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The Rings of Saturn

by Marian Brooks

Emily embarked on a very long voyage last night to just outside the rings of Saturn. All of her abandoned socks, bifocals and car keys whizzed by along with her lucky penny, a rabbit’s foot, two baby teeth, and her passport. She’d hoped to find Joey there. Dreams like that one were exhausting.

Joey had been missing for a week now, no word at all. Their bedroom was a mess, just as he had left it, as if he intended to wrap himself back into that pale green comforter any minute as if nothing had happened. Emily decided not to clean up this time. She’d heard that it’s bad luck to disturb dust bunnies if your life is in flux.

His Tahoe, that scary black Tahoe, was gone along with his leather jacket and the new wallet she’d given him for his birthday. Gone too was that Armani suit which cost nearly as much as her car.

They’d discovered each other six months earlier at Tim’s Whiskey Bar. Joey was tall and handsome; his teeth even seemed to glow in the darkness. “Let’s meet,” he whispered handing Emily his business card. She slipped it into her purse. Little by little, his eyes pulled hers into his own dark orbit. He had a look on his tanned face that could have easily passed for a smile. At that moment, she thought she knew all she needed to know.

Within weeks, they were living together at her cozy, stone cottage outside of Amherst, New York. They both worked hard on the garden planting violets and Emperor Tulip bulbs along with mint and radishes. There was no coherent design. They were experimenting. A white dove dropped two eggs into one of the straw planters usurping it as a residence for her offspring. They thought it auspicious.

Emily loved Joey’s hands. They were the hands of a sculptor, a skilled lover and an inventive cook. As a bonus, he was a trained massage therapist. She’d never been so spontaneous. She’d never laughed so hard. Joey tickled her heart.

Joey thought of Emily as a woodpecker sort of woman; small and determined, grounded in logic. She did not fly well in gray zones; too much turbulence.

He was a kite without a tail, soaring wherever wind currents would take him. If there were no flight plan, so much the better, even if he wound up impaled on the branches of a sycamore tree.

Emily did have expectations, realistic expectations of partnership, mutual respect, safety and affection. She’d read all of those relationship books. But Joey had a shark inside, a Great White whose appetite would never be satisfied. It wasn’t long before he used her up.

It’s my own fault. I must have loved him too much. Maybe I’m just the kind of woman who invites chaos, she thought. There was a sense of danger in the air. She surrendered to it. She always did.

As a young child, Emily preferred the peace and quiet of her own room but her younger brothers were clobbering each other down the hall. Her parents were revving up for their daily skirmish in the kitchen. It was Emily’s job to feel the tremors and to extinguish fires before there was a full-blown explosion - an impossible and risky task for a five-year old. Emily did the best she could.

She didn’t know how to handle Joey, though. Just last week he had stopped speaking to her, brooding for an entire evening. He was slamming doors and throwing his clothes around. It seems she’d tucked the sheets in too tightly on his side of the bed. His toes were “crushed.” “Why do I need to remind you, Emily, that I’m six frigging feet tall?”

Before that, he smashed his fist on her desk because a long-term friend, her accountant, pecked her on the cheek as they were leaving a dinner party. Joey’s grip on her arm left a dark bruise. Her scalp hurt where he’d yanked her hair.

During Sunday brunch, Joey glared at her saying, “If you don’t stop looking at me that way, I’m leaving.” She had no idea of what “that way” meant. The “leaving” part sounded promising.

There were many such incidents, lots of tears and a few apologies, but Emily was done. This was a crazy ride and she was getting off; except the train had already left the station.

When Emily felt certain that Joey was not going to return, she exhaled gratefully and cleaned up the debris. Among Joey’s tee shirts and well-worn jeans, she found his business cards, Solar Systems, on Hill Crest Lane. She smiled at the irony. Emily drove past the nearby plant and spotted the black Tahoe with the Phillies flag on the antenna. There could only be one. At least he was alive.

The next time Emily visited the rings of Saturn in her dreams; there he was, holding on tightly to a piece of her heart.

Copyright © 2013 by Marian Brooks

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