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“Darkness almost claimed me

So close I was it hurt

But you

A fire unparalleled

Saw fit to scald and save me

I owe it all

To You

My Love

My Life

My Everything

So close I was to

Lifeless life

But You

A fire unparalleled

Blazed life into my soul…”

Jolene hated her words. Her reaction to seeing any of her own work reminded me of the Wicked Witch of the West. Meeeeltiiing, I’m meltiiiiiing. Twice a year she had to approve voices for audio books and she just straight out refused to do it. Couldn’t listen to someone read her words, she said. She made me pick them. I quite liked the responsibility of it. I had a radio voice myself.

“It is pretty good, isn’t it?” I said. “I worked on it for days. You know I won a poetry award in high school—actually poetry and short story. I wrote this piece about a spoon. My teacher said I was the most talented she’d ever seen.” When I turned to check her reaction, she was just staring at me.


“Nothing,” she said, turning away.

“No, tell me.” I gave her a side glance. She was pissed.

“You just always do this. You do something that’s supposed to be for me, but in the end it feels like it was for you.”

“What do you mean?”

“You wrote me a love letter last year. It was beautiful, all the things you said. But, after I read it, you spent twenty minutes talking about what great handwriting you had.”

I had, I remember being especially pleased with myself. I had the best handwriting I’d ever seen.

“What did you want me to say? I already told you how I felt in the letter. Did you want to discuss that more? If you’re calling me a narcissist, you’re just as guilty for wanting to talk more about yourself.”

“I suppose,” she said, cocking her head. “Or did you tell me the things I want you to feel?”

“What the fuck does that mean?”

She smiled. It was the coldest smile I’d ever seen. No conviction in the eyes.

“Nothing. It doesn’t mean anything at all. By the way, did you see that picture Kelly posted of her new baby on Facebook? Cutest thing I’ve ever seen.”

A sudden change of subject. I had seen it. Full head of dark hair and features like a tiny elf. I was about to comment when what she was doing clicked and I started laughing instead.

“You’re such an ass,” I said. She made the What? face at me, but I could see that she was suppressing her own laughter. She was always on me about how I continually posted baby pictures of myself on Instagram.

“You don’t even post pictures of your daughter,” she’d say. “But, you’re clearly obsessed with your own baby photos.”

Whenever the topic of babies came up I always found a way to talk about how cute I was. Yeah, maybe it was a little strange, but it was also true.

She reached out and rubbed the back of my head.

“It’s okay, narcissism runs deep with this one,” she cooed. I enjoyed her touch so much I didn’t even care that she was making fun of me.

It’s true. I was a little narcissistic. Not to the extreme like some people were, but enough so that when Jolene pointed it out I couldn’t deny it. Who was the real shrink here anyway? And it was better to be a narcissist and have some concept of it, than to tilt toward Psychopathy and have no idea.

We sat down to dinner and I checked my phone. I liked to pretend that I was checking for texts about Mercy, but I had to make sure no one was sending me things I had to keep my wife from seeing. I’m not always proud of the person I am, but we all have our struggles. When I looked up from my phone, I saw that Jolene was bent over hers with a slight smile on her lips.

“Who are you texting?” I snapped.

“Who are you texting?” she shot back.

We were still locked in an eye duel when the server came to take our drink order. The blatancy of her texting Ryan while she sat at dinner with me made me angry.

“We should get Mercy a puppy,” she said, suddenly. “For Christmas.”

“How about a bike?” I was still focused on her phone. I’d have to check the iPad later, see what they were talking about.

“Darius,” she said, narrowing her eyes playfully. “We like dogs. Two dog lovers against one dog hater.”

“I don’t hate them. Okay, I do.”

“I want a husky,” she said. “It’s my dream dog. I’ve only ever had little dogs, but I’m a big dog person. I know it in my heart.”

I had a physical reaction—my head jerked up and I looked her in the eyes for the first time in the ten minutes we’d been there.

“Have you said that to anyone else?”

She made a face. “Yeah, I guess. Why?”

I ran a hand over my face, shaking my head. I could tell her but she didn’t listen anyway.

“Do you really want to know?”

“Is it about Fig?” She looked down at the table and played with her fork. She was bored with this. I guess I’d been a broken record about it.

“Forget it,” I said.

“No,” she reached out her hand and touched mine, “I’m sorry. It’s just that everyone always wants to talk about Fig and her fixation. I know, I get it. It’s exhausting. The only one who doesn’t know about her fixation is Fig.”

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