Mark tapped on the door. Sylvie opened it while holding her finger up for silence.
“Mom is asleep.”
“I told you. I found a spider. I need you to dispose of it.”
“That’s it?” She nodded. “You mean this isn’t a cheap ploy to get more time with the love of your life?”
Sylvie made a face and pushed him toward her bedroom. She still wore the fancy dress from their date.
Mark smiled on entering her sanctum. “I love your room. It’s so inviting…”
He sat on the bed and looked at her décor. A framed print by a Pre-Raphaelite painter dominated the room.
“You know what your room needs?”
“You need a picture of me and you together. You could put it there, on your dresser.”
Sylvie looked at Mark, not comprehending.
“We could do a selfie right now. You look amazing in that dress.”
Mark fumbled with his smart phone.
He looked up. Sylvie directed his attention to the corner behind her door.
Mark moved to assess his task.
A small black spider lay perfectly still by the baseboard. As spiders go, this appeared harmless.
“Look at him. He’s smaller than a dime.”
“Pretty big dime.”
“Okay. Maybe a quarter.”
“Or a Frisbee.”
“Whatever. Now I’ve seen your pet. You want to chill a bit?”
“Is it a black widow?”
“No, but she did have five husbands.”
“Mark.” He smiled up at her. “This is so amusing, I’m sure. But would you please… get rid of it for me?”
“Oh. Okay.” He stood. “Keep an eye on it. Don’t let him run away. Or attack you. I happen to have a flame thrower in the back of my car. I’ll be right back.”
Sylvie nodded with frantic eyes. Mark went to the bathroom and retrieved a wad of toilet paper. He re-entered and Sylvie stood back.
“Did you keep him corralled?”
She nodded anxiously.
“What would you and your Mom have done? Has this never happened? I hate to see two helpless women held hostage by a ravening beast.”
“My Dad would do it but he’s out of town. He’s the master spider getter.”
“MSG? I’m an MSG.”
“Don’t try to compete with my Dad. There’s no point.”
“I’m just said I’m good. I’m not trying to compete. But I am good.”
“You are good. But the spider is still here.”
“Oh, right.” He returned to the task.
“And Dad gets things done without the endless, running commentary.”
He turned back. “That’s part of my style, though. No sleight of hand. With me you always know what’s happening.”
“That’s true. With you, I always know exactly.”
They laughed. She pointed to the spider. He nodded and refocused. “He hasn’t moved.”
“Don’t let him bite you.”
He crouched, made a swift jab with the paper and squeezed the wad into a tight ball. He looked at Sylvie.
“Want to see?”
“Don’t you dare!”
Mark laughed and reached out with the hand holding the dead spider. Sylvie retreated to a corner and stifled a scream.
“That wasn’t nice!”
He laughed. “I just stood here. You’re crazy.”
He returned to the bathroom, examined it and then squeezed it again for insurance. He dropped the paper and spider into the toilet and flushed it down. Sylvie watched from a safe distance.
“Voila! Give me a kiss.”
“Wash your hands.”
Mark rolled his eyes and followed orders. She hugged him after he dried his hands.
“Good thing I checked my messages.”
“Now you have to go.”
“I wouldn’t tell your mom I stayed.”
“She’d know. And I’d know.”
“Wait. Isn’t this where you seduce me and draw me into your web?”
“Really. I could stay.”
He made his pleading puppy face.
She said, “In the garage?”
“Eww! No! There’s spiders out there.” She laughed. “I’m completely in your thrall.”
“Well thrall yourself out that door.”
He held up his hand to break her momentum.
“Klaatu barada nikto”
“Orders to stop the robot from destructive actions.”
“Alas, I’m not a robot.”
“Didn’t think so. I always wanted to try it out, just in case. You know how gullible I am.”
“So now I’m in your thrall?”
“Yes. It’s a two seater. Brand new. Dig the fins?”
“I used to have a quandary but I traded it for something sportier. Take it for a spin?”
“Another time. You need to go.”
Mark balked once more.
“Wait. So tell me. I dropped you after a great night only to receive an urgent message that you needed me back here. All for that poor spider? Was this a test of some kind?”
She smiled. “Thanks, Mark.”
“Ahh. So!” He did his radio announcer voice. “This is a test. Do not adjust your set…”
Sylvie opened the front door and stood back for him to pass. They embraced and kissed before he exited.
“Good night.” He stepped down to the sidewalk and looked back.
“Truly, Mark, this means a lot. Thanks.” She closed the door with a little wave.
Mark returned to his car. He felt great.
Several years later, Mark and Sylvie cuddled on the couch in front of their fireplace. A blanket lay over their legs. The fire, now mainly embers, warmed them. A bowl of potato chips rested between them. A nearly empty bottle of wine stood on the coffee table.
Mark looked around the spare room. “I love this place.”
“Me too. Especially the fire.”
“I heard a funny thing the other day. You know in movies, like westerns, how they always find a cave to shelter in?”
“Well don’t ever do that.”
“Okay… Uhm, why?”
“Because the heat from the campfire will bring out hundreds, maybe thousands of spiders from the rocks.”
“One more reason why I never go camping.”
“I like a roof over my head. This cabin is great.” Mark adjusted the blanket. “Pour me some more wine.”
Sylvie gave him a look. “Throw another log on the fire.” She picked the bottle up and refreshed Mark’s glass. They clinked glasses and sipped.
She smiled at Mark. “Since you brought them up. You remember the night you rescued me from the spider?”
“I don’t think I ever told you how much that meant to me.”
“Honestly. I knew then how much I wanted us to work out.”
Mark kissed her.
“You mean that cute little spider sacrificed his life so we could be together?”
She nodded. “I never thought of it like that. But I guess so.”
“How sweet. He’s smiling down on us from spider heaven, right now.”
She looked up. “Just so his cousins in that cave stay put.”
“I’ll drink to that.” They sipped again.
“But I’m not afraid. You are my MSG.”
They laughed and hugged.