"Jennifer Grey's New Nose"

February 28, 2019

Listening to a new voicemail, Graham forgot he was sitting across from Corrie Pfrang on her bathroom floor, her old medicine cabinet propped against the wall, its items displaced on various surfaces until he installed the new vanity. “What gives?” Corrie asked, nudging him in the shins with her bare feet, forcing him to stop staring at his screen. For someone so polished, her feet were anything but—dry skin and calluses covering her heels and toes, battle scars from the pumps and pointy-toed flats she wore. They reminded him of his own feet, a dancer’s feet, though Corrie had two left ones. “C’mon, Graham. Pass the fucking joint.”

     “It was Sylvie,” he said, more for himself as he handed it to her. It sounded odd saying her name out loud, like pronouncing the name of a street where he’d once lived. Sylvie Lenkiewicz. She hadn’t kept in touch in their fifteen years since high school. Although outsiders often considered Delaware small— the rest of the world had the metric system, but people here measured other places by how many Delawares could fit inside them—Graham understood that at any given moment there were whole worlds just underneath a person’s nose that would never be discovered, especially if the people involved with those worlds wanted to remain unseen.

     Corrie inhaled, shrugging. Because Graham didn’t have any firsthand or secondhand knowledge of what Sylvie’s life had become, he’d always imagined she was the one to make it, a picture book artist living alongside the Seine, a gallery owner in Soho who no longer knew anyone who mispronounced Houston Street, an architect who was busy re-envisioning the skylines of American cities like Altoona and Lancaster, while he was just an amateur handyman and dancer who also sold pot. Still, he kept reminding himself that despite her many options, Sylvie had decided she now needed Graham Shipska to remove her unwanted trees.

     He asked Corrie if she knew Sylvie since it seemed she lived in her neighborhood from the address she’d provided, but she interrupted, talking instead about how hungry she was before taking another pronounced drag. She dug through a tin of cough drops. “Sure these aren’t candy, but did you know each Halls contains just fifteen calories?” Graham popped one in his mouth while his mind raced to all of the things he might say if he returned Sylvie’s call. Hi, it’s Graham. You know, the guy who got you your first fake ID. He wanted to remind her he had once been resourceful. Hi, it’s Graham. Taking down unwanted trees is my specialty. He recognized this made him sound like a destroyer of the Earth, and a boring destroyer at that. Hi, it’s Graham. Why the hell did you run out of the Justice of the Peace when we were seconds away from being Mr. and Mrs. Shipska? He both wanted and didn’t want to know that answer. Maybe she thought she was sparing him, that he shouldn’t have to care for a woman whose mental health was so fragile, but she hadn’t spared him. She’d destroyed him.

     “I’ll be back tomorrow to install the cabinet,” Graham said, using the toilet as leverage to steady himself as he jumped to his feet. She tried to pass back the joint, but he waved it away.

     “I was hoping we’d at least fuck before you left.” Corrie laughed. “It’s okay. It’s just that Jim’s bringing the kids back tomorrow, so I have to be good for the rest of the week. Until our trip.”

     “I’ll get here early,” Graham said. “Before the kids.”

     After kissing her on the cheek, he made his way to the front door. Cowboy—he loved that goofy dog, especially its name—trailed beside him until he let himself out. Though Graham’s progress on Corrie’s master bathroom had been slow, he discounted his prices so much he imagined she wouldn’t think of contracting anyone else, no matter how long he took. All of his clients liked his discounts and he liked the company of all of his clients.  He often stretched out projects that should have taken days to weeks or even months, meticulously taping off trim one afternoon, priming an accent wall another. He routinely brought Corrie gossip from other clients who were members of the same club she and her soon-to-be ex-husband belonged, solidifying her ability to stay in touch remotely with that world while she decided if she wanted to stay in touch physically once the dust settled. When Chloe West had been depressed during her pregnancy, he’d fetched her favorite truffles from Gavots on Market Street before showing up to work on the nursery.  He taught Everly Trickett to dance, first in her kitchen he was remodeling and later when she enrolled in private dance lessons at The Blue Ballroom where he taught. Through all of his partying and adventures, he’d missed the long-term relationship boat, the marriage boat, the having children boat, so instead he ferried himself between the homes of those who hadn’t. They got so used to him being there that they often invited him to stay for dinner or swim in the family pool. All of these relationships had stayed platonic until Corrie.

     She’d first kissed him the same day he’d won Marlboro’s Rock the Ranch Sweepstakes. Tile samples had been spread across her kitchen table and, when he leaned in to brush a piece of lint from her shoulder, she misinterpreted his movement and went for it. He’d wanted to be excited about the trip, an invitation to enjoy an all-inclusive getaway to the Marlboro Ranch in Montana, bur the loneliness that he’d kept at bay for most of his life finally announced itself. It wasn’t easy to win. Marlboro’s employees scoured the internet, combing through the online personas of each applicant to hand-select those who looked the most magical, the most mysterious, the most like their lives embodied that of the Marlboro man.  And yet Graham on paper looked less magical than InstaGraham: single, roommate to a dog named Will Feral, teacher of the Merengue and Pachanga to married women who mostly wanted to fuck him. People don’t ask other people if they’ve won any contests lately when they run into them at the grocery store.

     Graham texted Sylvie as soon as he got to his car: “I’m leaving for the Marlboro Ranch in a few days, but I can get started on those trees as early as tomorrow.”  

     “It’s so good to hear you’re still smoking,” Sylvie typed almost immediately. He wondered if she wanted him dead, holed up in a hospital with emphysema or something. But then she wrote, “It’s good to hear some things haven’t changed. It’s grounding.”

     “When can I look at the trees?” Graham wrote, not knowing what else to say.

     “I’m having a birthday party for my twins tomorrow, but you can come after.” His stomach somersaulted. If she had twins, those twins had a father. Of course she was married. “They’re turning 12,” she added.

     “The trees?” Graham typed.

     “Victoria and Richard.”

     “You named your trees?” Graham typed.

     “No. I named my children.” When he didn’t respond, embarrassed, she typed, “Come around 4.”

     He cranked up the radio and rolled down his windows, letting the cool evening air wash over him. He headed towards Stanley’s Tavern because they rebroadcast the Eagle’s Super Bowl win every Friday night. He needed to focus on something with a known ending, remembering all at once those uncertainties Corrie finally had helped him forget.  

***

     Sylvie surveyed the installations at the exhibition her Art Foundation class was required to attend. Her professor had said these artists were taking up where Tristan Tzara and Marcel Duchamp left off and, since Dada was his passion, he’d made it his goal to make it the passion of his students as well. It was the end of Wilmington’s monthly Art Loop and it was apparent to Sylvie that most of the people stuffed in the gallery already had visited several others, taking advantage of the free or cheap wine. The artwork now seemed like an afterthought.

     She was annoyed by having to sign a waiver before entering the gallery, but she knew she wouldn’t complain because she was older than her instructor and already felt out of place. She also was older than Etienne, the classmate she’d first been paired with to create a collaborative piece of political art for a project and who she later started dating. She mainly enjoyed the escapes from her empty bed in her quiet house when her children were at sleepovers. Her jaunts with Etienne had been thrilling, running wild through the city again, closing down bars, tossing back shots of Jameson, singing David Bowie at the tops of their lungs. She once again had a partner in crime.   

     Sylvie recognized a woman she sketched in a recent court case, a woman who had testified against her ex-husband to avoid jail time for an embezzlement scandal involving a children’s softball league. Sylvie couldn’t find Etienne, so she instead eavesdropped on the woman’s conversation with a man. They seemed standoffish, even with each other, but she guessed whatever connection they had was enough for them. The word enough had never crossed her mind when she met her first fiancé, Graham, or later her husband, Russ, but lately she had been looking for just that. She polished off her wine in three sips, her thoughts floating to the man who still was her husband.

     The first time Sylvie spotted Russ, she had been sitting on a park bench, stuffing a jam sandwich into her mouth. He wore a brown pinstripe suit. When he extended his arm to toss popcorn to the pigeons gathered around Rodney Square, a tattoo that read Helvetica emerged as his jacket rode up his arm. She had twenty-seven minutes remaining of her half-hour lunch and decided to toss the remainder of her sandwich to the pigeons as well. She didn’t want to waste that time eating. Neither of them returned to work that day.

     “Get me another drink,” the woman from the court case said, jolting Sylvie’s attention back to the couple. They seemed to be adhering to the etiquette of one-night stands. “You can come over, but I have to pick up a friend at the airport early tomorrow. She had to catch an early flight to avoid a layover,” the woman told the man.

     “You know, the term Dada derives from the French word for a toy hobby horse,” the man told the woman.

     “Interesting,” the woman said. Sylvie wanted to tell the pair it also translates into “yes, yes” in Russian and “father” in many other languages. She wanted to tell them that, to many of the artists creating the work, the name had no meaning. They simply thought it sounded good.  Instead, Sylvie entered a small room to the right. The walls and ceilings were painted black and it took her eyes several seconds to adjust. There were reproductions of famous paintings with embellishments—a troll painted under a covered bridge, a junkyard pile in a pasture. A raised platform shaped like a bed stood in the center of the room and a film of a sleeping couple was projected onto it. She knew this was an homage to Warhol’s Sleep, not a still life, but it still startled her when the woman and man started moving. She felt voyeuristic. The couple just slept, but somehow their actions seemed more intimate than a sexual act. The woman twitched her nose. The man clutched his pillow. The woman ground her teeth. The man rolled over on his side, turning his back on the woman.

     Sylvie read the blurb beside the installation. The film had been shot in real time over a six-hour period. Sylvie considered what would be revealed if it instead encompassed thirteen years, this much longer version sped up to highlight the major movements individuals rarely see coming because change is so gradual. Perhaps the man would move into the bedroom down the hall once he lost his design job because he stayed up so late working on crafts. Then, he’d take a job requiring him to be on the road most of the time so sleeping arrangements in their house stopped mattering. Sometimes she suspected Russ had a girlfriend. It would be easier for Sylvie if he were involved with someone else; it would better explain how he could go so long without trying to have sex with her.

     “Been looking for you,” Etienne said, slipping an arm around her waist. “Sorry I’m late. I stopped by Oddity for a drink on the way.” She was jealous Etienne went without her, not because she felt any sort of ownership over him, but because she didn’t think about Russ or their children when they were together—how much they missed their father and how, because of this, Victoria was trying too hard at everything and Richard was trying too little.

     They entered the next room of the exhibition, arm-in-arm, and it was painted bright white. A telephone booth stood in its center, a jar of coins beside it. A sign encouraged individuals to place calls. “I’m going to remind my roommate to take out my dog,” Etienne said.

     “Can’t you use your cell?” Sylvie asked.

     “Sure, but I’ve never had the chance to use a telephone booth. They’re practically extinct.”

     Sylvie’s thoughts returned to her husband despite Etienne’s presence, how he no longer believed in telephones because Alexander Graham Bell did not pre-date the Revolutionary War, the era her husband had been stuck in since his car accident. His doctor called it post-traumatic stress disorder, an inability to deal with the present, a need to escape from the relationships and activities he once enjoyed because he was haunted by the crash that killed Holly, the teenage girl who plowed into his car. Rather than dealing with carpooling and PTA meetings and regular workdays, he devoted his time to re-enactments so few people cared about, especially Sylvie.

     She ventured to the last room and a door locked behind her. This reminded her of larger exhibitions, the attendees always dumped into an overpriced gift shop, left with little choice to turn back or skip over that portion of the experience. But she didn’t see flimsy Dali mustaches or overpriced t-shirts with Man Ray’s Le Violon d’Ingres slapped on their backs. The room was completely bare and voices were projected from a speaker. A man discussed a root canal he had earlier in the day. A woman described an apple fritter she ate for lunch that was as big as her head. The man told her eating apple fritters as big as his head was what landed him in the dentist’s chair in the first place. Sylvie smiled, thinking of the corn dogs and funnel cakes she loved eating when she and Russ took the twins to Cow Town, a flea market-meets-rodeo just across the Delaware River in Jersey.

     The stuffy couple from earlier entered the room. The woman’s ears perked as a familiar voice was broadcast over the speaker—her own. She tried to pull the man towards the exit. “Let’s get some fresh air. We’ve seen all there is to see.” Sylvie realized that calls that had been placed on the payphone were being broadcast over the speaker, a slight delay ensuring the callers hear their own conversations.

     “I’ll pick you up at seven,” the woman said on the recording. In real time, she gasped.  

     “Pick me up for what? I live next door,” the other voice on the recording said.

     “I’ll get to the airport early just in case you land ahead of schedule. That happens a lot with early flights. Before seven.”

     “Obviously you’ve had too much to drink,” the other voice said. “I’ll be in bed at seven. I’m not flying anywhere.” The woman removed her heels, slinging the straps over her wrists before storming from the room.

     There was a click and the voices changed. This time it was the stuffy man’s voice over the loudspeaker. “She has to pick up a friend at the airport at seven!”

     “Good deal,” a man said on the other end of the recording. “You can get away with just sex, then split.”

     “Sure. If I spent the night it would be inconsiderate. She’ll need a good night’s rest.” The man didn’t go after the woman, probably relieved she didn’t hear his conversation and, therefore, his end of the charade could continue. 

     Just as Etienne entered the room, there was another click, followed by another set of voices. “Pretty sure that older chick’s coming home with me.” Sylvie recognized Etienne’s voice. “Don’t be on the couch in your boxers when we get back.”

     “Let’s go,” Etienne said in real time, mirroring the stuffy woman’s reaction. He pushed through the crowd. When Sylvie didn’t budge, he backtracked, trying to talk over the recording. “Can you believe this shit was required for class,” he asked, but she was too busy listening.

     “I bet she’s good,” the voice on the tape said.

     “Can’t wait to find out,” he responded. “She’s older, so she’s got a lot of experience. “

     “Figured you’d be calling to tell me to take out your dog, Everett.”

     Click.

     His name wasn’t even Etienne. Sylvie figured he also wasn’t French Creole like he’d told her, that he had probably just read The Awakening in high school and remembered a few of the characters’ names, but she’d also told him she was divorced and wondered which of their lies was worse. She recalled an acronym she heard in therapy with Russ after the accident—PUSH: pray until something happens. She had no expectations for the night save her own pleasure and she wasn’t going to pray or wait for something to satisfy her needs any longer.

Everett stared at her, but she was silent. She took his hand. “We want the same thing,” she said, relieved it was in the open. Her children were spending the night with friends and she’d have plenty of time to prepare for the party in the morning.      “Let’s go.”

***

     “Do you like your new vanity?” Graham asked.  

     “I love my new vanity,” Corrie said. “It’s just like the vanities in those fancy beach rentals I used to clean in high school.” She jumped from the bed and made a beeline for the bathroom. She stood naked, studying her face in the mirror, before flinging it open to look at its contents. “You put everything back! And in the right order! Bactine. Children’s aspirin. Decongestants. Deodorant. Eye Drops. Flintstone’s vitamins! Everything’s alphabetized!”

     “I do my best,” Graham smiled, joining her. He massaged her shoulders, then her breasts. “I’ll start the beadwork tomorrow.”

     He took off his boxers, then slipped a finger in her vagina to continue what they’d started in bed. She pushed it away. “Emiline and Ethan will be here soon. Maybe we should wait? I’m trying really hard with them.” Graham knew this was true from the contents of her medicine cabinet alone. Most of her neighbors’ vanities were filled with Valium and Xanax. “They know we’re dating, but obviously not that we’re having sex.”

     That Corrie was changing was obvious, but she was changing him, too. Since they’d become a thing—a thing she’d just named for the first time out loud to him— he’d deleted all of his dating apps. He’d also stopped flirting with the women who signed up for private lessons at The Blue Ballroom.

     “We have at least thirty minutes, right?”

     “But aren’t you going to Sylvie’s party?” Corrie asked. “Or her kids’ party? Whatever.”

     “How’d you know?”

     “Just figured,” she said. “My kids are going, but I’m skipping it. I’m not ready to deal with everyone’s questions about Andy. I just got married way too young, but you know how people talk.”

     “To hell with those people,” Graham said, though he couldn’t help thinking about how he’d almost married Sylvie at eighteen and how much he’d spent most of his life feeling like not marrying her was the biggest mistake of his life. When she’d miscarried at eight months their child, Evangeline, he’d laid beside her in his bed and later a bed in the emergency room at St. Francis, holding back her hair as she vomited into a bowl, holding her closer as she slept. He’d proposed to her the next morning. “We can go together,” he said, taking Corrie’s hand. “To the party.”

     “Sylvie Galligan will be far more excited to see you than me,” she said as she dropped to her knees, then put his dick inside her mouth.

      “She’s just some chick I used to know,” Graham said, her new name washing over him. He hated lying to Corrie, someone who had been so forthright with him about the collapse of her own marriage and the ways she’d isolated herself from her old friends before and her new friends after. But he didn’t want to hurt her with unnecessary information. She was funny and hot and, oh god.

     “That’s weird,” Corrie said, stopping. “She’s the one who recommended I call you the first time I was looking for a handyman. She’s recommended you to Madeline and Chloe and Everly as well. Said you two were inseparable.”

     “Why didn’t you mention that yesterday?” Graham asked. “When I asked if you knew her?”

     “Probably because I was stoned out of my fucking mind.” She returned to her feet, then took off a cowboy hat from the top of a suitcase she was in the middle of packing. “Do I look the Marlboro man? I’ve been practicing smoking, too.”

     “No,” Graham said, wrapping his arms around her. “You look like someone I want to fuck right now.”

     “And you look like someone I plan to fuck right now,” she said. “Well, if you’d stop looking so serious and just smile some more.” They laughed. She pushed him against the new vanity, then wrapped her legs around his waist.

***

     Let’s wait for more people before we cut the cake,” Victoria said to her mother. Sylvie hoped by more people, she didn’t mean her father. Watching Victoria’s ponytail swish and her bangle bracelets clang as she moved across their yard, she admired how much her daughter loved being the center of attention, especially given how girls so often are taught to shrink themselves. Victoria’s twin brother, Richard, was uninterested in engaging with anyone or anything besides skateboarding. He’d refused to invite a single guest to their birthday party.

     “Is Richard playing the trumpet much these days?” Everly asked. Their houses were attached and Everly’s children once had been good friends of his. “I haven’t heard him practicing.” Sylvie suspected she had heard her fights with Russ and, lately, their silence since he had been traveling so much for work. Sylvie imagined the sounds of Richard’s trumpet replacing the middle school raucous of Victoria’s friends. He could do things to that instrument Sylvie never imagined possible. She hadn’t come close to achieving that level of expression with her painting in a while. As a courtroom illustrator, she was required to capture the expressions of those who were trained to project innocence when guilty, ignorance when knowledgeable. Somewhere along the line, she’d lost touch with capturing the real and meaningful.

     “He’ll get back to it,” Sylvie said. “Look at me. I’m just going back to college after all these years.” She had decided to return to art school a few months back, enrolling in a course at Delaware College of Art and Design that met twice a week when her children had extracurriculars. She wanted to test the waters, see if she had it in her to finish her degree. She hadn’t told her children or Russ. She needed first to tell someone who didn’t count, who couldn’t feel the sting of her possible failure, seeing the pursuit as a whim rather than a life. A sext popped up from Everett. She turned off her phone.

     “Good for you,” Everly said, before turning to talk to another neighbor. Sylvie wandered outside to the surprisingly warm late fall afternoon, the neighborhood kids playing in the yard, the neighborhood teenagers completely detached. When she was their age, her friends did things like hike to the Cult House in the Valley, trying to snap photographs of inbred DuPonts or ghosts or devil worshippers or whoever lived up there, but she supposed teenagers didn’t do that sort of thing anymore. They instead seemed more like those girls on The Valleys, that reality show she sometimes watched with Victoria. Every episode was someone’s birthday and they always celebrated by sipping cocktails beside pools or in dark corners of trendy LA clubs, barely talking to each other. It seemed to take them an entire episode to finish a single drink, too. Maybe they were counting calories. Maybe the cocktails were props.

     She sank in a navy beach chair with little red whales imprinted on its fabric. The canvas sagged in its center, causing her bottom to nearly touch the ground. She was sore from all of the sex she had with Everett last night and this morning, though it was a good kind of sore. She shielded her eyes from the sunlight that flickered between the tall oaks that held the tree house Russ had built for the kids, as well as their names which they’d carved into the trunks each year on the anniversary of their settlement. They’d skipped this year, though, and Sylvie couldn’t wait for those trees to be leveled and removed. She also couldn’t wait to see Graham, glad she finally was getting it out of the way. She’d slowly introduced him back into her world, creating the distance she thought she needed as she learned about him secondhand. But she was tired of hearing Madeline and Everly call him “fuckable” and, as a result, tired of thinking about him when she fucked Everett despite feeling certain he hadn’t thought about her since she left him. It was time to rip off the Band-Aid. This would be her first time seeing him since he took that summer job as a dance instructor at Smith Mountain Lodge where they’d filmed Dirty Dancing just after she’d called off their engagement. She took off for Savannah and a college degree she’d never finish the day before he returned.

     “You won’t believe who’s here,” Everly said, tapping her shoulder. “Corrine Pfrang’s come out of hiding.”

     “Be nice,” Sylvie said, hating the way some of her neighbors gossiped, not so much because she hated gossip, but because she knew they also gossiped about her and Russ when she wasn’t around.”

     “And she’s holding Graham’s hand.” Sylvie followed, dead leaves crunching beneath her feet. She felt a lot wobblier than expected and, rather than admitting it likely was nerves, she chalked it up to being hungover. She could keep up with Everett in most ways, but not with drinking and late-night eating. She’d started referring to those mornings when she’d had too much pizza and beer the night before as her feast infections. Before she could decide whether or not to continue following Everly, Graham and Corrine came outside.. He locked eyes with her as he cracked open a beer. He had gray hair and wrinkles around his eyes, sure, but the same grizzly beard and the same kind eyes. She felt a dampness between her legs that at first surprised her, but then didn’t, remembering for the first time in a while how it felt to really want someone. He waved, but she turned away, busying herself by checking on the picnic table spread, stacking empty boxes of Grotto’s Pizza for the recycling bin. She thought about Graham’s proposal. Everyone she knew including Graham had been coddling her. But her mother had died while giving birth to her, and now her child had died. She was tired of always being the one who survived.

At the time, she felt she couldn’t burden Graham with the mental gymnastics it would take for him to treat her like those eight months had never happened. Maybe Russ now needed the same, someone who hadn’t lived through with him the days and months following his collision, someone who could hear the name Holly and not think of the girl he accidentally killed. But Sylvie knew cells had memory and, just like she still couldn’t see a 20-year-old girl and sometimes imagine she would be friends with her daughter had she lived, she also knew all of the reenactments in the world couldn’t erase Holly for Russ and Russ couldn’t erase Graham for her.

     She spotted Victoria stepping into the top of an old kiddie pool she had filled up for the younger neighborhood kids and it reminded her of the day her father first brought her to the Brandywine River downtown. They ate a picnic lunch beside the Josephine Fountain. Children splashed in the water, their tennis shoes lined in rows beside the oversized basin as they chased each other in circles, creating a whirlpool effect. Sylvie eyed her Mary Janes, so new they still left blisters on the backs of her heels, but her father nudged her to join the other children.

     “Those coins are how people make wishes,” a wide-eyed girl had told Sylvie as she stepped into the water, warm from the sunshine. Sylvie looked at the shiny copper pennies lining the fountain’s bottom, pleased the town provided wishes for little girls and boys, just like that. She stooped over, retrieving the one that first caught her eye, then placed the penny on her tongue. She swallowed it the same way she swallowed medicine she didn’t want to taste.

     Her father ran towards her, screaming and waving his arms, overreacting the way parents sometimes do. “You’re supposed to throw in a coin, Sylvie,” he’d kept saying. “Your own coin. What good is someone else’s wish going to do you?” She’d decided she was the one who was cheated, though. She knew the types of things her friends wished for—ponies, pretty dresses, curly hair if they had straight, straight if they had curly—all objects or predicaments she’d never concerned herself with.  Now, she wondered if some little girl had hoped for a husband like Russ, an eccentric, years back and ended up marrying an insurance agent because Sylvie had stolen her wish. But she knew children had more sense. Their primary concern was stability.

     “Where’s your dad?” Sylvie heard Victoria’s friend Emiline ask, kicking her feet to splash the boys standing beside the pool. “Are your parents getting divorced? My dad disappeared for awhile right before my parents told us they were getting divorced.”

      “Go find your brother,” Sylvie said to Victoria before she could answer. “I’m cutting the cake.”

     Sylvie’s mind slipped again to that summer Graham left for Smith Mountain Lake and what was different now. The lake had dried up and Jennifer Grey got a new nose, everyone’s feelings about her changing along with it. But the truth was no matter what nose she had, she couldn’t keep being Baby Houseman, a doe-eyed girl with her whole life in front of her, a girl who fought for some men to be held accountable and for other men to be given a fair shake. It wasn’t Jennifer Grey’s new nose that hurt her. It was the pressure from men who had naturally pointy noses, pig noses, and huge noses with hair protruding from their nostrils. It was the laughable concept that the world openly listened to a grown woman when she spoke or that a grown woman needed to fight for a man when the entire world already was set up to do so. Sylvie was tired of fighting for her marriage and her husband’s sanity at the expense of her own.

     Graham walked towards her, Corrine and Everly flanking him. She reminded herself Graham would be working at her house this week, not their houses. She dug through her skirt pockets, wrapping her fingers around a penny. She considered tossing it in the now-empty pool, first wishing Russ would appear for Victoria and Richard, then wishing even harder he’d never come home and that she too could get out of Dodge. Instead, Sylvie dropped the penny back in her pocket, holding it tightly, knowing leaving only could be physical because worlds traveled with us, knowing this time when Graham returned from Dodge she’d be waiting.

 

 

 

Lindsay A. Chudzik grew up in Delaware. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Chiron Review, Crabfat Magazine, Defenestration, Dogwood: A Journal of Poetry and Prose, Fredericksburg Literary & Art Review, Ghost Town, Haunted Waters Press, Map Literary, and Pembroke Magazine, among others. Her short stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, her creative nonfiction has been anthologized, and her plays have been staged. Currently, she lives in Richmond, VA and is Editor in Chief of Feels Blind Literary, an Assistant Professor of Writing at VCU, and a recent recipient of a Gulf-South Summit Award for excellence in community-engaged teaching. She spends her free time contemplating creative ways to incorporate Kathleen Hanna and Courtney Love into her syllabi and working on her new YA novel, The Most Cake.

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