Originally published in UPENDER.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Clark-Grainger/Originally published in UPENDER.

Annalise glided through the door, straight to the jukebox. Chose a song with harmonica that brought her back to Georgia. Hide and seek in Grandma Jean’s backyard. Bass fishing on Gin Raw Lake. She faced the back corner, fluffing the tissue in her bra under a glowing Bud Light sign before moving to the bar. She sat across from a man she noticed was staring at her. Leaning in, her chest gently pressed against a cup of cherries. “Old Forester on the rocks,” she said. The man watched as she swayed to the music.

Dale left Annalise with one breast. She came home and his things were gone, not even a year after the surgery. He left a sticky note on the fridge: Check your e-mail. She didn’t bother. Chucked her laptop off the second floor balcony. It landed in the azaleas they’d planted together four springs ago.

She lay in her empty bed that night, her shirt pulled to her neck, tracing the scar with her finger. She reminisced about the first time Dale and she made love, her billowy body parts bouncing above him in the back of his pickup. “God, you’re sexy,” he’d said, the sweat of his face dripping onto hers. “Fuck, I love you.” She’d thought he’d meant forever. Then, suddenly, he was gone. A mirage, like her bouncing breast. She wondered where the time had gone. How much time she had left.

The bartender nodded toward the man. “He’s got this round.” His coiled mustache wriggled as he spoke. The man was still watching her, brunette curls piled at the nape of his neck under a tatty LSU baseball hat. His arms folded in front of him, accentuating the muscles of his sun-dark biceps. She lifted her hand into a wilted peace sign. Flashed him a half smile.

He began walking toward her. She noticed his firm chest as he sat on the stool beside hers. He brought his face close, his lips nearly touching her porcelain cheek as he moved toward her ear. “You got pretty eyes,” he said. He smelled like rum and cigarettes and sweet cologne. “Prettiest blue I ever seen.” His breathy words weaved drunk though her thinned yellow hair, his accent thick. Deep-rooted in the Louisiana bayou. Carnal.

Annalise imagined she was bare, her lone nipple exposed. “I’m not ready,” she said, skin ablaze. Her sweaty thighs stuck to the stool’s green pleather. She shifted her body. Took a sip of her drink. “I got all the time in the world,” he said. Slipped a napkin under her purse. A number scrawled in blue ink. “All the time in the world.”

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