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  • Staring up from Sarah’s bed at the plastic glow-in-the-dark stars and milky ways makes me weak in the head.
    I am no longer her lover; I am her friend, or whatever you’d consider an ex-lover to be.
    I’m an in-between, or a foreign entity that doesn’t really belong in-between her sheets anymore.
    And yet, here I am.
    She’s left the room to make a pot of coffee in the oven-less kitchen, and soon she’ll be back with two cups, one for me, and one for her, and she’ll start dressing for work.
    I was always afraid of this.
    It doesn’t matter to me if Sarah has confirmed the tension or not, I know it’s in here with us cause it’s pressing down on my head.
    The stars are old, but I am older, and the walls are painted a new color green, which I disprove of.
    I can hear Sarah let out a series of sighs from down the hall, and I’ve been away for so long I can’t distinguish whether they’re the intentional kind or not.
    She enters the room wearing her oversized Pixies shirt that is torn in a few places under her ribs and it’s hanging off her right shoulder nicely.
    Sarah’s bird arm hands me my cup. Inside I spot a small white cloud dissolving.
    The cloud is faint, and I think it’s because, while pouring, she remembered I don’t like crème, and I drink my coffee black.
    Maybe she thinks I won’t notice, but I do.
    I lie on my side and watch her sit down at her vanity and cake on her makeup, thicken her lashes, and bejewel her neck and fingers and wrists with gaudy gold.
    She isn’t beautiful like this. She was never beautiful like this, and I’d like to say so but know I haven’t the right.
    There is a brief moment where she catches me staring at her in the mirror, and she becomes embarrassed.
    Except it’s not the kind of embarrassment that I used to find adorable, it’s a different kind. Something we don’t talk about, and will forget about.
    Sarah turns to me and says she’s got to change, she asks me not to look.
    I place both hands over my eyes to reassure her, but with her back to me, I peek through tiny cracks.
    It is the first time I have seen her nakedness lit naturally in almost a year, and I am all the sudden depressed by the sight of her scarred ankles and wide hips, and all the other features that felt so familiar last night in the safety of her dark bedroom.
    She is rolling white stockings up her chunky thighs, and her thighs are screaming, “Let us out, let us free.”
    She adjusts the seams and zips herself into a tan dress that looks more like a sad curtain.
    When she is finished, she turns to me to see if I am looking, and I narrow the slits between my fingers so she cannot tell.
    She waves at me to test my allegiance. She would always do this, and I would always laugh and she’d find me out, but today I do not laugh.
    Then, she raises both hands and gives me a double ‘fuck you’. And now she’s mouthing the words, ‘Fuck you’, and she’s crying, but silently, and she’s walking closer to me, still with her middle fingers extended.
    But before she gets to the edge of the bed I am grabbing at her and pulling her in, kissing right between her soft breasts.
    She doesn’t resist at all, she doesn’t do anything but lower her head and cry more.
    And I’m sure I can hear her thinking that this is all wrong.
    That this is all going very poorly.
    And that she’s going to be late for work if I ask what she knows I’d like to ask, which is for help.
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