Kyle waited at the bottom of the ladder. It was bitterly cold and gray out, it was a day
that made him worry about Angie spending days up in the loft. She had a space heater
and plenty of old comforters but he still imagined the night when he’d wake up to find
the barn a mess of ash and smoldering wood and Angie gone. He knew, however, that
she would rather risk hypothermia and a freak space heater accident than sacrifice her
“Angie?” he ventured a third time his voice only growing slightly louder. It could go on
for hours this quiet asking and waiting. She could be in her headphones working, asleep
on her mattress on the floor or politely ignoring him and he’d never know until she either
barked at him to come back at a more convenient time or poked her head over the edge
of the loft and asked groggily what he needed. It could go on for hours because he
couldn’t climb up that ladder and get her like the dominant virile man he sometimes
wished he was. He couldn’t climb the ladder because aside from fire, heights was his
only uncontrollable fear. When presented with either a burning object or the prospect of
the ground being more than six feet away all recognizable reality melted away until it
was just him and the fear in a slowly shrinking room. It was another part of God’s sense
of irony in that he married a woman who not only sequestered herself in the one place
he could never go but willingly chose to sleep in what appeared to him a match waiting
to be struck. Dust, gently ripped comforters, papers and reject sketches and sentences
scattered all over the old wood floor a “safe” distance from the humming space heater
(safe generally meaning a foot away). At least that’s how he imagined it. It was how her
studio had looked before they moved to the farm house, papers littering the floor and a
sleeping bag shoved under the desk. Her work was her life and so she lived with it.
“Ang?” his voice was still quiet but had adopted a sense of urgency. He heard shuffling
and a stifled cough before her head popped into view. Her eyes were blinking sleep out
and her hair was unruly.
“Yes Kyle?” her fingers were draped over the edge and she rested her chin on her
knuckles. She looked placid and groggily curious. Kyle was relieved.
“We need to go to breakfast with Julie and Andrew,” Kyle already knew what her
response would be and had practiced his argument on his walk from the house to the
barn to get her.
“No we don’t,” she said screwing her eyebrows together.
“Yes we do, will you please come to the house and get ready?”
“Why?” her eyebrows were tightly knitted together.
“Because it’s what Julie wants to do, Andrew isn’t going to argue with her, and it’s not
too much to ask to go to breakfast even if it means giving Julie what she wants to avoid
a tantrum,” Kyle always felt a little like he was betraying Andrew when he made
statements about Julie but it was like Angie always said,if it wasn’t true then it would be
unfair. Angie sighed and looked straight ahead while a disturbed bit of dust shimmered
around her face.
“You know, you say her name first a lot now even when the story is about Andrew,” she
said as her head zipped back out of sight and the sounds of drawers opening and
shutting drifted down the ladder.
“Even when the story is about Andrew, Julie is always involved,” Angie snorted in
response as she started down the ladder with a hair brush gripped in her teeth and
nothing on but an oversized faded t-shirt and underwear sprinkled with little duckies.
As they stepped quickly to the house Angie violently combed out tangles in her hair
while goose bumps rippled her skin.
“Pants, a jacket, strip of cloth... these are all good ideas when traipsing in cold weather,”
Kyle whispered as he playfully grabbed Angie’s ass under the bottom edge of her extra-
long t-shirt. She laughed under breath and caught his fingers in hers sliding his hand to
the small of her back. Her skin there was warm in contrast to her hand so cold from the
air he imagined her skin fracturing into glittering shards.
He held open the screen door for her and felt an increase in the undercurrent of his
blood at her eyes sparking when she glanced back at him briefly before running up the
stairs. Kyle headed to the kitchen already feeling an apologetic look take over his face
as he imagined explaining the delay to Julie. He could already hear her talking very
animatedly but softly from the hall.
“... I don’t think I’m demanding. It bothers me, though, when I have to cattle prod every
situation. Every time I have to spur everyone to get up and get moving and maybe that
makes me a bitch but, and I’m not trying to be full of myself, but if it weren’t for me you
wouldn’t do anything. You wouldn’t have done anything. You...” she stopped abruptly
and turned her attention to Kyle, leaning back in her seat. Her cigarette was dangling
between her fingers, a bit of ash hanging precariously from the end. Kyle hated it when
she did that, let her cigarette perch over his floor, but somehow she always caught it,
always tapped the end into the ash tray as the last possible second, so what complaint
could he have?
“She’s getting dressed, it shouldn’t take too long,” Julie sighed, smiled tight and ashed.
Andrew was sitting with his arms folded across his chest, his own cigarette smoking in
the ash tray as he stared seemingly into space. Kyle wasn’t a fan of smoking in the
house but he compromised with the linoleum floors and retro ’50’s metal and formica
dining furniture of the kitchen.
“Do we know where we’re going?” asked Julie switching her crossed legs, one over the
“Ooah pretty much anywhere is good, anywhere with meat and Angie will probably just
get coffee. She doesn’t eat much in the morning,” Julie snorted. Julie and Angie had
never gotten along.
“Well you two know the area better than we do,” Julie said visibly trying not to look
agitated. Kyle shifted in his seat and looked at Andrew.
“Andrew, what do you think?” Andrew looked up slightly startled and hastily grabbed his
cigarette before answering.
“Ah, you guys, you know the area, I’m really up for anything,”
“But do you have an opinion?” asked Julie brittlely.
“Yes Julie I have an opinion, that I don’t really care where we eat as long it has food,”
he replied evenly back. Kyle quickly went through the food options in his head as he
wondered where the hell Angie was.
“There’s Hal’s, that’s a vegetarian place, Sidecar is a diner, Mama Cassidy’s is mostly a
“You said you wanted meat,” said Julie leaning forward. Kyle looked from her to Andrew
and back. His knee had started involuntarily shaking.
“So why even mention the vegetarian place?” Kyle could feel his abject frustration for
this woman rising below the surface.
“I said I wanted meat but I can make do with Tofu. I’m really up for whatever,”
“Julie, we’re all up for anything so what do you want?” Andrew quietly addressed his
girlfriend in a tone that brought images in Kyle’s mind of Andrew rolling up his sleeves.
“I’m trying to get us to some sort of consensus!” she shot back stabbing her cigarette
down violently into the ash tray.
“Then let’s go to fucking Hal’s and be done with it!” yelled Angie from the doorway. All
three turned and stared at her dressed in dark blue jeans, black tank top under a long
Janis coat and her messy hair tamed back into a pony tail. Her arms were wide open
from her declaration and Kyle wondered if she’d hit her hands on the door frame.
Andrew was the first to move stubbing out his cigarette, “Let’s go,”.
“It’s perfect,” and her eyes sparked as a busy freeway of thoughts rushed behind them.
Kyle wasn’t as sold. The house had “character” as the realtor had said. But it also had a
very long list of much-needed repairs.
“You love that shit,” Angie said dismissively.
“I don’t know how to rewire light fixtures,” Kyle said quietly but still within earshot of Ms.
Patterson whose raised eyebrows invited a fake smile from him.
“Best way to learn is by doing,” replied Angie as she stepped towards the real selling
point for her. A barn on the verge of dilapidation that sported an upstairs empty hayloft.
She flew up the ladder and began yelling down all the major selling points.
“There’s a light up here! I could easily get an extension cord over here. Maybe a space
heater for winter,”
Kyle chewed on his bottom lip on the dirt floor below while Ms. Patterson buzzed more
“interesting tid bits about the house” in his ear. He knew he’d lost. Even if he could talk
her out of this house, every other place would be compared to it unfavorably until they’d
stayed in his dingy little apartment for five years. He sighed quietly through his nose and
smiled when her head reappeared at the opening in the roof with her eyebrows raised.
“We should put a floor down on this dirt and weather proof as much as possible,” he
said quietly up at her. She laid her head on her hands so all he could see was the smile
playing at her eyes.
Hal’s was busy. It didn’t bother Kyle so much. He kind of enjoyed watching people
scurry about with a sense of purpose they wouldn’t remember in a week. Like getting
the eggs to table three was at that moment what the foundation of their entire life was
built upon. Angie hated it. She was a sponge for nervous energy which Hal’s on a
Sunday morning had in spades. Her shoulders hunched and Kyle slipped a thumb
under the hem of her black tank top. Julie hated little kids at any time of day and
Andrew seemed worn out with most aspects of his life. The recipe for any awkward
“Christ did they have to sit us right behind the family that contraception forgot?” Julie
hissed gesturing to the family with four children ages two to five either talking loudly or
staring at other patrons, “Isn’t it fairly obvious that four young adults would prefer to be
seated away from a collection of brats?”
Actually they had been seated at one of the better tables. Near the window and by a
wall so only two side of their party would be sharing elbow space with other customers.
It was as private as you could get in any restaurant that served decent breakfast in the
morning. Kyle tried not to make eye contact with Julie so not to be forced to argue, or
worse, agree with her. Angie had busied herself with drawing little doodles on her
napkin and showing them the four year old who watched suspiciously and tried valiantly
to hide her pleasure. Julie sighed loudly and pulled out a cigarette.
“Do you see an ash tray?” she asked Andrew roughly.
“Hal’s is no smoking,” Angie muttered while adding antennae to the space dog she’d
drawn on Kyle’s napkin.
“Well how fucking progressive,” said Julie as she stabbed her cigarette back into the
pack, “Damn hippie towns,”
“It’s a consideration thing. As in, you consider that other people may not enjoy smoking
in any context which I suppose is only considered in “hippie” towns like ours,” said
Angie evenly as she presented Space Dog to the four year old who laughed loudly
enough to be told to turn around and stop bothering people by her mother.
“It seems making scribbles and paperweights while someone else picks up a bill here or
there is another thing your town considers,” said Julie lightly dumping creamer into her
coffee. Kyle glanced at Andrew who shook his head slightly and looked to the side while
sipping his orange juice.
Angie and Julie had never fought or even argued really since both were well-versed in
“Some choose a path of enjoyment rather than distraction,” Angie replied stuffing her
doodles into Kyle’s pocket.
Julie snorted (why don’t you bring in steady money and work your little projects on the
Angie smirked back (surely we’d all be better off taking the exact route you did, if only
we were all so smart).
Julie lifted an eyebrow and clinked her spoon loudly against the sides of the coffee cup
(being creative does not mean irresponsible, I’m creative but I also work).
Angie leaned forward, slit her eyes, and sipped her coffee obnoxiously (flower arranging
may be creative but how much work can matching colors be?).
Julie slammed her cup on the table spilling a bit that stained her napkin wet brown (like
you even know what work is sitting around in your underwear in a barn all day).
Angie raised her eyebrows, widened her eyes and screwed up her mouth (I know I
prefer that to having copious amounts of useless information filling my head like
‘marigolds and sunflowers are a fun combination for a summer wedding’).
Julie looked away in disgust (worthless).
Angie looked away in disgust (cancer).
It was the loudest silence Kyle had ever heard and the waitress’s uninterested demand
for their orders was a welcome relief.
Julie supported the entirety of conversation while the rest of the table moved the food
from their plates to their mouths. Except Angie who took two bites and began to design
little cities and villages out of the scrambled eggs and fruit separated in front of her.
Clock towers with yolk cement and strawberry roofs. Wheat fields of biscuit crumb dirt
and grape vine dead plants. Kyle surreptitiously began to remove shingles and door
knobs and drop them on his tongue.
“Natural disaster,” Angie smiled. Kyle pulled in his arms and quietly did his best
impression of Godzilla. Angie snorted and quickly built a catapult out of sugar packets
and a wayward spoon to protect the borders of her breakfast society.
“Well then I’ll just sit in the car and wait until you deign to decide on a time to go,”
snapped Julie as she slammed a twenty on the table and stormed away. The whole
restaurant flinched as she slammed the glass door behind her the bells chiming and
swinging madly. Andrew calmly lifted his juice to his mouth, slowly drained the glass
and brought it back down on the table hard enough to leave a hair line crack. Angie
watched expressionless while Kyle switched from opening and closing his mouth,
leaning into Angie and throwing glances around to the other patrons who politely looked
away. Finally Andrew moved, digging into his pocket to retrieve his wallet. He pulled out
a twenty and replaced the bill left by Julie. Her twenty he folded into the palm of his
hand and began pouring her leftovers into a togo box. Then he stood, shook Kyle’s
hand and kissed Angie on the cheek and slowly headed to the door. Suddenly he
stopped and turned facing Kyle and Angie who were sitting backwards in their seats
watching him leave. Andrew tightened his mouth and stared off at nothing for a moment
until with clear deliberation he said,
“Nothing is ever perfect and being with her is better than being without her,”
And he left.
Kyle regretted the purchase of the house within the first week. It wasn’t that the
extensive repairs the place was in constant need of were out of his handy-man skill
level. It wasn’t the continuous presence or spider and silver fish colonies. It wasn’t even
the three splinters he got on three different occasions from the untreated wood floor of
the kitchen before he’d put down the linoleum. Angie was right, the house despite it’s
flaws was lovely. Charming with secret nooks and crannies in every room and old
architecture you just don’t see in modern housing. But Kyle regretted and to an extent
resented the house.
Angie, in their first week together in their home, hadn’t left her loft in three days. Not for
food or water. That she had brought up with her, he assumed. Not for the bathroom. He
marveled at either her ability to hold her bladder or lack of squeamishness at using the
woods that lined the back of the property. She hadn’t ventured more than a few feet
from the barn towards the house in days.
Not even for him.
Ok, he didn’t buy into “traditional” relationship rules. He didn’t like couples dances or
stuffed bears at Valentines Day. He hated Hallmark cards and Love Actually. He was
pretty sure he knew what love was and that it wasn’t a color or a string of cursive words
on recycled paper. He knew he loved Angie. He’d known from the second she sat down
next to him at Jess’s. He’d been following the conversation with his eyes but not feeling
a strong urge to really join in and she’d sat down next to him on the Burnt Orange couch
and laughed. Her laugh boisterous and high-pitched, completely affront to her low
speaking voice had snapped his ears to attention while the whole room slid out of view.
Her laugh had electrified every piece of her body like neon running through glass piping.
Her brown hair highlighted red and blonde streaks like a pin ball machine as her teeth
shown like polished pearls unobscured by slightly chapped berry-stained lips. And her
eyes. That’s what got him, hooked him in forever. Morphing blue eyes, stormy and
uninterrupted clear skies at the same time. And when the night ended and he could see
her slipping to the door he’d known that if he didn’t do something drastic she’d slip out
of his life and he’d never see color and light like that ever again. He’d jumped in front of
her, handed her his number, told her to call him with his best “I’m not a freak smile,”,
and didn’t see her again until he ran into her by accident two weeks later. But that night
he’d left with Julie and Andrew, who placed a safe hand on Julie’s back and they were
so happy in each other, he left with them feeling like he’d just made sense of a
language that had previously to his ears just been a series clicks and runny sounds. Her
laugh was the key to clarity.
And marriage isn’t a story-book romance or two people sharing cheese on a picnic
blanket. It’s a union two people who can both hurt and love each other and understand
both sides like no one else. But he rarely felt like a partner and more like a side-kick.
And not even a heroic side-kick. The Alfred to her Batman. With her as always, Garth.
And all he could do was stand at the foot of the ladder calling up to her in that damned
loft and hope she’d come down and help him interpret music again.
It was a thrilling change of pace. Another chilly gray day threatening snow or wet ice
and Angie was inside the house enjoying the safe warmth of the kitchen. She sat at the
formica table painting her toe nails an obscene pink while Kyle sat on the floor replacing
the termite riddled cabinet doors. Every so often the wind blew exceptionally hard and
both Kyle and Angie would pause and listen to the symphony of creaks and groans in
the house. Kyle fitted the cabinet door back in underneathe the counter and sighed
satisfied when he swung it back and forth perfectly refurbished. He heard Angie laugh
softly behind him and glanced over his shoulder to realize she was watching him a smile
playing at her eyes.
“I love the sound you make after a job well-done,” she muttered returning to her toe
work. Kyle’s heart pushed to be released from his chest but he snatched it back and
placed his focus back into the next door. Often he craved and desired her attention,
however he preferred to not let anyone see that the simplest word from Angie thrilled
him. It seemed... pathetic.
“I don’t work tomorrow,” Kyle mentioned as he reached behind him for a piece of sand
paper. Angie grunted.
“Do you want to check out the dollar theatre, I think it’s a short film fest,” he added
blowing a bit of saw dust from the smoothed corner.
“Hmm,” Angie murmured. Kyle held his breath waiting for her response. “Sounds like a
good bad weather plan,” she answered finally and Kyle tried to stamp down the relief in
The next day was gorgeous. Small delicate flakes of snow flew softly down and
collected into blankets of white across their property tinkling as they tapped through the
dead branches of the woods. Kyle watched from the window over the sink. It was not
driving weather. It was home to watch nature’s majesty weather. And Angie was in her
Kyle’s view fogged as he exhaled and he left the window to return to the crock pot he
was filling with an assortment of vegetables, tofu and spices while cornbread cooked in
the oven. His and Angie’s favorite cold weather meal. Several tiny icicles reached for
the ground from the roof’s overhang getting ever closer to the white ground below.
Through the frozen haze, the space heater glow in the loft grew brighter as the sun
slowly lost its grip and sank behind the earth. Stickly branches poked out desperately
from the thickening soft ice like thin fingers searching for warmth. Kyle ladled out the
stew and cut the corn bread and arranged it on two mismatched plates. He then picked
up the stonewear high-fire black glazed plate and covered it to keep the heat in. With
care, he carried it out to the barn, called three times to the loft opening for Angie, and
left the plate steaming by the ladder.
That night Kyle awoke startled by something very cold and slightly damp sliding in next
to him allowing the heat encompassed around him to escape. He blinked
uncomprehending until he saw Angie’s eyes illuminated by the glowing wonderland
outside the bedroom. She caressed his face with a frigid hand and kissed him softly on
“Thank you for dinner,” she whispered moving her body closer to his. He slipped a hand
her clothes and ran his fingers along the smooth angles of her waist. She shivered and
held his gaze.
“Was it cold when you got to it?” he asked quietly. She shook her head no. He nodded
and pulled a few flakes of ice from her hair. She sighed and searched his face in the
dark with her hands. She ran over the lines of desire and creases of frustration both
aimed at her, and touched her warming forehead to his head. With another sigh she
dropped a hand to find his still at her hair and held it gently. He tried half-heartedly to
spread his warmth to her stiff joints.
“I told you it wouldn’t be easy with me,” she whispered.
It was true she had warned him, but that didn’t make it any easier on him.
The snow was finally giving way to mud with a sprinkle of green here and there. Kyle
had taken it upon himself to fill the side yard with vegetables and was ankle deep in wet
earth planning out where everything would be planted according to sunlight and
“You don’t even like zucchini,” Angie muttered sipping at her cracked coffee mug, a
rarity out of the loft. She was surly and had circles under her eyes. Kyle shrugged off
her half-hearted response to his fingers scratching through her tangled hair.
“I like cooking with it,” he answered sitting back down at the table to flip the page in his
How to Grow the Perfect Zucchini gardening book.
Angie grunted, downed her tea, and wandered back outside. Kyle kept his focus down
on “If soil sticks to your shoes or shovel, it is too wet. Press a small amount of soil in
your hand,” as his ears followed the slap of Angie’s flip flops back out to the barn. She’d
holed herself up there for going on seven days, that morning being the most they had
conversed since she’d begun whatever project had stolen her attention. She never told
him what she was working on, he only saw the ending result which he was reluctant to
critique (knowing that the less constructive criticism he gave the less likely she was to
show any work to him) fearing a bad review would send her back into isolation to fix
whatever in the piece didn’t have a voice.
“You knew this about me before we agreed to do this,” she’d said the one time he had
risked asking why she wouldn’t come down if for nothing else, to say Hi How You
“I know that Ang, I know. But it’s starting to get awkward feeling jealous of art supplies,”
She’d placed her hand on the side of his face and kissed him lightly on the lips, a slight
brush of a kiss and it was enough in that moment. But it always dissipated and after that
briefest of conversations she stayed in the loft even longer and brought down no work
for him to see.
The phone’s metallic ring startled Kyle from his book and he answered with a tilt of
“Reiner residence. No she’s not. Yes I can. Yeah, I’ll tell her. You too.”
Kyle stood at the base of the ladder with the slip of paper held loosely between two
Her head silently appeared annoyed at the disruption.
“You got a call,”
“Left a number, friend of yours coming through town, name of Sam Brown,”
She blinked to attention and Kyle suddenly remembered with a pinch of dread why the
name had rung familiar.
“Sammy Brown?” she said with true interest, “Sammy Brown is coming to town,” she
laughed at her own joke and the dread in Kyle’s stomach twisted into resentment as it
climbed into his throat.
“Number?” she lowered fishing line with a clothespin tied to it and Kyle clipped the slip
of paper with Sam Brown’s number written on it and watched it slowly rise to Angie’s
eagerly waiting face.
An hour later Angie appeared in the kitchen with combed hair and relaxed facial
“I’m meeting him Friday for dinner,” she stated as she sat down and placed one dirty
foot on the kitchen table, “Are you ok with that?”
Kyle was married to Angie and had tried and failed infinite times to find the magic that
would bring her from the loft and all Sam had to do was come into town and call her. No
he was not ok with that.
“The last big one huh?” asked Andrew slowly tearing off the label on his PBR. Julie had
hardly said a word and it was freaking Kyle out though Andrew didn’t seem perturbed in
“Yeah... he introduced her to some of her favorite bands and loaned her the book that
‘changed her world perspective’ while slowly chipping away at her security with a fairly
large amount of bull shit. She refers to him as they only boyfriend who was constantly
two steps ahead of her hence how he was able to ‘cheat’ on her in a gray area for the
last leg of their relationship,”
“Well,” said Andrew crunching the label into a sticky ball and flicking it across the room,
“best not to worry,”. Julie sucked in her cheeks and clenched her jaw. It was really
starting to unnerve Kyle, like sitting next to a small growling toy poodle.
“Anything new with you guys,?” It was the safest way Kyle could think of to ask what the
fuck was wrong with Julie. Andrew swigged long and hard on his beer.
“No, not really,”
Julie’s eyes glazed over and she quickly excused herself to the bathroom while Kyle
and Andrew sat silently in the kitchen pretending to be listening intently to the
Twinemen album playing in the living room. As one track faded into another Kyle began
to stare at Andrew who became suddenly engrossed in a smudge on the speckled
formica table top. Kyle watched him slowly rub his finger over and over until the smudge
morphed into a grease spot from the natural oil of Andrew’s hand and just when he
didn’t think he could take much more the front door banged open and Angie sauntered
into the room smelling of smoke and looking flushed.
“Good evening everyone, same ol’ same ol’?” she asked as she made her way to the
sink and poured a glass of water from the tap.
“How was dinner?” Kyle asked stiffly. She was wearing her favorite brown cotton skirt
with a floral pattern and a tight black tank top. Her hair was up with thick waves hanging
down her back divided from her face by large jade hoop earrings. Under the smoke was
a slight vanilla scent lingering on her skin at the base of her throat. She looked beautiful.
Kyle was pissed.
“Decent,” she replied swallowing a mouthful of water, “we did the Korean place then
went to the bar next to Andy’s.”
“The Painted Wagon?” offered Andrew.
“That’s it,” Angie nodded, “It was country night. It was terrifying,”
“How was Sam?” asked Kyle with an edge even Andrew caught. Angie gazed at him
evenly rolling the glass in her fingertips.
“Doing well. He’s published now.”
“Well good for him, you always said he was a skilled writer,”
“He was and is,” she said quietly as she crossed her arms refusing to break eye
contact, “I was happy to see him,”
“Maybe you should be happy staying at home with your husband,”Julie snarled from the
doorway. Angie’s mouth dropped partly open in surprise until she regained whatever
composure she was holding against Kyle.
“I don’t see how being married means I lose all contact with the outside world,” Angie
replied taking a another sip from her water glass.
“Because it’s your responsibility! It’s what marriage is, you irresponsible child! You
support your husband, not go off getting hammered with some guy!”
Kyle looked quickly to Andrew and upon seeing Andrew’s face frozen in terror, decided
to let this play out and to intervene with there was blood flow.
“I went out with a friend, I did not get “hammered” with some guy. You’re being a
ridiculous bitch and I think you know it,”
Julie’s nostrils flared and she marched over to Angie who didn’t budge but her whole
“Oh Jesus,” moaned Andrew almost to himself and he buried his eyes in the palm of his
“I’m acting like a woman in a committed relationship. I’m acting like a woman who
understands responsibility,” said Julie quietly with a gathering volume. “I’m acting like
someone who knows that a woman when in a relationship should be there for her
husband! She shouldn’t go out galavanting whenever she please!” now she was
shouting with a hint of hysteria, “She should stay home and mind the house and the kids
and if her career suffers thems the breaks because she should know that eventually she
has to make choices that benefit the family not her! That’s what being a woman is! She
has to sacrifice everything so they can have a nice normal happy functioning life!” And
then Julie burst into tears.
Angie was braced against the sink her eyes darting in every direction. Kyle stared at
Julie while Andrew sat rock still pressing his face into his hands.
“Oh my God!” Julie suddenly cried between sobs, “I”m pregnant! My life is over! My
career! My freedom! It’s over!,” and hid her face behind her hands as her body shook
violently. Kyle thought he had possibly seen it all until Angie wrapped her arms around
Julie and held her tight.
“It’s ok,” Angie whispered, “It’s ok,” After a few minutes the crying petered out and Julie
stood with her head buried in Angie’s damp shoulder.
“Listen to me,” Angie said gently but firmly, “You’re life is not over. It’s just changing. It’s
all part of the same life. The scariest part of the roller coaster is the climb up the hill,”
Angie rubbed Julie’s back until she pulled away wiping snot and tears on the back of her
hand. Then she glanced up to Angie and whispered,
“Thank you, you smell like smoke,”
“I know,” Angie sighed.
Kyle still sat gaping at the two of them and when Andrew finally pulled his head from his
hand and seeing things back to calm, took another drink of PBR and sat back in his
chair like nothing had even happened, Kyle couldn’t contain himself any longer.
“Excuse me, BUT WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?!” Kyle bellowed.
Kyle had been waiting at the table for thirty minutes while Angie showered and
“decompressed” from the night’s events before she came in and, after grabbing some
juice, sat across from him. She rested her foot on his thigh and stared into space as
they sank into a mutual silence.
“I’m going out to the barn,” she broke in. Kyle nodded and squeezed her foot before she
slid out the door into the dark.
That night a thunder storm cracked over the house startling Kyle from the deepest of
sleeps. He sat up straight in bed feeling nothing but the pounding in his heart and
immediately looked out the bedroom window to the barn. As he focused on its dark
shape with a sliver of light glowing from under the hay loft doors a spark of lightening
exploded behind the building illuminating it’s silhouette like flames dancing in the roof.
Kyle threw the blankets aside and charged from the bedroom, down the stairs, out the
door and into sheets of rain. He slipped once face flat to the ground and choked as mud
filled his mouth and nose. He crashed into the barn and up the ladder like a rabid
animal. Angie was asleep on a mattress placed on the floor against the far wall wrapped
up in old quilts her space heater cold and silent. Kyle clawed up through the hole and
dragged himself across the floor screaming for Angie. Angie snapped awake and
pushed herself up from the mattress. The quilts slipped of her shoulders revealing she
was topless and her skin prickled as the chill of the night storm slid over her.
“Kyle! God Kyle! What?! What is it?!” she cried when Kyle finally reached her and
grabbed her arms smearing mud over skin and started shouting almost incoherently.
“The fire Angie! You have to get out of the barn! The fire! You have to get out!” he
screamed over and over while trying to drag Angie off the mattress until she reached up
and gently took his face in her hands.
“Shhh, Kyle, stop. Calm down calm down. There is no fire babe. It’s ok there’s no fire,”
she said gently climbing her fingers into his hair. Kyle sputtered half words and sounds
as Angie ran her fingers through his matted hair and his heart rate slowed from break
neck to nervous then jumped back to panic as he suddenly realized where he was. With
a moan, Kyle closed his eyes and dug his nails into the mattress fighting the feeling of
the loft floor falling from under his knees and his body free falling in space.
“Baby, baby,” Angie whispered pulling him down under the quilts now soggy with the
rain water and mud dripping off Kyle’s body and pressed her breasts against his back.
He took a few ragged breaths feeling Angie’s mouth exhaling lightly against the back of
his neck and shifted his whole body around to face her. He gently moved a few strands
of hair from her face and locked eyes with her.
“Angie, it can’t always be like this,” he started while pushing the panic aside as best he
could, “You can’t always be so far out of my reach. I...” he tried to suppress the feeling
of embarrassment at the slight break in his voice, “You have to meet me halfway
Angie held his stare for a moment then buried her face into his wet shirt and tightened
her arms around him as Kyle wondered if they’d ever be able to get the mud stains out
of the quilts.
The next two days the sounds of hammering and large objects being dragged across a
dusty wood floor were the only things that came out of the barn. When Angie finally
made an appearance, it was to ask Kyle to help her with a “project”.
He followed her sawdusted and band-aided form across the yard into the barn and
helped her nail up shelves as evenly as possible in the studio she built in one of the old
horse stalls in the back of the barn.
get call from old flame, Angie leaves loft immediately
the last big one before marriage
Julie has unplanned pregnancy, sparks discussion about kids, Angie ends up
comforting an emotionally abusive and terrified Julie after Angie gets back from dinner
First storm of spring startles Kyle awake and he rushes to loft to “rescue” Angie
we need a middle ground Angie, she looked at him, I need a middle ground. I need you
to meet me halfway. I need to be able to reach you without always exerting myself.
Angie turns loft into storage, and turns stall into private workpace on the ground