She wakes up and makes him breakfast, makes him Johnny cakes with huckleberry syrup. She is wearing his old grey tee shirt, but she’s bigger than he is, and the shirt fits snug around her soft middle. The sleeves are loose, made for a man, and they flop around sloppily as she whips the cream.
He’s half asleep on her side of the bed. It’s early, and the light filters in through the thick wood blinds. When she looks in on him, the room is warm, orange, as though seen through a lens.
“How long have you been watching me?” he mumbles. He pulls the quilt up over his naked chest and turns to face the wall.
It hasn’t always been like this. Once, he had wanted her to touch him. Once, he blindfolded her and drove her deep into the woods. She could smell pine, could feel how fast, how far the car was going. She was even a little afraid. He stopped the car at the hot springs and told her, “You can look now.”
The water was billowing up from a black center deep in the earth. Giggling, they tried and tried to swim against it, to get down deep enough to see the source, but the spring spat them out.
At the edge of the woods around the water were scores of wild huckleberries. She picked some, eating them as she went, bent over, naked, her hair wet and dripping down her back.
“Is this place real?” she asked him as they sat on the shore, touching each other with berry-stained fingers.
Looking at him, at the freckle a thumb’s width from the crook of his right elbow, at the one wet curl he kept brushing from his forehead, at the way he looked at her, through her, made her sick. She knew he’d drive her back home past the pine trees, past the water warmer than tears, warmer than touch, and later, as he walked towards the car, she had the urge to run after him and leap full force into his body. Even though she knew it wouldn’t stop the end from coming. Even though she knew it would knock him to the ground.
Heather Foster lives on a 144-acre farm in Tennessee with her husband, kids, and Ozzy the heavy metal rooster. She is currently studying with the poet Jeffrey Skinner in the MFA program at Murray State University. Her poetry and prose is featured or forthcoming in PANK Magazine, New Madrid, and Country Dog Review.