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Marian marched to the windows and began parting the drapes. She heard him groan as sunlight streamed into the room.
There was no response.
He mumbled something incoherent.
“Shola, get up and get on the couch now,” she scolded, slapping his cheeks mildly.
“My head feels like it's about to explode,” he moaned as he sat up, holding his head between both hands.
“You should have thought of that before you went and got drunk,” she said, trying not to show how concerned she was.
“She left me,” he said, staring at his toes. “She didn’t even give any reason that made sense... just said she couldn’t do it anymore.”
He looked up and into Marian’s eyes, without warning, and she felt her throat go dry.
“What does that mean, ‘I can’t do this anymore’?” he asked.
Marian could only manage a shrug. He stared down at his toes again. Struggling to keep the emotion from her voice, Marian stood, clapping her hands to spur him on.
“Get up and get on the couch so I can start cleaning up this mess you made,” she said. “God knows you’re in no condition to do it yourself.”
He raised his head to look in her eyes again.
“Help me… please...” he whispered.
Marian swore under her breath as she felt the familiar ache in her heart. Sitting there with his shoulders slumped and his legs splayed, there was a childlike vulnerability in him, and she felt again that bitter-sweet urge to shield him from all that was bad and hurtful. She wanted to wrap her arms around him and tell him everything would be fine, now she was there.
“You know what, let’s just get you into your room where you won’t get in my way,” she said instead.
He gave a weak nod.
She squatted next to him, put one arm under his arm and draped his other arm over her shoulder, and then she hefted him up and onto his feet. They wobbled into his bedroom and Marian was glad to see that he hadn’t wrecked his room too. She tried to ease him slowly onto his bed, but she lost her footing and they both tumbled onto it, Marian landing on top of him. She quickly eased her weight onto her elbows, concerned that she might have hurt him; but when she saw the dazed smile on his face she giggled.
His smile stayed on as he closed his eyes, and Marian could not resist the urge to linger there for a moment. Even now, with his thick hair in its disheveled state, dried vomit streaking his cheek, she thought him beautiful. Like a person long denied water, she drank in his face: his smooth, dark skin and almost too big nose; his cheeks, the dimples she’d always wanted to explore with her tongue; his full eyebrows, and eyelashes you could sweep the floor with. His mouth; that barely visible line that split his lower lip down the middle. His chin; and the small mole hidden beneath his beard. Her lips parted in a quiet sigh. She had never had the chance to take him in so fully without him watching. She became increasingly aware of her body, of how it was pressed into his. It was getting hard to breathe.
She sank her hand into his hair, rubbing the tips of her fingers against his scalp. She heard him moan from deep in his throat and she smiled, growing bolder. She lowered her head to nibble on his earlobe.
“Niiice…” he sighed. Then he chuckled, “I should get dumped more often.”
The smile froze on Marian’s face and her hands slowed to a stop. Shola opened his eyes as Marian struggled off him and onto her feet. She stalked out of the room, smoothing down her dress and blinking back tears, ignoring the question in his voice as he called out her name. She rushed out of the apartment, only stopping long enough to search the living room for her purse.
You’re a fool, going around in that same old circle. He needs you now, but when he gets back on his feet you’ll be his “guy” again. Like before, he’ll move on from this. And he’ll leave you behind until the next break up. Just like before. So keep walking. Just. Keep. Walking…
She got as far as her car, parked out in the street, before her feet turned her around and led her back to Shola. Back to heaven. Back to hell.