The Great Bear part 2

by jamesmerolla

Under the hiss of Wayne’s morning shower Margo makes her quiet phone call to Allan.

Allan is a genial, dim man with a deflecting sense of humor, who also happens to be married to Laura.

Their desks were situated across from each other in the bank they worked in. That’s where Allan met Margo.

The bank was designed by a mad architect who was obsessed with gothic cathedrals. In his wake he left several buildings dotted throughout the region with vaulted ceilings and decorative stone work. These cavernous spaces are inhabited by birds who often shit on the people below them. But, twice a day the sun fills up the grey tomb, and scatters about the dust in the pinwheel light through the stained glass. Margo’s desk was right in the crossfire of the windows. Every morning Allan looked up to see her face awash with color, and the youthful grace of the sun against her skin. In the afternoon, the sun sunk behind her. It spotlighted the outline of her body through the silk of her dress, and veiled her facial features like a sad widow. He’d tell everyone it was a sign from god.

However, originally their desks were situated in the opposite end of the building, away from the sun’s touch. One day as she crossed through the bank floor, passing in and out of the vaulted light Allan saw Margo for the first time. Beginning that day, he slowly moved their desks to the opposite end of the floor, one subtle nudge at a time, striving for the perfect balance of light. It took him four years to finish. It would have taken him even longer if he didn’t seize the opportunity to push the desks the final distance during a Christmas party melee.

And no one noticed, not even Margo.

He kneeled at her alter every day for six years, muttering prayers into his sleeve, but nary a word passed over his lips in her direction. He’d watch her, enthralled by her every movement. He loved the sound of her shoes tapping on the marble floor when she’d walk through. It was a distinctive rhythm that echoed into the deepest corners of the old building, as she raised every eyebrow like wind washing over a field.

Margo threw herself a going away party when she left the bank. She didn’t know Allan, but she felt a strange obligation to invite him. He met Laura there.

Allan’s long arms stretch out over the back of the polished leather sofa in Margo’s office. He wears a loose suit and a pair of ugly cowboy boots. He loves those boots, especially after Margo told him how much she’d love for him to buy them.

He stares at her, tracing every curve of her slender body. His green eyes widen and dim like a light in the fog. He more than loves her.  He wants to possess her. He wants to look out at life through her eyes.

Margo hates the boots. She thinks they’re hideous. The reason she told him to buy them was to see if he would.  It is one of her small satisfactions, knowing she can make him her clown. Anything to take the bite out of his stare.

     Just think, someday you’ll never have to do this again.

     I’ve told you several times, I like doing this.

     You don’t want to run a flower shop the rest of your life. I’m going to make sure you don’t have too.

Margo whittles away at the paperwork on her desk. The bills are piling up. She has to hold on until Valentine’s Day.

     Laura said something strange to me today.

     Oh yeah?

     She said something about buffaloes. I can’t remember.

     The buffalo never saw it coming.

     Yes, how did you know that?

     She says that a lot. I’m surprised you’ve never heard her say it before.

     What does it mean?

     I think it means no one sees it coming.

     Right, do you think she knows about us?

Margo drops her pen on the desk with a deep sigh. She shrugs and shakes her head.

     Probably.

     Really?

     Nothing gets past my sister, Allan. That’s another thing you should know by now.

     I don’t like when you tell me things like this. I won’t sleep for a week now.

     Then stop asking me silly questions.

     She sleeps fine. If she knows then why is she sleeping so well?

     Why don’t you ask her?

     Maybe I should, it’s not like I’d get an answer from her anyway.

Margo rolls her eyes and returns her attention to her desk.

     She’s going to tell Wayne, you know.

     I’m sure she told Wayne a long time ago—now are you going to help me with these bills like you promised?

     I can’t focus at all now. I’m just going to go. Thanks a lot by the way. I hope you’re satisfied.

He stomps out the door in his ugly boots. She hides her laughter.

Depending on the day Margo imagines loving Allan too, and she trades promises she knows neither will keep, enjoying the benefits of love, and the annoyance of not being alone.

They will never stray too far from the life they know, for fear their actions will be rendered meaningless. Their tumbles among the spiders and the dirt behind the flower shop would be impotent without the whispers of denial. It inflates their relationship with abrupt conversations about impossible futures. They are trapped in depths too deep for the light.

Margo has accepted her fate. She collects what small pieces of happiness she can find among the rubble of collapsed expectations.

She stopped believing she and Wayne needed each other years ago, but she hasn’t stopped waiting for him. She’s begun measuring everything in time, her relationships, her work, her sister, everything has a number turning slowly in her mind.

She looks up through the small window of her basement office. The sunlight stretches across her eyes, sparking them to life, ringing clear with memory. Pedestrians cross in front of the light making her blink and look away.

Continued in part 3

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