, opening cabinets, checking the windows and doors, and counting bathrooms. A predictable sense of relief loosened her gait once she found that the house wasn’t dangerous; the old man wasn’t a threat. Up the thickly carpeted stairs, Roxie realized why the house was cold as a show home. Ian didn’t display family photos, mementos, or personal items other than the long-dead ancestors’ antique paintings.
“Ian,” she said from the doorway of the kitchen. “I’ve done everything short of snoop through your pool house. I need my money.” Urine spread on the tile around him. “Wake up!” Roxie shouted. “Wake up!”
Ian’s waxy face showed no response, and Roxie leaned close, looking for the rise and fall of his chest. Roxie straightened and stormed toward the front, walked back to the kitchen, and stomped toward the front door again. The voice in her head ridiculed her for trying to leave, for thinking about staying, for being indecisive about everything, especially the big things like deciding to keep the baby or have an abortion.
“Fuck!” she shouted in the echoey foyer.
She stripped off her jacket, went to the master bedroom, and selected a sweatsuit that looked two sizes too big. Back in the kitchen, she prepared a bowl of warm, sudsy water. She tied a thin towel around her mouth and nose to avoid the worst of the smell and set to work undressing Ian in the least sexual way possible. When Ian and the surrounding area had been cleaned, Roxie dressed him, guiding his floppy limbs into his clothes. She cradled his head through the sweatshirt and realized the relentless self-talk had slowed during the task. The action of caring for Ian had produced a certain calm. Because of his unconsciousness, Roxie was able to view Ian as grandfatherly instead of as a perverted old rich man. Roxie rolled Ian and his oxygen tank onto a sheet and dragged him across the tile until they reached the dark study, the closest room with carpeted floor. He did little more than moan as she situated him onto a makeshift bed on the floor. She found a robe and threw her dirty clothes into the washing machine along with the towels and Ian’s tuxedo. She was sure that machine washing a tuxedo would ruin it, but if she had to wait for him to wake up, she wanted the smell gone.
Showering in a marbled guest bathroom, Roxie ran her hands over her swollen breasts, down her stomach, and over her scarred thighs. She’d always been hyper-aware of her body as a sexual instrument built to induce desire. It was an idea taught by the salacious stares from men, even before her first period. Her sexual self was always present, but she’d never examined herself as a creator. Containing life was novel, absurd, and frightening. She moved her hands as if touching a stranger. Her body was foreign, purposeful in a way she didn’t understand and wasn’t sure she liked.
Back downstairs, she figured out how to work the television in the family room and spent hours checking on Ian. When he finally woke, she warmed chicken broth. “What’s your name?” he asked, a helpless pile on the floor.
“Thank you, Roxie.”
She grabbed him under his armpits and propped him against the wall, a living bag of bones. She adjusted his oxygen cannula and spooned broth into his mouth, startling when he spoke again.
“You should have left me, though,” he said.
“I almost did,” Roxie said. “I was still planning on it, if you didn’t—I’m surprised you woke up at all.”
“That’s what I was going for,” Ian said. “I’m having fun speeding up the inevitable.”
Roxie set the soup aside and rearranged the robe to better cover her legs. “This doesn’t look like fun. Are you even retired? You don’t seem that old. The inevitable could still be thirty years away.”
He closed his pink eyelids, so delicate that they revealed the movement of his eyes underneath.
“I have a stage four growth inside of me,” Ian said.
Roxie’s hand crept to her abdomen, equating Ian’s spreading tumor to pregnancy. “Me too,” she mumbled.
Ian opened his wet eyes and rested them on her belly. “Ah, right, you’re pregnant.”
They stared at one another, Ian looking like a child in his oversized sweatsuit and Roxie feeling melancholy for reasons other than her own.
“You aren’t going to talk me out of it? Search my home, take away my booze and pills?” Ian asked.
Roxie shrugged. “You aren’t going to offer the name of an abortion clinic, ask about the baby’s father, or tell me I’ll make a great mom?” she asked.
“No.” He sagged, seeming to use the last of his strength on this conversation. “It’s your body. None of my business.”
“Where are your pictures?” Roxie asked, anxious to change the subject. She grabbed the soup and spoon and fed him again. “It’s like a museum in here.”
“My family’s gone, and I waited too long to start one of my own. I liked being a bachelor—never wanted it to stop,” Ian said.
“That didn’t really answer my question about the pictures,” Roxie said. “Surely, you had parents, siblings, or girlfriends.”
“I spent a lifetime curating the perfect family of close friends and colleagues,” Ian said.
“That’s nice,” Roxie said. “Curating a family instead of growing one.” The idea was a revelation that sparked joy so intense it brought tears to her eyes.
“Yeah, well,” Ian said, “they’ve all turned on me. Suddenly what I decide to do with my body is up for debate.”
She wiped broth that dribbled down his chin, and he grabbed her wrist.
“There are no perfect mothers, but you’re doing a bang-up job,” he said.
His eyes were dreamy, brimming with the dissociative look that told Roxie he wasn’t speaking to her. Still, she stiffened, on guard for the lecture that Ian promised he wouldn’t deliver.
“Hand me my checkbook. It’s the blue thing on the desk,” Ian said. She grabbed the checkbook with a twinge of embarrassment for taking money from a sick man. “I’ll make this out to cash.”
“You could have done that earlier before I had to change your clothes,” Roxie said.
Ian barked out a laugh that turned into a painful-looking cough. Despite the sponge bath, his yellowing skin expelled an acetone aroma. The end seemed close. When he finally caught his breath, he reached up and touched the burn on her thigh. She covered herself with the robe and took a step back.
“My life,” he said, scratching the pen across the check, “amounts to more than one choice. Yours will too. Whatever you decide, there’s enough here to help.” He ripped the check out and held it in his shaking hand.
Roxie glanced at the staggering number. Hot tears streaked her face when she finally understood he wasn’t just paying for a tooth.
“That coin’s a collector…worth more than $20. Spend it wisely,” Ian added.
Roxie wished she were the kind of woman who would smooth his hair back and kiss his fuzzy eyebrow. “Do you want me to move you? Call someone?” she asked.
“Bring me the pills and my whiskey. This time, leave me alone,” Ian said.
Roxie opened her mouth, ready to argue about his comfort, his body, his wishes, but realized it wasn’t her call. She flashed her imperfect smile at Ian and did what he asked of her.
Roxie wandered to the front of the house in her bare feet and wrestled the tomb-door open. Standing outside of Ian’s in only a robe, she no longer felt exposed or unsure. Death does that sometimes, even if it comes dressed in a tuxedo. Roxie opened her robe to the sun, savoring the warmth on her body, no longer caring what anyone thought. The feelings of uncertainty had all but disappeared, leaving her standing on her own, fully exposed in the warmth of the midday sun.
Melody Sinclair graduated from the MFA program in Creative Writing at Regis University in Denver, Colorado. She’s been published at Heavy Feather Review, Bull: Men’s Fiction, Umbrella Factory Magazine, Avalon Literary Review, Adanna Literary Journal, and more. She’s won the Denver Women’s Press Club Unknown Writer’s Contest and was a finalist in the Adelaide Literary Award contest. She’s on the Fiction Reading Committee for Carve Magazine. Melody lives in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, with her husband, dog and two kids. www.melodysinclair.com.