She set her purse by a stack of unopened mail on his bed. Two weeks’ worth. It seemed slim. The bed was exactly how she had made it, while he had he busied himself with packing and preparation. She admired her neat hospital corners, sitting at the edge of the bed so as to not interrupt its smoothness.
He was taking a while in the bathroom, so she pawed through his mail. Nosy, but trying to be as unobtrusive as possible. There were several ads and a car insurance bill, which was bizarre because he didn’t have a car. She had heard him once, on the phone, negotiating the cost of storage insurance in his hometown, presumably with the same company, although she did not remember. At the bottom of the stack was a copy of The Atlantic, with his name spelled out in big block letters: LIAM MALKIN. She sounded each letter out, like a little girl at a spelling bee. The word she had gotten wrong was museum, which was ironic because she worked at a museum now.
That wasn’t the point, she said gently to her own mind, fixating on the pleasing, distinctive text of The Atlantic’s cover page. Katia did not know that Liam read The Atlantic. She herself loved finding the publication’s long-form articles on the internet and bringing them up in every conversation until the novelty of her newfound expertise wore off. Katia wondered if Liam would like to talk to her about Atlantic articles. Nobody else seemed to. She often caught herself being annoying, saying something like, “I was just reading an article...” Katia flushed, feeling like that nerdy girl in high school all over again. Liam had been different, she knew – he and his friends had once stolen a car and driven it for a block before realizing they were too intoxicated to drive.
Still, this new information shocked her. It seemed to scream, “there’s still so much you don’t know. There’s still so much you can find out.” Like the time I found out he paid for a prostitute in Amsterdam, she thought in bitter retort. It had happened ages ago. They hadn’t even been together when he did it. But it had been a fight. She just didn’t see him that way, didn’t think of him as that type of person.
Now, she was dating that type of person. He was soft and warm, with curly brown hair and a crooked smile. He smelled like three or four products she could recognize in his bathroom, mixed with sweat or whatever that biological impulse is that attracts one human being to another.
Liam came out of the bathroom and interrupted Katia’s reverie. He looked tired and vaguely waterlogged. Effortlessly, he sat down next to her and placed a warm, halfhearted kiss on her lips. It was a bit wet, as always, but not quite sloppy. She wondered how he could be so imprecise, how he could sit on the crisply made bed without worrying about creases. He put his hand on her knee and she flopped her hand into his lap, knowing that it would brush his most sensitive body part. Katia knew exactly what she was doing. She got a thrill out of how easy he was to arouse.
At attention, Liam kissed Katia once again. This time, his lips met the full surface area of hers. He kissed her with intention, before moving down to her neck. He pulled her oversized sweater over her head and crumpled her mini skirt up her torso, running his hands up and down her entire body before completing her nakedness and using his mouth.
Katia liked how he seemed to enjoy the act with so little engagement from herself. She liked how he didn’t look up at her like some men did, their big, brown eyes begging for a display like a puppy begs for scraps. He just... focused. After getting used to the sensation, she focused, too. After several minutes of uninterrupted effort from both parties, Katia came, feeling the familiar shiver run through her body. She pulled Liam up and noticed that he had started to come, too, through his boxer shorts.
Satisfied, she took them off and invited him inside. He smiled and kissed her. It was quick, after ten days apart, and she let the majority of the emission happen outside of her, drops of it seeping into the comforter that, surprisingly, wasn’t that ruffled. They cleaned themselves with tissues and then Katia went to the bathroom to avoid a UTI. When she came back, they joked about the excess of bodily fluids and the smell of sex that permeated the room. Liam opened a window. Katia wiggled herself next to his body.
They both lay there, fighting sleep. Liam had been on a transatlantic flight, and Katia had a cold. Not wanting to get too comfortable, Katia announced her departure. She had a meeting that night, on her side of town. Liam dressed and walked Katia to her car. They kissed and Liam told her that he was happy to be back. Katia just smiled enigmatically and promised to be in touch once she had a better idea of her week.
The entire way home, all Katia could think about was the copy of The Atlantic on Liam’s bed.
Willfully, she pulled into the driveway and buried her musings in a deep corner of her mind. The same one where she kept the information about Liam’s escapades in Amsterdam, and the fear of all the things she did not yet know about him and worse, might never find out.
The thoughts piled up like an overstuffed sock drawer, but Katia squeezed it shut, along with her eyes. When she opened them, she relaxed and decided not to bring it up. If Liam wanted to talk to her about The Atlantic, he would.
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