“What?” she said looking up from her book.
“Why’d you turn it off?”
He didn’t answer right away and she didn’t ask again. Finally, without turning his head, “Tired of it. Wasn’t watching anything-just staring.”
She pulled one ear bud. The new white-noise app she’d downloaded made it possible to sit and read in the same room where he watched television. Evenings passed this way for most of the last few weeks-each in their own bubble, doing their own things.
“But now you’re just staring at nothing. That’s weird.”
“That can’t be good.” Her phone pinged a text and she glanced at it. “Don’t get too deep. Theresa’s stopping by.”
“Don’t be mean.”
“How can she drive with that sling?”
“She maybe can’t. But she says she’s been cooped up for weeks and it’s time.”
“Great”, he said meaning the opposite.
“Come on. She hasn’t been here in months and you only visited her the one time when I made you.”
“Okay. Not that I have any choice. I’m back and forth on Theresa and right now I’m not feeling it.”
“You’re still pissed that she wouldn’t kiss you at the bonfire last month. Christ, get over it!”
“There’s a difference between ‘not kissing’ and pushing you away with two hands!”
“Not everyone is turned on by a mouthful of bourbon and cigars.”
There was a knock at the door.
“Shhh!” Karen shushed him. “She was just down the street when she texted…”
“Christ” he grumbled convinced that this interruption would kill any chance of any sort of sex tonight though they hadn’t needed people coming by unannounced to kill their amore lately.
“Be nice!” she ordered as she strode out of the room. He couldn’t help watching Karen’s lithe butt swing in her jeans in perfect complement to the blond ponytail. He felt something no doubt, always did watching her move but lately it faded quickly-a guttering match in a breeze.
He cringed at the ecstatic greetings he heard from the kitchen. The high-pitched “Hi Girlfriend…Look at you! No look at you…!!” He sighed and turned the TV back on.
Theresa was shorter than Karen, and rounder. Not fat by any means but not hiding the couple pounds a year she had put on in the last six or seven. Her hair was cut short to simplify styling during her rehab from rotator cuff surgery. She wore a sling attached to a block across her chest that kept her left arm immobilized across her chest. It was the same surgery Karen had two years previous, further cementing their goofy sisterhood.
Karen led her to the couch, passing behind Tim’s recliner. “Hi Timmy”, she said tousling his hair. “Happy to see me?”
“Always happy to see you love”, he said with an overwide fake smile.
Karen sat her at one end of the couch and she flopped down at the other end. “So you’re getting around now?”
“I still shouldn’t be driving but I was going stir crazy.”
“Every day! This is the first day I actually put on a bra. A real one-not a stretchy one I could step into.”
“You should have called Tim. He would have helped you-isn’t that right honey? He was a sweetheart when I got mine done.”
“Whatever I can do to help…” he smiled a less affected smile.
“Honey”, Theresa said, “With your titties you don’t even need a bra. These girls”, she shrugged and her breasts, round as ripe grapefruits, nodded in affirmation “They need all the support I can give them.”
“All the better to call him. Maybe he needs more than a mouthful now and again.” She ducked but caught the pillow he threw. Then they settled into comfortable small talk that friends of a decade can have. Tim was able to stay in and out of their conversation as called for. He was content watching a Bar Rescue rerun with the sound off.
“…Plus I think I’m sick”, he heard her say.
“How nice of you to come over and infect us”, said Tim without looking.
“I don’t know”, Theresa said. “Maybe it’s nothing.” She leaned toward Karen. “Do I feel warm?”
Karen reached over and put her palm on her forehead. Then the back of her hand on her cheek.
“I don’t think so. Tim?”
“I’m no good at that-my hands are always cold.”
“Really”, said Theresa. “Do you have a thermometer?”
Karen froze when she should have just said “No”. Tim, his eyes still on the set said, “We only have a rectal.”
She cut her eyes to one, then the other. Karen was engrossed in the grain of the coffee table and suddenly the morons going broke owning a Tiki Bar were fascinating beyond words.
“You guys”, said Theresa smiling and shaking her head. They’d been friends too long for her not to know a little about how they played. Or played when they were playing which they currently were not.
“Couldn’t you just wash it real good?” asked Theresa
“How good?” asked Tim. “Sure, I’ll do that…be my guest.”
“Yuck”, said Karen her face wrinkled. “You can’t do that.”
Theresa smiled. “I’ll swing by Walgreen’s on the way home. You guys…” she repeated and shook her head.
“Well, we offered”, Karen said.
“Yes, you did. And I appreciate the gesture. I just can’t lay on my belly with this…”
“You could lay on your side…” Karen said lightly without looking at her.
Theresa did something that sounded like a snort-almost a laugh-then sat back. Tim flipped through the channels and found a rerun of American Pickers that he stayed with for a moment hoping to see Danielle. Nobody spoke and when he stole a glance at Karen, she was looking at him, a tiny glint in her eyes. He looked toward the other end of the couch and let his eyes settle on Theresa. “So?” he asked.
“Sad truth, it would be the first time anyone’s touched my ass in months.”
Tim caught his wife’s quick grin and he felt a buzz in his crotch.
There had always been something going on with the three of them; a stolen kiss here, a drunken feel there, never secretive and never pushed beyond the realm of friendly naughtiness. This felt different. They were all sober for one. Theresa had been miserably unattached for months, and Tim & Karen had become, for the first time in the marriage, sexually unmoored. Neither had made a thing of it when Tim began sleeping, with increasing regularity, in the spare room. There were reasons: he snored, she was a light sleeper, he wandered about at night…all valid but only true on the face. The fact was they were spending more nights apart than together. Theresa was cutting her eyes from one to the other.
“What do you think, Nurse Karen?” Tim asked. This was going to be her call and how the balance of the evening would be spent hung on her answer. His wife waited then lay the back of her hand against her friend’s cheek again. “Hard to tell” she said playing at trying to figure something out. “But you do look flushed. We should check it out.”
“Alrighty then”, said Tim, then fumbled about, deferring again.
Karen stood and took Theresa’s hand. “Let’s go back to the bedroom. More comfortable for you to lay on the bed than the couch.”