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Fiction

This is insane. There are eight hours and thirty eight minutes between the sunset and sunrise. That's 516 minutes this date is going to last, 516 minutes of sitting in the dark, because Melody insists that it'll be the most beautiful blind date he's ever been on.

Technically, it's nine hours, because she arrived early to set up a tent in his backyard. She's triple checked her compass to make sure it points exactly west, right where the sun is going to set.

He's never watched the sun set before. 

To be honest, he spends most of his day indoors with the blinds drawn. The sun causes too much glare on his computer screen as he works.

"Maury, come sit, come on." She's tapping the ground beside her. She's so excited you could almost call it hitting, but he's trying to keep the romance alive.

"Be right there," he answers, grabbing his thermos. It is full to the brim with coffee. He's never been good with sleepovers. He can't understand why the word sleep is in the title if it's all a big lie.

She smooths the wrinkles of the blanket. He sits, making new ones, taking a long sip of his drink. He should have taken a nap this afternoon. Also a shower, because he realizes as he lifts his arm around her that he smells a bit too much like the garlic he was using earlier. 

She leans in anyway. Even with a sharp inhale, she's smiling.

"Ugh, I am starving. Please say you made dinner." He did, three hours ago, when any normal person would be having a meal. When any normal person would be having a date, instead of pulling an all-nighter first date. Why did he agree to this?

Right, because his editor thought it'd make for a great human interest piece. 

"There's leftovers in the fridge. I can go grab them." He retracts his arm, and she snags it back.

"No, wait. The sun is about to set."

Her hands are on his face now. He thinks she is going in for the kiss, as that would be the romantic's choice. He leans in. She tilts his head, holding it steady away from hers. The sun is setting. Her hands drop, and he steals a sideways glance at her. This girl is mesmerized. 

It's almost gone now. He snaps his eyes back to the sky.

"That was nice."

It was. Her profile is quite beautiful. 

"Your first sunset, and all you have to say was it was nice? Are we going to have to go through this again tomorrow night?" 

He stares down at his coffee. He's going to need a bigger thermos.

"Sorry, I'm just kinda tired. It was really great, I promise." Wiping his bleary eyes, he lifts himself off the ground. If he stays down for much longer, he's going to conk out. He's been working all day on an article. And replicating that roasted chicken recipe that the chef sent him home with. He thought she was joking about the forty cloves of garlic. 

It's delicious, and stinky, and going to ruin any chances of him kissing her tonight.

"Where are you going? You just sat down!" 

"You said you were hungry, remember?" He shakes free of the hand she has used to stop him. She stands up, taking it back.

Maury wonders if he's allowed to call her clingy in the article. 

When they get inside, she swats his hand away from the lights. With a flick of her wrist, the flashlight of her phone sends a beam of light through the kitchen. The fridge light floods her face. She is quick to turn away, until he can only see her profile again.

"You okay with roast chicken? It's either that or dry Froot Loops. I need to go grocery shopping." He's sure he can scrounge up some boxed mac n' cheese from the back of the cupboard, but honestly, he isn't getting paid until Friday, and he needs to make that stretch another two days.

She sniffs at the chicken. It reeks, and he expects her nose to wrinkle, but instead, she inhales deeper and plucks a piece out with her hands.

Through a mouthful of food, she takes the pan out of the fridge and asks for a fork. 

"This is divine. You must give me the recipe." She's struggling to balance the dish and her phone so that she can eat as she walks.

"I've been sworn to secrecy." He puts up two fingers in some sort of mock scout's honor. 

They sit back down. There's still so many hours to go, and there's not much to do other than watch her inhale the chicken he had hoped to eat for breakfast. She notices the silence.

"Tell me your life story, Maury Green."

"My life story? Like the important stuff, or-?"

"All of it. We've got the time." She slows down, as if her own words are sinking in. 

He scratches the back of his head. "Um, okay. I was born on a cold Tuesday-"

"All of the interesting parts of it."

He struggles. His life has been pretty drab. He was raised by his parents in a quaint country home, got a job for the local newspaper and now writes for a national magazine. Which sounds a lot more glamorous than it is, because he spends most days behind his desk, staring at a screen.

Maybe he could tell her about the time he played Joseph in the Christmas play. He'd dropped baby Jesus. The audience had laughed, and he cried, with one of the angels hurrying in to say that it was okay, because Jesus was perfect and wouldn't bruise. 

Or maybe he could tell her about the time he accidentally hit his gym teacher in the head with a football, and how it gave him a black eye. He'd been sent to the principal's office, swearing that it wasn't on purpose. That shot had gotten him a week of detention. Also a lot of undeserved street cred, as the gym teacher was known for being a jerk.

He takes the fork from her. He's twenty seven years old, and the only interesting stories he can conjure are from his puberty years. He stuffs a clove of garlic in his mouth to buy time.

"How about you go first?"

His hunch proves right. Turns out her life is interesting, much more than his. Either that, or she's a very good liar.

She tells him about her touring parents, a musical duo (hence her name) that took her along as a kid to all the major cities, letting her draw in the wings while they performed. She's gotten quite good at it. She takes a pause from her story to pull out her phone and show him examples, almost imperceptibly speeding past a selfie of herself. 

He's starting to think there's more than one reason this date is happening in the dark of the night.

Once she finishes, she demands he takes a turn. He defaults to the Christmas story after all. She laughs. He can't tell if it is to make him feel better, or if she genuinely is enjoying his company, but the sound ignites something in him.

He kinda wants to kiss her.

He reaches his hand out to her face. She pulls back.

"We both ate a lot of garlic chicken," she says. The dish is empty on the ground between them. 

"Right, of course." He tells a different story instead, one about the time he got lost at county fair, and was found by a trio of clowns that tried to help him. He was terrified of clowns, and of losing his parents. They had asked for his name. Too full of fear to respond, he squeezed his lemonade too hard, and it spilled everywhere. One of them had pulled out a hankie to clean up. It had kept coming and coming.

Melody tilted her head. "What do you have against clowns? They're so happy."

"Nobody is that happy all the time without hiding something. They have a secret. They've got to." 

"Do you have a secret?"

"Sure. Don't you?"

Her hand goes to her face as she turns further away. He checks the time. There's still five hours until sunrise. Five hours until he sees what's on the other side of that profile.

"Aside from that chicken recipe, you doof." She dodges the question. 

He weighs his options. He could lie and say no. He could tell the truth, and then maybe, just maybe, she would reveal hers. He doesn't think anything at this point would make him not like her.

The coffee is wearing off, and so is his filter.

"I also have a secret chocolate cake recipe, but I'll let you in on it." He gets as close as he can to her ear. "It's mayonnaise."

The word makes her shiver. He can't believe that the word mayonnaise has gotten such a reaction out of her. It's the least sexy of all the condiments. He thinks. It's not like he's had this discussion with his coworkers before.

Not in depth anyhow.

She struggles not to turn and kiss him. His lips are right there, but so is the moonlight.

"You can really smell the forty cloves, huh?"

"Perhaps I should go fetch some breath mints." He moves to get up.

"Don't worry. I'm not a vampire. I just want this night to be, perfect, y'know?" 

He let's it drop, and somehow, somewhere between the one hit wonder singalongs and gazing up at the stars above, he finds himself falling for this girl. Like deep connection, let's meet again in the daylight falling.

Passing out was an accident. It must've happened during the gazing, because he can't remember past that. She's still asleep. The sun is going to rise soon. He should wake her.

He shakes her shoulder. She mumbles and turns. The other side of her face, he can see it. 

Was that her big secret?

"Mel, wake up." He rolls her back onto her back, careful to position himself on her side. The one she lets hit the light.

"Huh?"

"We fell asleep. It's almost sunrise."

She straightens up, fixing her hair. They need to turn eastward. He wonders how she'll manage without showing him her hidden side.

Maybe it's time he tells her his secret.

"I used to donate my swimmers to pay for my college education." Her face, the half he can see, speaks for her, so he continues. "Like clockwork. Told my parents that I had a part time job, but really I was going to the bank and fooling around at the library. That's my biggest secret."

"Maury."

"You don't have to tell me yours. I just...I wanted to. I like you. A lot."

Hesitantly, she rolls over. The sun is rising, and he can see her face in the light. 

All of it.

"I guess it was only a secret from you, but this is my secret." She tucks her hair back.

"A mole?"

"A giant, ugly mole."

He puts his hand up to her cheek. Everything tastes like garlic, and he doesn't care. Just like he doesn't care about some big brown splotch on her face. All he cares about is showing her that he still likes her.

"You missed the sunrise."

"Some things are more beautiful." 

He kisses her again.

June 19, 2021 16:00

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1 comment

Tricia Shulist
17:33 Jun 26, 2021

Aww, that was nice. Thank you.

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