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At Aliss’s, Miller hung his jacket by the door and, just as she slipped it off, reached for the denim one he’d lent to her days before. Holding it in his hands, he caught her eye before hanging it up, too. Aliss recalled an earlier pang of guilt, now gone, as she pulled off the dress she’d worn over her shirt and jeans and tossed it on the couch.
“I’ll be right back,” she said over her shoulder as she headed for the bathroom. She washed her hands and face and emerged running her tongue over freshly brushed teeth.
With the lamp off, Miller was at the windows checking the street below from behind the blind. “I wanted another look,” he said, letting it fall back into place. “I’ll get the light.”
“I’ll just turn this one on instead,” Aliss said turning into the bedroom. A low watt bulb beneath a parchment-colored shade bathed the small room with a gentle light as she slid onto her futon and the rich rose colors of its paisley quilt.
Miller paused outside the doorway, where light faded into dark. “Can you stay in tomorrow?”
“I guess so,” she said, stacking the pillows against the headboard.
“You know how it is at the store. If I’m off today, I work tomorrow. But I’m off at seven. I’ll come straight over. We can make a plan.”
“I can’t imagine anything that would work.”
“If he goes on thinking he has the power, it’ll get worse.”
“You learned that somewhere?”
“From a master.”
Aliss thought he might explain who that was and which side they’d been on, but when she didn’t ask, he didn’t elaborate.
Miller stepped back into the darkness and she heard the scrape the bathroom door made before it shut tight. She stretched out onto her side in the opposite direction, toes touching the headboard, with her back to the green trailing vines on the white sheers at her bedroom window. Leaning on her elbow, head cradled in her palm, she waited for him to come back.
When he did, he sat by the pillows, slipped off his shoes and sat cross-legged, facing her. She broke into a broad smile. “Lean back against the pillows. Get comfy.”
He moved over, unfolding his legs, stretching out along her body’s length without quite touching. His back found the pillows and he leaned into them.
“Well,” she sighed.
His eyes followed as she slipped off his socks, crawled up his legs, and sat on his thighs. He began, “Are you sure …” the words trailing off as if he’d forgotten his point.
She gripped the bottom of his sweater. “Let’s see what I’ve been forgetting to look at.”
Miller’s face grew rosier than light reflecting off the quilt. “I shouldn’t have said that …”
Aliss placed a finger to her lips, shaking her head to shush him. He obliged, tilting forward just enough to facilitate the gray fabric going over his head. She tossed the cabled sweater on the floor and gazed at the muscles she’d been missing, running her fingers along the gentle grid below his ribcage.
Miller’s surprise was evident everywhere she touched him, but his eagerness to touch her and be touched by her was stronger and more obvious, tempered by the strength, patience, and tender desire he’d never hidden from her.
Aliss tossed her tee to the floor and leaned in for a kiss. Miller closed the distance until there was none.
The whorls of their dance continued, flowed, instinct guiding each impulse to lead or follow, until they were spent, content to allow their bodies’ deepest vibrations to subside, dreaming in each other’s arms before knowing they’d been ready for sleep.