Year Four by Grace Shelton
They’re going to have three good years together and a kid. She goes by Becky now, the little devil, but in the future she’ll go by Beck. And he, beside her in the bedclothes, is Mickey, who will mellow into Michael. They’ve just met at a rock concert, where Mickey’s shirtsleeve got caught in one of her pins. Neither has much impulse control. Things devolved from some gas-station cocaine to the back of Mickey’s pickup truck to the bedroom in Becky’s apartment. Mickey breathes heavily against Becky’s collarbone as he pumps in and out of her, more like a mechanical bull than a passionate lover. But the way he looks at her, the way he looks—she cannot bring herself to mind. She lies back, pupils blown. Lets it happen. She has never wanted anything so much.
The house that Beck and Michael share is just a three-year drive down the road, where Beck puts the baby to bed and clicks on the baby monitor. She hears their child’s peaceful breathing crackle over the line. Michael gets home from work in less than an hour. He’ll eat dinner straight from the fridge and crawl in beside her with no more than a goodnight. He’s tired, she reasons. She goes through his dresser drawers every night, like she might find evidence of another woman besides her. Never anything there.
Becky palms Mickey’s cheek as he finishes. They fall with each other, backs on the navy-blue sheets. There’s not enough room for them both in Becky’s twin bed. Their shoulders overlap, his over hers, as awkward a position as could be mustered. Becky doesn’t even care. She’s still riding the high of the concert, the cocaine she snorted off the shitty gas station sink, the jackknifing of the music in her ears. He could scream and she wouldn’t hear it. He turns his head into her neck, sucking bruises into the soft skin. For three years, it’s going to be this good. Becky doesn’t hear crying over the baby monitor. Mickey is on top of her again, kissing until their lips sting with each desperate pulse.
Michael comes into his bedroom as predicted. He strips his suit without any dramatic flair and hangs it back in its plastic for the dry-cleaners tomorrow. Beck’s wrapped up in their queen-size comforter, listening for the baby. Watching the trees blow around through gaps in the blinds. When Michael puts a hand on her back, she says she’s exhausted, that she wants to go to sleep, and part of her is sad, because Becky never needs to sleep. Becky loves Mickey because Mickey is big and new and exciting, and Michael is Mickey with the volume turned down to a reasonable level. When you get older, you have to worry about your eardrums.
Michael and Mickey lean down as one, their lips hovering over their respective lovers. They are different people. These couples get three good years together and a kid. Beck peels the incoming kiss from her skin, and Becky reaches up to press it somewhere else.
Grace Shelton is a Spanish major at Susquehanna University, where she gains inspiration from late nights and music played on loop. Her work has appeared previously in Rivercraft, The Lumiere Review, and Hushed Heartache Literary Magazine, among others, and her first chapbook is forthcoming from Treehouse Editions.