Stain by Patricia Q. Bidar

Tom’s Firebird pulls into Alice’s street of windows lidded with wooden and peeked-through blinds. In the kitchen, Alice’s mother stops her dishwashing motions, then resumes.

“See you,” Alice calls out and leaves to meet her supervisor. No … her lover. Other than the artist who inked her shoulder back at college, Tom is the only person who has ever seen Alice’s tattoo. Old-fashioned tea roses in a bunch. Ironically, her mother would appreciate the design, the detail.

Alice closes the front door behind her and smooths her dress. Outside and in, Tom’s car is so white, she squints.

He reaches across the leather expanse to unlatch the passenger door. “Hey.” Sexy lines appear at the edges of his smile.

Sexy. Alice thinks in such terms now. It’s partly college, but most of her knowledge of sexual matters comes from after her return to her parents’ home.

“Hey.” She says in the smell of leather seats mingled with ​Tom’s citrus-y aftershave. The dash lights arrayed before them. Sharp. No, impeccable.

After Alice dropped her classes and returned home, her parents said she could either register at the junior college or get a job. She’s been pulling down six weekly dinner shifts at the Piper’s, the local chop house.

Last night, in the parking lot, ​Tom had breathed into her ear while he was still inside her, “I am your slaaaaave.” All day long, making her bed, helping her mother with the shopping, bleaching the tub, and dressing for their date, Alice has pulled this utterance out to savor.

Now she puts her hand on ​Tom’s arm, breathes: “I need to feel you.” He actually gulps; she sees it with a little thrill. How sophisticated to have a married lover to excite with commands.

This is a transit point, Alice knows. ​Her old bedroom with its lilac walls, lunch with her parents at the maple kitchen table. Smiling for customers at Piper’s and the fumbling experiments in the parking lot. Now sleeping with a married man who lives with his family and in-laws in the town of ​Alice’s tapdancing, sewing, straight-A childhood.

Before too many years have passed, these weeks will seem like a mild and slightly unsavory season in which Alice’s tip money grew. In which mornings were spent lolling in bed with a book while her mother watered the yard, believing Alice was sleeping in. In which Alice sewed seven dresses to herald her arrival to her future life—real life—like coolly fantastic flags.

After ​Tom has made love to her, the bottom half of Alice’s face pulses with heat. His beard has scraped her. Retrieving her underpants, she sees her lipstick has rolled from her pocket and opened. A lurid cranberry smear mars the white upholstery of her seat where he cannot see it. Alice doesn’t mention it, not wanting to spoil things.

Tom kisses her forehead before entering the avenue, the main street, the wide highway. Red and white and yellow lights, just starting to burn.

Patricia Q. Bidar is a California-based writer with family roots in New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. She is a former fiction reader for Northwest Review, and alum of the UC Davis graduate writing program. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Wigleaf, ellipsis…art and literature, Litro Online, The Citron Review, Jellyfish Review, Barren Literary Magazine, Crack the Spine, Blue Five Notebook, Train Literary Magazine, and Riggwelter Press. Apart from fiction, Patricia writes for progressive nonprofit organizations. Her Twitter handle is @patriciabidar.

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