The woman makes her lover scrambled eggs with garlic and mushrooms. The lover, of medium height and well-defined muscles, tan with light brown hair, eats them while she reads the paper. The lover kisses the woman and promises to call her later. Don’t forget to lock the door on the way out, the lover says.


The woman is alone in her lover’s apartment. The smell of garlic is in the kitchen. The smell of sex is in the bedroom. The woman looks through the lover’s mail to see where the lover spends her money, what she likes to read and who she wants to save. The woman turns on her lover’s computer to see what programs she uses to entertain herself, to make her life easier, to keep things private. The woman, a generous three inches shorter than the lover, opens her closet and looks at the shoes she wears, feels her shirts, peers into the boxes above.


The woman finds her lover’s pictures. The woman stares at the lover’s cream colored teeth and large breasts with her arm draped around another woman who looks much like herself. That woman, the ex-girlfriend in the picture, is blonde and curvy, petite with delicate hands and peach painted nails. The woman commits to memory the lover’s family. The lover gazes back from the glossy pictures and asks her silently what she is doing there, staring at her past? The woman snaps the album shut and her hand strokes the light blue long-sleeved shirt the lover wore the first time they met. She opens the album again and fingers the sharp corners, devouring the faces, figuring out what part of her lover’s heart these people occupy.


Later that afternoon sitting at her own kitchen table, the woman checks her phone. Her apartment smells of cinnamon candles, not of sex or garlic. The lover leaves a message saying that she would like to see her this weekend. The woman cries because the weekend is three days away and that is three days of cinnamon.


For three days, the woman watches television. The woman lies on her couch, flashes of television colors poking at the darkness. The woman leaves her laundry dirty, leaves her dishes in the sink and watches as boxes of crackers and cereal disappear from her cupboard. On the third day, the woman counts crinkly balls of Kleenexes that are scattered throughout her one-room apartment. There are nine piles. Later she finds one in the bathroom that she missed. She does not bathe.


The woman decides to call her friend, the one with a live-in girl- friend. The woman listens to the friend’s happiness, her voice’s highs and seductive lows. The friend tells the woman that she is in love. The woman doesn’t want her friend to be happy. She wants her friend to be dirty, sitting in the dark, and counting piles of Kleenex like she is. She tells her friend that the girlfriend won’t last.


The lover smiles when she sees the woman walking into the restaurant wearing black stockings, black pumps and vintage earrings. The lover recalls the moist surrender when she touched this woman in her intimate places. The woman and the lover, they eat passionately with their mandibles gnawing and their teeth pulling meat from the bones followed by hearty swallows of red French table wine. After they leave the restaurant, the woman climbs on top of the lover before she starts the truck. The lover and the woman suck and pull at each other’s lips and tongues just as hungrily as they had eaten their meat earlier. The woman and the lover make each other rock and release before the lover turns the ignition. They, the woman and the lover, return to the lover’s apartment where they do this three more times before morning because that’s what the woman wants.


The woman makes the lover scrambled eggs with garlic and mushrooms as she did a few days before. The woman cleans the heavy cast iron skillet and wipes the counter. The lover comes up behind her and envelops the woman’s waist with her muscular arms. The lover asks the woman what she would like to do that day. The woman pulls away, gives her a passive smile and tells her that she would like to go home.


That very night, the woman, she, goes to a bar wearing the same black stockings, the stockings stained with last night’s lusty impatience, wearing the same black heels the heels that cuddled next to each other on the lover’s dusty floorboard, and she finds a someone. Not a lover, but an other. The other is appointed a job for that evening that she does not know about—she is the savior.
The woman takes the righteous healer to her one room apartment, where the lover has never been, and feels the tongue of vindication lap at the walls of the woman’s guilt. There are pictures in the woman’s mind, photographs she would like to put on display. Shiny color photographs of the smiling lover and the woman sealed under glass waiting to be broken. She thinks about these framed pictures that will never be on her nightstand as the healer prods and licks her deep inside where the woman hides her fear. The healer savors the fear on the tip of her tongue as if she tastes the sour aftertaste of ecstasy. But the woman does not think of ecstasy. Instead, she sees splashing rays of whiteness suffocating her thoughts of the lover and as the woman holds her breath, purity rolls through her memory and for one sightless instant, this woman feels absolution.

Monica Carter recently graduated from the PEN Center USA’s Mark Fiction Program for Emerging Voices alumni. In 2010, she was a Lambda Literary Foundation Emerging GLBT Voice. Her fiction has appeared in Strange Cargo, The Rattling Wall, Black Clock, Bloom and Cactus Heart. She is finishing her novel, In the Life. She is accepting believers at