They lay on the hardwood that night, side by side. Close, but not touching. Their heads resting on pillows he’d lifted from the futon. They looked like tapestry, but felt like Berber carpet, rough.
The small of her back ached, but she didn’t say a word. Knowing that if she moved, whatever was holding them there together would break.
She arched her neck slightly to look at the ceiling. He had painted over the textured drywall with orange, blue, and golden acrylics. An Aztec sun presided over the apartment.
He followed her stare and smiled.
“I always wanted to be a painter,” he said wistfully. But she knew he worked the second shift at 7-Eleven. Every day, he left work smelling like mint gum and clove cigarettes. Sometimes he smelled like beer, but he always put tea on when she came over, served from a black ceramic pot.
She looked back at the ceiling. Relaxed. Then closed her eyes in an attempt to look past it.
“Maybe God is up there,” she said to him, only half-joking.
“Well, it makes sense,” he said before sitting to light up. “Why wouldn’t God want to live above a sunshine painted ceiling?”
A.D. Stevens is a future cat lady whose short stories are fueled by English breakfast tea and folk music.