“It’s not like that. Honestly. I’m sorry. I should have told you. Should have told you right away. When I didn’t tell you right away, I couldn’t think of how to do it afterwards.” He let the silence hang there. “Really, I thought…every time we spoke I thought it would be the last time. I didn’t expect we’d talk more than the one or two times…”
“What? You’re leaving?” He had stood up. “Come on John,” there was pleading in her voice. “Don’t just leave.”
Before he could respond, she unwound her legs and popped up herself having made a decision. “Just wait”, she said, walking into the bedroom. “Don’t go anywhere.” He heard her open her closet door then close it. When she walked back into the living room she was carrying an oak paddle. It was thick enough to do the job but light enough-especially with the four holes drilled down the middle-to swing hard. He knew from painful experience that it was long and wide enough to cover a lot of area with every swat. She handed the paddle to him.
“Here”, she said. She stepped over to the desk and turned her back to him. He gripped the handle and felt the weight of the board.
“No”, he said.
“Yes”, Liz answered without turning around. “You have to.”
“I don’t have to do anything.”
She looked back over her shoulder and he saw her eyes glistening. “I need you to.” Their eyes locked for a moment and she turned back toward the street. The old Oriental gentleman from across the street was walking his toy poodle from sycamore to sycamore with the leash in one hand and a green plastic newspaper bag in the other. He walked carefully, picking his way along the buckled flagstones of the old sidewalk. She saw him most days though they had rarely been on the street together to acknowledge one another.
He watched her back-saw the rise and fall of her shoulders as she breathed quickly. Saw her shirt tail-his shirt tail-hanging down almost completely covering her jean-clad bottom. The hours in the gym had won her a firm protruding backside that was stronger and more contoured than it had been a decade earlier. And she dressed it to maximum effect-nothing baggy hanging off of her. His breath was now coming quickly too. He hadn’t moved.
“You have to do this”, she said softly, almost whispering.
He stepped closer to her, taking position to her left. “I suppose I do”, he said flatly.
Her shirt moved as her fingers unsnapped the button on her jeans and pushed down the zipper. John watched over her shoulder as the old Oriental gentleman bent over with the green bag to pick up the waste his dog had left near the curb. Mission accomplished, he crossed the street toward home.