We’re 55 and just married, and I for one get embarrassed when people congratulate us too heartily, as if they see and smell our bodies, not taut but glistening with afterglow, pungent with vanilla-scented lubricant. “Do not deny me” Tony murmured that first time, his hands rough but gentle.

We married quickly. Tony, a widower, said I was unlike other divorced women because I wasn’t bitter. Tonight, from our bench on the boardwalk, we’re dazed by the full moon, its half-smile annointing our marriage, our three-day honeymoon. Until three boys stop in front of us–one with pomaded dark hair, a crooner’s part; another with hair in a bun (total weirdo!), and the third a shadow in the moon-licked darkness.

Crooner tries to bum a cigarette off Tony.

I say quickly, “We don’t smoke,” trying to avoid a conflagration but Tony rises in fury, won’t let it go. “Have you been to a hospital, seen what it does?”

“I’ve been,” Crooner says. “I’m twenty. I can do what I want.” The guy with the bun sniggers but the third asks softly, “Did you lose someone?”

“Did I lose someone? Did I? My wife. A nurse, who didn’t smoke, but died from being around people like you.”

“Let’s go,” the third guy begs. But Crooner turns and points at me. “I thought she was your wife, pops.”

Later, I will not deny him.

But his words “my wife” will lie between us, and a smoky haze, like fog, descends.

 

Photo by jimbrickett

Nancy Ludmerer

NANCY LUDMERER's work has appeared in Kenyon Review, North American Review, Cimarron Review, Literal Latte, Gargoyle and elsewhere. Her flash fiction has won prizes from Southeast Review, Night Train and Grain. She lives in New York City with her husband Malcolm and cat Sandy, a brave refugee from the storm of the same name.

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