Amanda grips the steering wheel in wild anticipation; across the bridge she’ll be at Dell’s street, Dell will be at his door. “You remembered!” he’ll say. “I’ll get my coat.”
Her hands chill fumbling for the toll. It is New Year’s Day, the Philadelphia Mummer’s Parade and they have the date: the string bands, plumes and sequins! The sun is shining—a good sign.
She’s created others: wearing the beige lace underwear Dell likes; stopping at 7-Eleven for Wintergreen Lifesavers as she had the night she met him. She steers the customary route into his neighborhood, her heart pummeling at her chest.
It was Dell’s idea. “Why don’t we take a little break from each other? Nothing permanent.”
They were in a restaurant. Surely she realized the relationship was flagging, that the old excitement was gone?
The room dissolved around her; she hadn’t realized, not quite that. They’d been together four years.
He folded his napkin. “Look, it’s October first. Let’s make a date for our usual Mummer’s Parade. We’ll both remember that. Until then we can do anything we want. What do you think?” He reached to squeeze her shoulder: a deal? He smiled.
It became a deal.
And now, finally, a new year has arrived, a new start. Maybe he’ll grasp her, cold coat and all. “I’ve missed you so much. I was afraid you found someone else.”
She’d flick the air: impossible!
Maybe he’ll say, “I’m sorry, Amanda,” using her name, “we’ll go to the parade because that was our agreement, but—” She can’t imagine the rest of this scene.
His neighborhood is quiet, the last snow gurgles into drains. She walks briskly, her boots clicking against the sidewalk, the sounds are good signs, too.
She taps the brass knocker, taps it again, then pounds more firmly. Her breath forms quick small clouds.
From inside come sounds of boxes being pushed–or furniture—a shuffling. “Someone’s there!” a woman’s voice says. “I think someone’s outside.”
Dell’s voice says: “I don’t think so. Ignore it.”
“But—” The woman giggles; there is something going on that delights her. “It’s a woman. She’s out there, standing there.” A curtain stirs, a chair tumbles. Then Dell’s voice, insistent: “I’m telling you; let it be. It’s no one I know.”
The drape collapses. There is waiting on both sides, a silence.
The morning sun casts shadows on the cobblestone street. A neighbor walking her dog waves. “Isn’t he there? I think he’s home. Parade today?”
Amanda can’t respond. She must move, must get to her car. She collapses onto its cold seat, inhaling and exhaling in a rhythm like breathing. In a while she will force herself to turn around, drive back to the bridge the way she has come, backward into this new year—such a bad sign!—and one she now clearly sees.
Jackie Davis Martin’s recent stories appeared in Flash, Flashquake, Enhance, Counterexample Poetics, Fractured West and Bluestem, and she’s just won second prize in On the Premises fiction contest. Her stories are included in several recent anthologies: Modern Shorts (ed. Michelle Richmond), Love on the Road (ed. Sam Tranum) and Life is A Rollercoaster (ed. A.J.Huffman). A memoir, Surviving Susan, was pulished in 2012. She teaches at City College of San Francisco.
© 2015, Jackie Davis Martin