Subtleties

Shay Sheridan

For the "Jewelry" challenge


At first everything seems the same: the sarcasm, the voice, the memorable profile, the receding hairline, though now it's in full retreat from that high forehead. He clasps you, pulls you close, sighs with relief, regret, remembrance, and you go willingly, forgetting your natural reserve, because like a librarian, you are happiest when the circulating books have been reshelved. A necessary part of you has been returned. Your friend, your dearest and closest friend is home.

Beside you Ray Kowalski shifts uneasily.

You want them to be friends.

You're not so sure, now, that that's possible.

Still, they'll be all right, both of them, you assure yourself. And so will you. A man may have two friends, may he not?

But. . .

. . .you notice his sarcasm is muted anger. His warmth has not faded, but it has changed. He is confident. His hands cut and saw the air flamboyantly. He speaks to the Lieutenant as if they are equals. He speaks to Ray Kowalski as if he were a minion. You fear violence.

He is no longer willing to let you lead.

The shift in the balance of power between you is unnerving. Not unpleasant, just. . .

He no longer whines.

You notice the subtle physical differences. He's filled out a bit, as if he's lifted weights. His clothes are still expensive, but they fit him differently now. They're tighter. No more baggy shirts, no wide, loose jackets. Form-fitting silk shirts. Tight pants that outline the shape of his buttocks.

He has an earring.

He has an earring.

It took you, a trained observer, an entire day before you noticed the tiny ruby in his left earlobe. It fascinates you; it astonishes you. It's so very unlike him. It's more like--

--Ray Kowalski

--has stopped looking nervous. He's started looking interested.

And that's not what you wanted at all.


redchance @ aol.com
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