By Libby Cudmore
Josie lives exactly halfway between you and Hannah, the Girl You Want. A studio apartment, a loft bed barely big enough for both, a ten-year-old cat you’re allergic to. She’s pretty, pale, fragile, stormy eyes and dark hair that’s always two weeks overgrown. She might own a pair of jeans, but she’s always in a dress when you call and tell her that you need to see her tonight. She doesn’t know how to tell you no, as though the word might crack her porcelain mouth.
You visit Josie when Hannah is out of town, with her friends, or otherwise occupied. Josie understands your loneliness like faith. She keeps red wine on hand and you drink out of mismatched glass tumblers, playing The Smiths’ Strangeways, Here We Come on vinyl. If you come by early enough, she makes dinner: stir-fried vegetables and udon noodles, grilled portabellas, pesto.
On the couch she doesn’t stop your hands from wandering up her legs. She brushes your inner arm with painted fingernails because she knows it sends shivers up your spine. Each time you see her, they’re a different color—green, purple, orange, pink—and each time, they’re just slightly chipped. She gets on her knees to change the record, her back arched, her ass in the air. You make her get you a glass of water just so you can watch that ass in motion.
You sit close on the couch, put your arms around her, kiss her neck. She trembles under your touch and you feel like a man. Hannah doesn’t tremble the way Josie does. The wine makes you whisper I adore you, I’ll never leave you, you’re the only one who understands me. You know you don’t mean it and you know she doesn’t believe it, but you say it every single time.
You ache for her body because it is there. Your hands grip her waist, your mouth clamps down on hers. You are so hard in your jeans that the anguish of want brings tears to your eyes. You put your hand between her thighs, parting them with a twist of your wrist, bracing yourself against her. Her body is sweet and warm in a way that Hannah couldn’t ever be. Josie needs you and you need to be needed.
You sleep on your side with her arms around you. The morning is shy and sober; you shower alone and dress before she sees you naked. By then, Hannah has texted you to say she’s ready to see you. You finish your coffee and say goodbye to Josie. Her mourning is palpable, but you both brush it off.
You stand in front of Josie’s building looking up both sides of her street. One way to Hannah, one way to home. For now, you are in limbo.
Libby Cudmore’s stories and essays have been published in Pank, Connotation Press, The MacGuffin, The Yalobusha Review, The Southern Women’s Review, Postcard Press, Independent Ink, The Citron Review, Mixitini Matrix, ARCANE II and The Writer Magazine (with Matthew Quinn Martin). Currently, she’s cramming herself into Spanx, letting her dates order her dinner and wearing meat masks as part of her blog project, GeekGirlGoesGlam.com.