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Things you think when at the dentist:

He definitely knows I haven’t flossed since my last visit.

Shit. He’s going to make me feel guilty.

Why is he talking to me when my mouth is stretched open?

What’s that pointy thing?

I promise to floss every day.

I fucking hate this place.

I got free floss!

That I’ll never use.

Fuck the dentist. Seriously. Were there people who actually enjoyed having someone’s latex fingers probing around in their mouth? Probably—everything is a thing nowadays. My rule was if you stick any part of your body in my mouth, there better be an orgasm in it for me. When was the last time I’d had an orgasm anyway? Darius and I hadn’t spoken since our showdown in his office. I was already in bed later that night when I’d heard the key in the lock. I’d snuggled down closer to Mercy, who I’d let sleep in the bed with me so he couldn’t. When he came slowly into the bedroom a few minutes later, he’d seen her lying next to me and left. Good riddance, I’d thought. I needed more time. I wasn’t going to let him schmooze his way out of this one. I needed to think.

I’d been thinking for days. I’d tried to guess the password to his e-mail, too. Nada. Darius was on lockdown. And why? Because something was up, that’s why.

The dentist’s office was a twenty-minute drive from where I lived. I scooted my car onto the jam-packed 5 cursing Ryan under my breath. It was a new dentist. Ryan, of all people, made the appointment for me when I confessed that I hadn’t been in two years. Darius would have flipped his shit if he knew. In all the years I’d known him, the guy had never made a single sexual advance on me, but Darius resented his presence in my life. In fact, Darius resented any male presence in my life. He’d never made me a dentist appointment, though I suspected there were times he’d wanted me to see a shrink.

Why there? I’d texted him when I saw the address. Dentists on every corner and you make me drive all the way there! I was agitated. He knew I hated driving.

He’s a buddy of mine. Just go, he’ll take good care of you. You go to the dentist like twice a year. Stop whining. So, I stopped whining. If Darius had told me to stop whining I would have given him something to whine about. For Ryan, I stopped whining. Fuck my life. What was even happening?

Henry Wu was a young Asian guy, straight out of tooth school, or wherever they went. He came to collect me from the reception area himself and led me to a room whistling the theme song to Dexter. Real comforting, guy. After he sat me down, he told me that this was his first practice, and that his uncle loaned him the money to get started. I felt better about the twenty-minute drive after his whole spiel, and made a mental note to thank Ryan.

“How do you know Ryan?” he asked. His eyes briefly wandered to my wedding ring.

“College, but we didn’t know each other well there. We sort of became friends after we graduated. You?”

“We worked at the Logan’s Roadhouse together. Beer, peanuts, two dollar tips all night.”

I tried to picture Ryan as a server. I couldn’t.

“He never ran his own food, we all hated him,” Henry said, and we both laughed. That I could picture.

An hour and no cavities later, he sat me up in the chair and asked what I did for a living.

I hesitated. “I’m an author.” It still made me terribly uncomfortable to admit it. I hated talking about myself. There was a certain butt naked feeling when you told someone you were an artist. It was sort of like telling them you’d been to prison. First they looked at you funny, then they wanted to know what you did. After that they started acting weird, not sure if they should be afraid of you, or impressed. Dr. Wu pulled his mask down and raised his eyebrows. I couldn’t raise my eyebrows anymore, too much Botox.

I thought he was going to have the normal reaction, maybe ask the follow-up questions about what I write. But, instead he said, “You’re my second author! How about that?”

“In this area?” I asked, sitting up straighter. I could count the number of published authors living in Seattle on one hand.

“She’s in Seattle too,” he said. “I’m not sure how she found me, I didn’t ask.”

“What’s her name?” I was immediately intrigued. Perhaps someone I knew, or at least my pen name knew. Few authors knew my real name, and I preferred to keep it that way for privacy sake.

He shook his head. “Can’t tell you, HIPAA laws.”

I was disappointed. “Is she well-known?” I probed.

“I don’t know,” he said. “But, she mentioned going on book tours, so I assume so. Writes under a pen name.”

“You’re kidding,” I said, incredulous. I listed off Seattle-based authors in my head: Sarah Jio, Isaac Marion, and even some based in far out Washington like S.C. Stephens, and S.L. Jennings. How had a new Seattle author slipped past my radar?

“She’s older then,” I said. An older female author without a social media presence. It made sense. Those of us on social media tended to find each other, pen name and all.

“No, no—she’s your age. Looks kind of like you, too.” He pulled off his gloves and pressed the pedal to the trash can with his foot.

“Looks like me how?” I asked. Was it cold in here, or was I getting the chills?

“Dark hair, same style clothes.” He glanced at my boots. “She was wearing Dr. Martens when she came in. Must be a writer thing, those things are extinct.”

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