Last Light
Author:M. Pierce

With her sweet breath blowing across my ear, her body draped over mine, I almost believed we were all right.

 

“You know I am,” I said, because I always get cold after I come, and she hugged me.

 

She doted on me for a while—rubbed my sides, kissed my collarbone, and feathered her fingers through my hair—and then she sat up and the spell snapped.

 

We weren’t all right.

 

I wiped my face and chest with my T-shirt. I retied my pants.

 

Hannah swayed as she struggled back into her panties and dress. I watched, detached, rather than reaching to steady her.

 

My hand ached. Fortunately, Hannah hadn’t noticed me favoring the left.

 

I retrieved a hoodie from the bedroom and returned to find her standing by the door, her expression inscrutable. Don’t leave, I thought, though I felt so confused. Warring emotions. Loneliness for Hannah. Brittle anger when I remembered Seth.

 

“I’m sorry,” she said. She plucked her keys out of her purse. “We probably shouldn’t have done that. It confuses everything.”

 

I folded my arms. “I enjoyed it.”

 

“Yeah…” She trailed off. Her gaze danced along the floor, pausing where I’d knelt. “Um. Your keys.” She freed our condo and mailbox keys and held them out to me.

 

I closed her fingers around the keys. “Keep them.”

 

“Matt—”

 

“Just keep them. Where are you staying?”

 

“At a hotel. Alone.”

 

“Move back in. We don’t have to have sex. I’ll sleep on the couch.”

 

“Yeah, because we have so much restraint.” Her gaze loitered on the floor. I could see her deciding that what just happened was a mistake. Fuck. It wasn’t a mistake.

 

“Tell me what happened with Seth,” I said.

 

Hannah blanched, her eyes growing wide.

 

“Tell me,” I insisted. “If you don’t, I’ll keep imagining the worst, and the worst is—”

 

“I didn’t sleep with him. I didn’t. I never cheated on you. After I left you, though—” Hannah hesitated, and I stared at her mouth, unable to comprehend. She lied to me? She didn’t sleep with him. This is good news. But it feels bad. “Matt, it’s fucking impossible to explain. I was drunk. I gave him a hand job. That’s all.”

 

Instantly, the image materialized. Sickening. Hannah’s hand on my brother.

 

I went for my cigarettes, which were on the coffee table.

 

“Fine,” I said.

 

“Fine? You’re angry.”

 

“Yeah, fucking sue me.” I turned away from Hannah. “Of course I am.”

 

“It was a onetime thing, Matt. It was a mistake. I was drunk … I was messed up. How can you be angry now, when you thought I slept with him before? God, you make no sense.”

 

I glared at the wall, seething.

 

“He took advantage of you,” I hissed.

 

“No. I took advantage of him.” Hannah’s voice hardened. “And I did it because I was trying to get over you, okay? And I never will, and I know that now.”

 

“Oh?” I laughed. “Now you know, is that right?” I rounded on her. I wanted to look her in the eye, let her see my hurt and anger. “All it took to clarify your feelings for me … was giving my brother a hand job?” I smiled venomously. “How convenient. Tell me, did you also have to blow Nate, or was handling Seth enough to—”

 

The flat of her hand struck my cheek, hard. My head whipped aside with the force of the slap. Fuck. I was asking for that.

 

The sting came belatedly, pain sizzling to the surface of my skin.

 

“Hey, fuck you,” Hannah growled. “At least I wasn’t buying drinks for some ditzy little girl, letting her feel me up by the side of the road—”

 

“Oh, get off it. Don’t you fucking start in on my writing.”

 

“Ha! Your writing. Is that even writing, or is that just transcribing your fucked-up life?”

 

“You wouldn’t know the difference, Hannah. You’re not a fucking writer—and you don’t know a goddamn thing about it.”

 

“God, you’re so conceited! You don’t have the fucking patent on pain, Matt.” She shoved my chest. “You don’t get to play the tortured genius card every time you fuck up.”

 

Part of me—a small, remote part—admired Hannah even as we squared off. Dear fucking God, she was beautiful. She was alive in her anger, her eyes illuminated, her body electric. She gave no ground, took no excuses. She saw straight through me.

 

Magnificent.

 

We ran out of angry words, and Hannah left spontaneously. The emptiness of the condo echoed around me. Nate made his nightly call; I lied and told him I was fine. The living room smelled of sex and Hannah’s perfume.

 

I killed the lights, smoked on the balcony, and thought about her.

 

Afterward, I sent her an e-mail.

 

My thoughts crystallized instantly into words—no brooding and backspacing.

 

Subject: (no subject)

 

Sender: Matthew R. Sky Jr.

 

Date: Monday, April 28, 2014

 

Time: 10:15 PM

 

Hannah,

 

Do you know the story of the Garden of Eden?

 

God banishes Adam and Eve from the garden, and he blocks the gates forever with angels and a sword of fire.

 

You’re that sword—I swear.

 

Tonight I said things I didn’t mean. You did, too.

 

But you know the truth. You’ll never be happy without me. Come home.

 

Matt

 

I sat in the office waiting for her reply, which came within minutes.