After Charlie and I broke up, he dated two Russian women. When we got back together, I said something to him about how he wore those same camouflage pants all of the time, the same paint-splattered white v-neck shirts. What I meant was: don’t think I’ve forgotten that I told you I thought Russian women were beautiful and that if I was a lesbian I’d want to fall in love with one. Charlie shrugged and said he didn’t have any other shirts so I said let’s go buy you some new fucking shirts.
While we were shopping I said the Russian Women Stuff aloud to him. I didn’t think I could, but I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror and I looked braver than I felt. I looked like a warrior. I was wearing tribal earrings and I’d switched the diamond stud in my nose for a small hoop; thick black eyeliner and lots of lipgloss. My hair a beautiful mess. I turned to Charlie.
“You only dated those Russian women because I said that whole thing that one time.”
“What one thing?”
“Whole thing. One time,” I corrected. He was snapping metal hangers on the rack from one hand to the next, looking at the dress pants on clearance.
“We were drunk…I told you I wanted to kiss Regina Spektor, remember?”
“Oh, so you’re a lesbian now?” he said, and held up a pair of garish orange pants. I rolled my eyes and he put them back.
“No. I’m not a lesbian now.”
“You also said you liked English boys. Don’t forget your wannabe Banksy.” This was a reference to my affair with Lucas, the cute-but-completely-awful-for-me street artist who moved back to London with seven hundred of my dollars and two of my favorite paperbacks.
“That’s not the fucking point, Charlie.”
“And the point is?”
I checked the mirror, reminded myself.
“I’m angry. You hurt me on purpose. That’s why we always fight.”
“We don’t always fight,” he said. He gave me that look of his, the gooey-loving one, but I wasn’t in the mood and didn’t imagine myself becoming so anytime soon. Sure I loved him, deep inside and far from where any light shone, it just wasn’t a thing either of us ever verbalized.
I walked over to the plain white t-shirts and threw a pack of mediums in the basket. Charlie was behind me. I could smell him. He smelled like wet forest and cigarettes.
That night we went out and Charlie wore one of his new shirts and we saw some friends of ours at the bar. I told my friend, Stephanie, that I was going to kiss the first foreign boy I saw—that I would lick his teeth and chew his fucking face off—that I was going to make Charlie jealous. That I was going to make him pay for Russian Women Stuff.
“I thought you two were back together?” she said.
“You’re the worst together,” she said, and didn’t smile. The not-smiling hurt my feelings. I looked around, felt my face get hot. I’d already changed my mind. It was a dumb idea.
I saw Charlie at the bar with two of his buddies. I liked watching him when he didn’t know I was looking. He was nodding and laughing. Then some guy accidentally backed into him and Charlie’s whiskey spilled all over the front of his new shirt. Charlie smiled and patted the guy’s shoulder and I watched the guy buy him a refill.
“There’s something on your shirt,” I said after Charlie slid back into the booth.
He smiled and put his arm around me, squeezed my leg under the table. And I knew he’d get a great kick out of it if I told him I loved him right then. If I leaned in and made a huge deal about it.
About the author:
Leesa Cross-Smith is a writer and homemaker with a BA in English from the University of Louisville. She lives in Kentucky with her bearded husband and their two children. Her short story, Whiskey & Ribbons, won Editor’s Choice in the 2011 Raymond Carver Short Story Contest. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Storychord, The Rumpus, Bluestem Magazine, Carve Magazine and Little Fiction. She puts Sriracha on everything, dances like a mom and can be found online at LeesaCrossSmith.com.