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Before We Die

by Sarah Sheppeck 5 months ago in Short Story
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by Sarah Sheppeck

"A Boston Marriage"

The day seemed too perfect to exist outside of storybooks; sunny and warm, but with a light breeze that came just as one might begin to think it a bit too hot. Pillowy clouds hung low in the sky, and the only sounds to be heard were the occasional birdsong accompanied by the faint strains of an old jazz standard, which wafted on the wind from a neighbor’s garage. A black and gold butterfly fluttered past to rest upon a thorny pink rose bush before flitting toward the azaleas to make room for the bees. Behind the garden was an old house, which lay in an old neighborhood in an even older town. Beige-colored with brown shutters, it was not especially remarkable to look at, but remained charming in its way. Two enormous pine trees stood guard in the front yard, providing just the right amount of shade for the young woman sitting on a rickety wooden swing between them.

Chestnut curls had been reined into one thick braid that hung to her waist, and her eyes, which seemed to be focused far in the distance, were large and very dark, rimmed by short, thick lashes. Her mouth, not quite set in a frown, was firmly situated in a neutral line. Every so often a beam of sunlight would peek through the branches of the trees that flanked her sides, revealing a smattering of freckles along the bridge of her nose. The dots looked out of place on such a serious face, seeming much more suited to someone who loved to laugh. This woman did not seem as though she laughed often. She did not seem as though she were someone who delighted in much of anything; she simply sat on her swing, eyes steadfastly focused in the distance.

As the sun began its descent toward the horizon, the dimming light called gnats and other small, biting pests out of hiding. The young woman’s brow furrowed slightly. Abruptly, she rose from her perch and walked into the street. Standing on tiptoe, she placed her hand over her brow like a visor and again focused her gaze on the end of the street. Several minutes passed, and not a living creature that she could see even stirred. Her brow furrowed more noticeably. She turned back in obvious distress just as the sun seemed poised to dip away entirely, when the distinct sound of a car’s engine drifted from the direction in which she had been looking all afternoon. She turned to see a sleek, black automobile halting right in front of her driveway. Her heart began to race. A tall man she didn’t know exited from the driver’s side and dashed around the front of the car to let out the passenger. She followed him, hoping her mannerisms didn’t betray her trepidation. The man opened the door, and with a shriek of “Gable!” the car’s other passenger launched herself into her arms.

Gable released her embrace enough to look into the other woman’s eyes. “Jean,” she whispered, and the face that had seemed so somber broke into a wide smile. “Jean,” she said again, a bit louder.

“Gable! Oh, Gable, darling, I’m so sorry I’ve kept you waiting! We had a flat. I tried to phone but you never answered- ”

“I’ve been outside all day,” Gable pronounced, a glimmer of solemnity returning to her face.

Seeing this, Jean clasped Gable’s hands between her own. “Gable, darling, I’m so sorry. You know how I hate to be late . . .” Here she trailed off, looking for some sort of forgiveness in the other woman’s face. “And after you’ve been so kind to let me stay with you.”

At this, Gable’s face brightened again. “Nonsense. You’re my dearest friend, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Jean beamed back at her. “Oh, I love you. Here, let me get my things.” She turned to face the tall man, who had already removed two black leather suitcases from the trunk of the car. “Gable and I can get these, dear. You head on home.” The man reluctantly set the cases down, clasped both of Jean’s hands in his own and kissed them quickly before dashing back into the driver’s seat and driving back the way he came. Gable could feel the color rising to her face as he sped away, but at a look from Jean she picked up both suitcases and ambled up the walk to the house.

“Oh, let me take one of those,” Jean offered, though she made no motion towards either case.

“Nonsense, just make yourself at home,” Gable smiled, struggling to open the front door with both of her hands occupied. Jean gently edged past and let herself inside, leaving the entrance ajar as Gable followed dutifully behind. She used her heel to gently nudge the door shut behind her before setting down the cases at the base of the stairs. She smiled again as she turned back to Jean. “Would you like anything to drink? Tea? Coffee?” Her voice sounded breathy, though she was unsure whether it was due to the exertion of carrying the luggage or to the nervousness she felt in Jean’s presence.

“Thank you darling, maybe later.” She made her way over to one of two worn armchairs in front of a seldom-used hearth and sat down. “Come, sit with me. I haven’t seen you in a long time.”

“I know. It has been too long.”

“How long has it been? It must be- oh, months along now!”

“Longer than that.” She lowered her voice. “Two years.” Two years, one month, one week, and three days, to be precise. Gable bit her lip to keep from saying so.

“Gracious. Well, darling, tell me what you’ve been up to! I want to hear everything I’ve missed.”

“Oh Jean, you know I don’t do much of anything exciting. I clean house for the Walkers and the Taylors, and that brings in enough for groceries and sometimes a little extra to tuck away. Nothing quite so glamorous as what you’re up to . . . What have you been up to?”

Jean tossed her head back and laughed, making a rich, theatrical sound that seemed not an expression of her own amusement, but something entirely for the benefit of her audience. “You are a peach. I don’t know that my life is what anyone would call glamorous, darling, but it is certainly never dull.”

“Work has been good, then?”

“Quite simply, yes.”

Gable crossed her legs at the ankle and rested her hands on her lap, lowering her gaze as she clasped them tightly. She inhaled deeply and held the breath for a moment, eyes closed. When she spoke again, her voice was quite low. “Why did you come back, Jean?”

Jean faltered a bit as the stony quality returned to Gable’s face. “I- darling-”

“Jean, please. I know you’d never planned to set foot in Camden again as long as you lived. Please, just-” she wavered. “Tell me why you came here, to-” Gable bit her lip again as her voice trailed off. She looked tentatively at Jean.

The healthy flush drained from Jean’s cheeks, and the easy smile was replaced with something closer to a pout. She sighed, and forced another smile to her lips before answering. “I didn’t know anyone when I moved out there, Gable. I had no job, no contacts, and after traveling, no money. I met a man who took me in,” the smiled faded again, “and he told me he could find me work. Don’t look at me like that-” she interrupted herself, noting Gable’s narrowed eyes. “It wasn’t like that. I mean, he wasn’t seedy. He never made me pay rent, and he even found me a few auditions. Bit parts, mostly, but it was more than I could do for myself.”

“And he threw you out.”

Jean clenched her eyes shut. “I came back to the apartment one evening and he’d changed the locks. I should have known right away what was going on, but I banged on that door like an idiot until some dyed-blonde bimbo in a see-through robe answered the door.” She paused, and swallowed. When she spoke again she was nearly inaudible. “I had nowhere to go.”

“So you came to me.” Both women were quiet for a moment. “You never mentioned any of this. Not a word of it.”

“I know, darling, I’m sorry-”

“You never answered my letters.”

“I didn’t know what to say-”

“Never called-”

“I should have. I’m sorry.”

“Of course you’d come back once you needed something,” Gable snapped.

Again, both were silent. Jean’s pout intensified and Gable’s brow furrowed deeply. Neither woman looked at the other. Then, haltingly, Jean began to cry. She breathed steadily as the tears rolled down her cheeks, but within moments she was sobbing with loud, gasping breaths and shaking shoulders. At this, Gable’s frown dissipated and she kneeled by Jean’s feet, clasping her hands between her own.

“Jean. I’m sorry.”

Jean dabbed at her eyes with the back of her hand. “Don’t be, darling. You’re right. I’ve been a terrible friend.”

“You haven’t.”

Both were silent but for the occasional hiccup from Jean. “Thank you,” she ventured at last, voice still thick from the crying. Gable nodded in response.

“So the man who drove you here. He was . . .?”

“Hmm? Oh, no darling, no. He’s just a friend. A friend of a friend, really.”

“All right.” Gable stood and brushed at the folds of her dress, then turned on her heels.

"Where are you going?" Jean said, with some alarm.

"To make dinner. Or didn't you want to eat tonight?"

"Oh. No, I did . . ."

"Good. Then I hope you like roast beef."

Jean beamed. “I don’t suppose you’d mind if I freshened up a bit before dinner?”

“Not at all. I haven’t begun cooking yet, anyway.”

Jean smiled again and rose, taking one leather suitcase in each hand. She hesitated before heading down the hallway, turning toward Gable with a slight blush. “I feel so foolish asking, but where . . .?”

“Father’s study. Down the hall-”

“I remember where it is. Thank you, darling.”

---

Gable lost her father when she was eighteen. Jean was living with them at the time. Within the year Jean discovered that a one-way bus ticket to New York was only $7.25 and Gable lost her, too. By the time she was twenty, her mother had moved to Florida and remarried, leaving Gable alone in her childhood home. She had never thought of herself as lonely before, but having Jean back now gave her the sensation that she probably had been. It was strange, having another body in the house, and yet the company was such a welcome change from the years of solitude that Gable hardly noticed the strangeness. There had been no further arguments following that of the first night. In fact, both women found the other's company at that reunion dinner so pleasant that their jaws soon ached from the constant laughter.

Within a few weeks of Jean’s arrival, the two had settled into a daily routine: Gable would rise early and prepare breakfast for the two of them, they would eat together before Gable left to clean houses or occasionally watch a neighbor’s children, and Jean would spend half the day making herself up before venturing into town to find her own work.

“Gable,” called Jean one morning, as she examined herself meticulously in the hallway mirror. Gable was still eating her breakfast in the next room, and waited to finish her mouthful before responding.

“Yes, Jean.”

“Do you think I’m beautiful?”

“What an absolutely ridiculous question.”

“It’s not ridiculous,” Jean pouted, still scrutinizing her reflection. “Have you ever known an actress who wasn’t beautiful?”

“I’ve never known any actress but you.”

Jean strode back into the kitchen and took her usual place across from Gable, sulking. “Be serious, please.”

Gable took a long sip of tea, set down the cup, and met Jean’s eyes. With great theatricality, she announced, “Jean Dresden, you’re the most beautiful woman ever to have passed through Kent County.”

“Oh, that doesn’t mean anything.” Jean threw up her hands and slumped onto the table in mock melodrama. Gable continued to sip her tea. Jean lifted her head to look at her friend, studying her with the same scrutiny she had used when viewing her own reflection. “You know, you’re pretty enough.”

“For whom?” Gable replied in monotone, not looking up from her tea.

“No, for the movies.” She paused, taking a harder look at Gable’s face. “You’re certainly pretty enough.” Receiving no response, she continued. “If my hair curled naturally as yours does, I’d be drowning in callbacks.” She smiled dreamily. “Why don’t you find a beau, hmm?”

Gable set down her cup, looked at Jean, then picked up the cup again. “I’m too old for a beau.”

“You’re twenty-six.”

“Too old.”

“Why don’t you get married, Gaye?”

She shrugged, turning her gaze downward. “Never wanted to, I guess.”

“Surely there’s someone nice enough around here? If not in town then certainly-”

“Jean. Stop.”

“I just think you’d be happier if . . .” but a look from Gable left the sentence unfinished. Still in high spirits, Jean chattered on. “Have you been outside today?”

“No, not yet.”

“It's gorgeous! Sunny and warm for the first time in weeks. I think I might go for a walk today.”

“If it's that nice I might join you.”

“You know what would be fun? Playing in the front yard again. Is that old swing still up?”

“It is. I don't know how strong the ropes are anymore, though.”

Jean made a swatting motion with her hand and laughed. “Oh, what's playtime without a little risk involved?”

“Says the woman who broke her arm falling off that swing.”

“Oh, pish. It was just twisted a bit.”

“Jean. It was broken.”

“All right, it was. But I was fine.”

“You screamed and cried all the way to the doctor's.”

Jean sighed. “Gable, if you don't want to come swing with me, you don't have to.”

“Of course I'm going to swing with you. I'm just saying don't break your arm.” Gable stood and began to clear the dishes from the table.

“Do you miss your father?”

Gable dropped the stack of dishes in the sink, a bit too hard. “What makes you ask that?”

“He drove me to the doctor's.”

“Hmm?”

“After the swing.”

“Right.” She paused. “Yes, I suppose I do miss him. Not all the time, but sometimes I just see something that reminds me of him and then- and then I just start to think about things.”

Jean came to stand beside her, and intertwined her fingers with Gable’s. “I don't remember my parents.”

“I know.”


“But I always liked yours.”

“They liked you, too.”

Both smiled. They stayed that way for a few minutes, smiling with their hands interlaced, and then Jean let go with an abruptness that startled Gable into stumbling backward.

“Darling, I’m so sorry, I’ve got to go!”

Gable frowned, slightly vexed by Jean’s sudden rapidity. “Go where?”

“I’ve got a meeting. In Dover. For a play.”

“Oh! Well that’s wonderful.” Gable did not sound very much like she thought it was wonderful, but Jean was dashing about too quickly to notice. Gable knitted her brows more tightly as Jean hurried to ready herself, making a mess of the coat closet in the process. In moments she had recovered her coat and bag and blew past Gable without pause.

“Thank you, darling! Kiss!” She blew a kiss from the doorway and was gone.

---

When Jean announced that she was dropping out of school and moving to New York to seek her fame as an actress, Gable was the only one who never told her she was a fool for doing it. Gable knew next to nothing about acting, and even less about New York, but she did know that a shapely redhead like Jean would probably be able to model if nothing else. And model she had, for a few clothing catalogues and lowbrow men’s magazines before saving up enough to move farther away. “New York is small potatoes, Gaye. I want to be in movies.” That was before she had stopped writing.

Now Jean was sitting just across from Gable, eating a piece of toast with jam no more than two feet away, but Gable could only think of the moment Jean had phoned to tell her she was heading for Hollywood. “I’ll call you as soon as I’m settled, darling.” Her next call would be the one announcing that she was returning to Camden.

“Do we have any more milk?”


“No, I think the last of it ran out yesterday. I'll pick up another bottle after work.”

“You know what I've been craving? Those butterscotch cookies your mother used to make.”

“Oh, those do sound good.”

“I think they're my favorite food.”

“You said that the other day about chocolate ice cream.”

“Ice cream is second. Butterscotch cookies are my first-favorite.”

“I think I have all of the ingredients here. We could make some if you want.”

“Then we definitely need milk.”

“Right. I'll pick some up later.”

Jean chewed another bite of toast and took a sip of water. “Are you cleaning for Mrs. Thompson today?”

Gable shook her head as she finished a mouthful of food. “No. Tuesdays are the Walters'.”

“Does Mrs. Walter still have that horrible furry mole on her left cheek?”

“Jean!” Gable exclaimed, stifling a laugh.

“Well, does she?”

“Yes. But it's not nice to point out.”

“They can remove those now, you know.”

Gable stifled another laugh. They both finished their breakfasts in silence, Gable having fallen into fond reminiscences of her days on the rope swing with Jean. Eventually the chiming of the mantle clock brought her out of her reverie, and as she cleared the plates she beamed cheerfully. “You know, I think tonight is a special night.”

“Why’s that?” Jean grinned back.

“Well, you’ve been here six months. I think we should celebrate-”

“That long . . .” Jean murmured. Gable did not notice.

“-so I bought a roast, and some carrots to go with the potatoes, since I know they’re the only vegetables you’ll eat-”

“Did you say tonight?”

“Yes, and I was thinking that afterward we could get ice cream on Main-”

“Gable-”

“We’ll make an evening of it!”

Jean swallowed hard. “Oh Gaye, I’m so sorry- but-”

Gable’s face crumpled. “Oh.”

“I have a meeting tonight. In Dover.”

“Again?”

“I’ve promised to- what do you mean, ‘again?’”

“You’re gone every night!” Gable sulked. She had been supportive of Jean’s ‘promising’ job meetings for months, but thus far they had only seemed to lead to more meetings.

“I am not gone every night. It’s for work, Gaye. Stage acting in a community theater isn’t exactly going to win me an Oscar, but at this point I’ll take what I can get.” Gable frowned and stared at the floor. “Gable, I’m sorry-”

“No, no. It’s fine. Another night.” Gable made for the door, never lifting her head. “I have to go. I’ll be late to the Walters’.”

---

When Gable returned at five in the afternoon, Jean was out. She had expected that and prepared dinner for herself in quietude. When at ten in the evening Jean had still not returned, Gable went to bed without thinking much of it. These “meetings” often went late and resulted in Jean returning in a fit of giggles and smelling of cigarette smoke. But when at eight o’clock the following morning Gable found herself eating breakfast alone, she began to feel some degree of concern. She at first thought that Jean might still be sleeping, as her return to the house must have been very late indeed.

Gable knocked on the door to what had once been her father’s study. Then she knocked again, a bit louder. After the third time she simply opened the door, expecting to find Jean draped over the bed in a liquor-induced stupor. Instead, she found a bed that had not been slept in, without any sign that Jean had been there since yesterday. The mild concern Gable had felt now turned to panic, and she dashed to the telephone only for her heart to sink when she realized she had no idea whom Jean had seen the night before or how to contact them. Defeated, she sank heavily into a chair by the fireplace and waited.

For the first hour or two, Gable felt her anxiety grow with each passing minute. After that, she fell into a sort of meditative state where the only thing she was consciously aware of was the ticking of the clock on the mantel. She remained that way until the faintly audible sound of a car door slamming brought her out of her torpor. She sat up, listening closely. When she was sure that footsteps could indeed be heard heading toward the house, she darted to the door. Throwing it open with surprising violence, she wasn’t certain whether she felt more relief or rage as a grinning Jean sidestepped her and walked inside.

“Darling! How was your evening?” she asked warmly. “Not too dull, I hope?” Gable simply stared, unable to speak. “What on Earth are you looking at me like that for?” she asked, somewhat less jovially.

“Where were you?” Gable spat. “I've been worried sick.”

“Oh, it's so like you to worry, darl-”

“Do you know how long you've been gone?” Gable was shouting now. “I thought you’d had an accident!”

Jean pouted. “Gable, I told you I had a meeting in Dover.”

“I was going to call the police if you weren't here in an hour!” The shouting continued. “Where were you?”

“You knew where I was!”

“I know that Dover is a twenty minute’s drive away and that a meeting doesn't last twenty-four hours.”

“Good ones do.”

“Not any kind of meeting you should be going to!”

“Are you really telling me what to do!” Now Jean was shouting too, her usually pale skin dyed crimson with anger.

“How could you be so inconsiderate?”

“Inconsiderate!”

“I do everything for you and you just don't care! You have never cared!”

“What are you talking about!”


“I give you everything. Everything you want. That’s why you came back here!”

For a moment Jean looked wounded, but then her eyes hardened and her tone took on an expression Gable had never heard. “You’re jealous of me.” She said it calmly, as a matter-of-fact.

“Jealous-”

“Because you have only me. You have no one but me.”

Gable’s face paled and her voice dropped to a whisper. “That is not true.”

“Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps you're utterly friendless by your own doing? You ought to thank me. I've done you a great favor by being the only friend you'll ever have.”

“Get out.”

Jean said nothing, but marched straight to the study in response. Gable stood motionless where she had been left. Within minutes Jean reemerged with her two leather suitcases in hand. She stormed out of the house without a parting word or look, setting one suitcase down just long enough to open the door and slam it behind her. Gable remained rooted to the spot for some time longer. The bell of the mantle clock signifying the hour brought her back to life, and she showed her gratitude by taking the clock in hand and throwing it with full force across the room. She did the same with the hallway mirror and all of the books on the living room shelves. She beat against the dining table with her fists, and when she had thoroughly exhausted herself, she collapsed to the floor and wept.

---

The weeping lasted for weeks. Gable still got out of bed and dressed each morning, still cleaned houses for her neighbors each week, still ate and showered and slept, but through all of it she wept. She cried silently, but the flow of tears was continuous. She became even more reclusive than she always had been, and on the rare occasion that a neighbor ventured to ask what was the matter she would only blame allergies and cry harder. Soon, people stopped asking, and shortly after, Gable found she had no tears left. The pain turned to numbness, and her days continued as they always had.

---

“The Liberty Broadcasting Station and its affiliated stations present Ida Mae Stripeland and the Romance Theater on the air in ‘Fancy Seeing You Here.’”

A savage wind rattled the house’s old shutters and screamed through the trees in a fit of temper. Thunder sounded and the first few drops of rain pattered on the tiles of the roof. The radio crackled as the theme music for the show began to play, but it could not compete with the howling of the coming storm. Gable, stood up from her armchair to adjust the volume dial and slipped back into the seat in one fluid motion. Rubbing absentmindedly at the seemingly permanent crease in her forehead, she sipped her tea and listened. The story was interesting; a woman named Mary had pined away for an unrequited love for years, and the loneliness had driven her mad. She was just beginning to consider that in death, at least, they would be together forever . . . and then the static overpowered the signal and the words were unintelligible. Gable flipped off the radio and listened to the wailing of the wind and rain, wondering how the story ended. She covered her face with her hands, and found that touch of her cold hands over her sockets brought relief to the dry, bloodshot eyes beneath. She sat that way for some time, and before long she had drifted off to sleep.

She dreamt of cannons, but their constant crashing woke her from her slumber. It was dark, and in the last remnants of her dream state she was certain that the crashing was real. It took her several moments to shake off the feeling of dreaming, and several more moments to realize that someone was pounding at the door with increasing intensity. Gable threw the door open wide, realizing as she was sprayed with a sudden burst of wind and rain that she ought to have done so more hesitantly.

She blinked the water from her eyes and squinted. An indistinct silhouette, soaking wet from the storm, filled the doorway. The figure took a tentative step closer to Gable, whose eyes widened in surprise. Her vision had adjusted enough to realize that her caller was indeed familiar.

Gable rubbed at her eyes like a small child awakening from a deep sleep, reluctant to believe that she recognized the dark figure dripping with rain at the threshold. She squinted her eyes into the darkness, blinking hard with incredulity. Though her face was gaunt, her hair was longer and matted due to the rain, and her clothes were plain and soaked to the point of transparency, there could be no mistake.

“Hurry, come inside. Come on,” Gable recovered, hastening to bring Jean over the threshold. “Have a seat by the radiator, I’ll get you a blanket. Would you like some tea? I’ll make you some tea.” Jean sat stiffly as a corpse while Gable cocooned her in an old afghan, barely moving even to blink as Gable flew back and forth like a whirlwind, building around her a fort of pillows and blankets before setting the kettle on the stove.

Finally satisfied that Jean would be warm enough, Gable drew up the nearest chair to face her. She studied Jean’s face in silence, noticing with increasing distress how pale and drawn she had become, and yet observing with no great surprise that she was still singularly beautiful.

The kettle whistled and Gable rushed to remove it from the heat. She returned with strong, black tea in a large saucer and handed it to Jean, who took it in both hands and wept silently. Gable said nothing, and simply watched. After what could have been twenty minutes or an hour, Jean spoke. “Thank you,” she murmured, so quietly that Gable was not sure she had truly spoken.

“Are you hungry?” Gable asked, nearly as quietly. Jean managed a small nod. Gable grinned. “I’ll whip something up. Something special.” She felt strangely elated as she bustled around the kitchen, cooking everything she could think to make. By the time she deemed herself finished she had prepared a small feast of roasted chicken, steamed carrots, potato soup, and bread rolls. She completed each place setting with a cloth napkin and a large glass of water, pausing just long enough to make sure that everything was in its place.

Jean had dozed off in her seat while Gable cooked, but woke instantly at the sound of approaching footsteps. Gable gently draped Jean’s arm over her shoulder and half carried her to the table, where Jean sat down with a thump. She stared at the meal wide-eyed, then looked at Gable expectantly. Gable simply nodded as she took her seat, gesturing grandly at the platters of steaming food.

Jean ate as though she had not eaten a proper meal in months, and she probably hadn’t, Gable realized as she slowly and deliberately cut into her chicken. Jean did not speak, but continued to shovel food into her mouth as if she were afraid she would never eat again. Gable ate slowly and silently, watching Jean attentively. Only after she had nearly cleared her plate and Jean had helped herself to a third serving of everything did the latter venture to speak. “I’m sorry.” The words were soft but clear. Her eyes began to well once more but did not spill over.

“All is forgiven,” Gable hurried. “You’ve come back home, that’s all that matters.”

“Home . . .” Jean’s brow wrinkled momentarily.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am that you’ve come back.” Jean frowned once more and shook her shook her head slightly, opening her mouth to speak, but Gable continued on. “Don’t let’s talk about it now, Jean. We’ll have all the time in the world to talk later.” Jean inclined her head and closed her mouth, resuming an expression close to the pout that had grown so familiar. Gable felt her own smile fall in response. “Silly me!” she began again, a little loudly. “I forgot the finishing touch!” She rose from her seat and rushed back to the kitchen, returning with a tall bottle of red wine. “I’ve been saving this,” Gable explained as she poured a towering glass for each of them. “Just in case.”

Gable returned to her seat and stared expectantly at Jean. Jean swallowed hard, looking Gable full in the face for the first time all evening. In a voice that sounded much stronger than she looked, she lifted her glass and declared “To us,” venturing a smile that looked more like a wince.

Gable nodded in agreement, raising her wine and inclining her head toward Jean’s glass. Both women drank; Gable in steady, measured sips and Jean in desperate, thirsty gulps. The latter emptied her glass in seconds. She placed it back on the table and began to swallow repeatedly, frowning as Gable continued to drink.

Jean’s eyes went wide. Gable emptied her glass. Jean opened her mouth to speak but could not make the words come. All color drained from her features, leaving her an unnatural shade of gray. Gable only smiled as she met Jean’s stricken gaze with her own placid one. “To us,” she mouthed, as the color drained from her own face.

Short Story

About the author

Sarah Sheppeck

M.Ed, MFA. My work has been featured in Writers Resist, The Coachella Review, and the annual Glitterary Festival in Oxford, MS. I am also the co-Editor-in-Chief of queer fashion and literary mag just femme & dandy.

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