laundry nights

His hands smelled like detergent, and she wondered why he’d do her laundry when he wouldn’t even do his own, but she let him trail his finger softly down her cheek, only letting out a soft sigh. He raised his eyebrows slightly, puzzled at what that sigh could mean, and she closed her eyes before he had a chance to ask her. He leaned in and kissed her forehead, then softly brushed his lips down her nose and lingered at her lips. She felt her breath catch in her throat and instinctively pulled away. No butterflies, she reminded herself. No sparks. Severe the connection. Cut the red wire. Or was it the blue? Snip both, just to be sure.

She peeked through her eyelids to catch him staring up at the ceiling. He’d rolled onto his back and folded his hands over his stomach. He almost looked dead. She wondered if it was wrong to even think that. He turned his head, and for the first time she noticed the wrinkles in his forehead. Did she do that, from all the times he furrowed his brow in frustration over her? She reached out and lightly traced his lips with her fingertip. If that were true, then she should also be held responsible for the laugh lines, those endearing signs of age well worn on his face. She let her touch wander to his stubble, and instead of pulling her hand away at the prickliness, she softly rubbed her foot on his before slipping her leg between his and pulling the covers tighter around their faces. But then he reached out to brush a strand of hair from her face, and she smelled the betrayal again. She tasted the soapiness, she breathed in the scent that was supposed to smell like home. She reached up and held his hand there, looking into his eyes.

How do you phrase a question you don’t even want to ask? She pulled his hand away, gently, examining his fingers as if she could see the traces of another woman right there, as incriminating as DNA at a murder scene. Did he know she knew? She had held him like this many times before, attempting to memorize the hollows of his body and learn his soft spots. Maybe there is only so much of a man you can gain entrance to before he shuts you out completely. Maybe once you enter at all, you are stuck, amazed and in a maze, having sacrificed yourself in the labyrinth.

Dylan? she whispered. He forced his sleepy eyes open wider and mumbled so she knew he had heard her. She choked out, “You can wash her clothes, but you can’t wash her off of you.” She bit her lip, waiting for the attack, the accusations of distrust and paranoia, the excuses of loneliness and misunderstandings. She knew where those would hit her. They would plant themselves in her brain, little landmines that created nightmares in the middle of the night and made tears run down her face in the mornings.

It was his silence that hit her square in the chest, as if he’d pushed her hard against a wall and didn’t stop until he’d bruised her heart. She rolled over and curled into herself. Some hours later she started awake and found him cuddled behind her, his hand resting carefully on her stomach. Through blurry vision she gingerly lifted his hand and began to distance it from her. She caught another whiff of the citrus and softness and comfort and sentimentality and while she quietly threw up over the side of the bed and sat on her knees scrubbing and crying and praying he wasn’t dreaming of the other woman, he slept on. She realized he hadn’t simply washed her laundry. Worse, he had washed her sheets.

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