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Miller’s face floated into Aliss’s view, lit by the split sunbeam that pried one of her eyes open a blurry fraction of an inch. A receding dream incorporated the sight of him, releasing him in seconds to the increasing light streaming through her window. On top of the covers and fully dressed beside her, he cupped the back of her neck, fingers in her hair, complementing his kiss with a soft familiar touch.
“I’ll be late if I don’t leave now,” he said.
Aliss stretched one arm straight out, tense and aimless as her body fought waking. The other wrapped around Miller’s shoulders as she kept his lips close to hers longer. “I wish you didn’t have to go,” she said.
“You don’t make friends in retail when you call in sick. I did think about it though.” He took in a deep breath of her before pushing himself up to his feet. “Got to go sell TVs and cameras and sound systems and whatever else I can. Getting paid is good.” He paused and watched her stretch some more, watching her study him with that one eye barely open, her libidinous smile saying she saw him well enough. “Try to get some more sleep. I’ll come right here after work. My phone’ll be in my pocket on vibrate. Call if you need me. Okay?”
“Awright,” she said.
He left the room, but she called to him before he was gone. “Hey, get the spare key ring off that hook in the cupboard. The front and the back door keys are on it.”
He poked his head in the doorway. “Good idea. I’ll get it and run. See you later.”
Aliss rounded the edges of the dream she couldn’t quite remember, then fell hard into sleep for two more hours. She woke hungry and happy, taking a quick shower and dressing in thick charcoal-colored leggings and a long hooded sweatshirt that almost matched, before deciding on cereal for breakfast. She ate at the kitchen table, flipping through a book of photos that she found fascinating, but couldn’t remember buying.
It was as she washed her bowl and spoon in the sink that she thought about the man who’d been across the street the night before, and had an overwhelming urge to see if he had come back.
Taking time to hang the dishcloth just so, drying her hands, applying lotion, she waited long enough to be sure the feeling wouldn’t pass. With intentional softness in her rubber-soled steps, as if it mattered, she crossed the room, twisted the rod that opened the blinds to the sun and street, then expanded two slats wide enough to spot him.
His face turned up to her window within seconds of being seen. She forgot she was safe and dropped to the floor, then sat back on her heels to catch her breath. She felt compelled to look out at him without dread, weariness or inexplicable embarrassment. Aliss liked the idea of him not having power over her, of showing that to him before finding something else to occupy her Sunday afternoon. Raising up on her knees was the best she could do, but she saw the street well from that position, staring at him as he stared at her.
He took his hands out of his coat pockets, raising them in front of him as if searching the air for a certain point and finding it with little effort. Dropping one arm, keeping the other up, he reached inside the space — the air — watching Aliss’s face contort as that arm disappeared to the shoulder.
She sank down out of sight and folded herself against the wall, shaken, gasping for air.