smell Angi’s hair, feel the softness of her flesh sinking into his embrace, the pelvic closeness of their bodies as they circled and twirled. He grew giddy with each spin. He had to protect her as he twirled around and around the room in romantic circles, keep their intimacy safe from disappointment, jealousy, the voices around them, the gaze of strangers, and Martha who stood on stage with her back to the band, playing improvised violin solos that kept the waltzes going longer and longer. A caller came on stage to announce: “English country dancing up next, change your shirts, get your water now.” Seth left Angi with a quick squeeze of her hand and went to help Martha off the stage. Then there were contras, polkas, reels, each set shorter, the dancing faster, always a waltz to end it. Seth would find Angi standing nearby. “Won’t your wife get jealous?” Angi asked. “Never,” said Seth, his smile wide. “We don’t have that kind of marriage.” “But I’m stepping on you.” “Just lean into my arms and look into my eyes. Trust me. I can lead you.” As they spun in tighter circles around the gym floor, their opposing weight a counterbalance of trust and speed, Seth felt as if his life had ended and just begun. ### Now it is Sunday. Seth, Martha, and Angi stand amid parked cars and running children. “You’ll be coming to the Monday night waltzes, won’t you?” Seth asks. He holds his arms akimbo as if he can keep the day from sliding into twilight, stop the sun setting on Puget Sound, remain here with Angi. “Mondays are my single mothers’ group,” says Angi watching Bradley play tag around an SUV. “You and Bradley must come to our potlucks,” Martha says. “Third Tuesday of the month. And third Saturday contras are parents’ night. Lots of childcare. We won’t be strangers.” The ferry’s horn blasts. “Wonder if we’ll get on,” says Seth looking at the dirt he’s scuffing up, its dust settling on his sandal. “Don’t usually get on the first one. We’ve learned not to make plans.” Seth inclines his head to Martha and looks at Angi. “What about you? Any plans?” Angi calls to Bradley. He runs to her.
“I left hamburger in the fridge,” she says, ruffling Bradley’s dark curls. She leans close and says “And chocolate ice cream for you, bugaboo.” “Butterscotch or chocolate syrup?” Martha and Angi smile in a brief maternal alliance. The ferry docks. Cars pour from its decks. Parents call out children’s names. Car doors slam. “We’ll see you dancing, won’t we?” Engines start. “Oh please,” says Martha. She reaches out and touches Angi in a brief squeeze of the forearm. “You mustn’t forget about us.” “Of course not,” says Angi, watching the cars lining up to leave the parking lot. “We’ve got to go, Bradley.” “Remember what I promised,” Martha winks at Bradley. She looks at Angi and says, “I told him I’d teach him to play drums like the big boys do.” “You shouldn’t have,” Angi says, moving Bradley to her side. “I didn’t think you’d mind,” Martha says with a wave of her hand. “Oh, don’t worry, I won’t charge you, I just love teaching children, and he’s …” Angi’s earrings flash with sunlight. She looks at Martha, saying: “He’s your problem, not mine. Susan warned me…” “Susan…” Martha rolls her eyes and peers down the road towards the ferry. She slips her arm through Seth’s. “We’ll talk about her on the ferry. Let’s hurry if we want to make this one.” She smiles and starts to lead Seth away. “Your open marriage, or is that too polite?” Angi’s hands are on Bradley’s shoulders. “I thought, what’s a little flirting, no harm done, it’s not as if there are single men here, but you’re bringing in Bradley. I won’t allow that.” Seth’s jaw drops. He stares at Angi’s rose tattoo. Images seem to flash across it —his father’s hand on his shoulder, Hunter at birth, a woman’s face, a road going somewhere. “Susan’s an angry woman. It doesn’t matter what she says. We have what she doesn’t, that’s all,” Martha looks up at Seth and shrugs. “Two beautiful boys, a good marriage, a successful life.” “She told me you arrange things, like with Evie, wasn’t that her name, that friend of yours?” Angi nudges Bradley behind her. “I’m not getting dragged into this.” “Dragged into it!” Seth yells, lurching forward. He feels Martha’s hand on his shoulder. He sees ugly wrinkles
A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim