Love is Not Sweet - Gerri Leen
I hated you when we first met
Cocky and so sure of yourself
A wannabe knight in a shining penis car with racing stripes
"Give you a lift?" you said, your eyes narrowing
In a way that said you'd given plenty of other women lifts
In this steed of metal and leather
Normally, I'd have ignored you
Except I needed to get somewhere
To him my everlasting love, my fiancé, my dream
Who might or might not be down here alone
At a conference he'd said would bore me
At a hotel it turned out didn't exist
Even though he pretended to be there on the mobile
Full of the right words of missing me
But you didn't need to know that
I weighed my options for my quest
Taxis were in short supply, too many conventions the porter said
So I got in your metallic blue car, feeling the back of my thighs
Stick to the seat, hot in the summer sun
You had A/C but you wanted the wind, the top staying down
Wind blowing my hair as you grinned
The smile of the truly vacant or those who always get what they want
Jury was still out which one you were
"Business or pleasure?" you asked like you really were some cabby
I told you it was none of your business
Which made you laugh and turn the stereo up
Linkin Park blaring
My favorite song and it wasn't what I expected from your playlist
Bon Jovi, maybe, or Metallica if you were some headbanger
But my favorite band?
You glanced at me as I sang along
Smiled as you turned up the music
A smile no longer so vacant
So I told you part of the story
You listened well
We drove the tourist trap that is Clearwater Beach
You patient as I walked into motel after hotel after timeshare
"There's this thing called a phone," you said at one point, laughing
At the glare I sent you as I slid back into your car
"Why search for a guy who doesn't want to be found?"
I held up my finger, the diamond catching the late afternoon sun
Like the stone in the pommel of a sword
"Nice rock" you said as you changed lanes, turning into
The last hotel on the main strip—would I make you check the side streets now?
And why were you even doing this?
It wasn't like I was going to pay you
In silver or gold or my body
"So you love this idiot?" you finally asked as I sat
Unwilling to storm this last hotel
"He's a brilliant professor, well regarded"
As if those things were marks of character
"Can't be too smart if he left you behind"
Your smile free of unwelcome pity
Your truth: you thought he was an idiot for leaving me
I think that was when I began to fall
I closed the car door gently
Suddenly caring how I treated your things
And this time you came in, trailing behind me, your hand on the small of my back
Like a shield or a magic spell, protecting me, steadying me
When I slowed at the entrance to the bar, when I said, "Oh," and stopped
My fiancé, the love of my pathetic life, was dancing with his graduate assistant
Grinding into her, engaged in a mutual duel with body and mouth and tongue
I took my ring off and marched to him
He saw me, his face falling, spouting excuses I didn't want to hear
"I can explain"
"This isn't what it looks like"
"I love you"
I handed him the ring and turned away, giving you the best smile I could
"Mission accomplished. You're off the hook"
"Not quite yet," you said as you decked him, sending him
Sprawling into a table full of peeled shrimp
That odor would be hell to get out of his clothes
"He's no prince. He'll do it to you, too," you said to the girl
Then you pulled me in, tucked under your arm, and led me out to your car
"He's an ass," you said, and I nodded
There was no arguing such a strong truth
I started to walk away, not sure where I was going
Uncaring that my luggage was still in the trunk of your car
I was unmoored, my happy ending slain
"You need a place to stay?" you asked
I wanted to cup your cheek, grant you a bounty
For being my second on this fool's errand
"You gave me a lift and searched all day
You made my quest yours
Anything else is above and beyond"
Your grin was bright and innocent
I wondered why I'd ever thought
You some creep who waited for lonely women in beachside bars
"My room has a couch as well as a bed. I'll flip you for it"
I stared back at the motel, wondering if my fiancé was down for the count
Or back up and dancing, vertically screwing that girl
"I'm not very good company"
"Have I cared so far?"
Your smile, your self-deprecating little shrug, the dying sun shining off the metallic
Blue of your oh-so-silly car
I fell even deeper
Rebound, I could imagine my friends saying
Won't last, others would say.
You're too different—that was probably true
But the guy who was perfect for me was cheating on me
What had common ground gained me?
I'd chased the fairy tale and it betrayed me
I walked back to your car as you hurried to open the door
"My lady," you said, mocking but not in a way that hurt
A shared joke, a thing that might grow and become a funny thing we did
You a knight, I your lady
I grabbed your arm
You kissed my cheek, stubble rubbing against my skin
In ways my ex-fiancé's carefully shaved face never had
"What if we don't bother flipping that coin?" I asked
Voice dipping into a register I hadn't used in a long time
Daring and sexy and full of resolve to lose myself
Your laugh was deep and hearty and full of something strong and real
And just a little bit dangerous
I fell the rest of the way
And landed with a laugh
And now we speed through the desert
The lights of Vegas ahead of us
The penis car is a bronze convertible now
A custom color you spent a fortune on
I lean my head back, let the hot air rush over me
There'll be no Valentine's Day flowers in our room
No champagne since you're a beer and whiskey guy
No hearts anywhere, no florid cards that promise eternity
But as we stop at a light on the outskirts of this neon city
You reach over, squeezing my hand, your smile tender then
Curling up, turning mean, but not at me
"I'm so glad he was an idiot"
The traffic light turns green and we are off in a squeal of tires and
Overtaxed speakers, blaring out our favorite Linkin Park song
"I am, too," I murmur over the booming chorus
"I am, too"
Gerri Leen lives in Northern Virginia and originally hails from Seattle. In addition to being an avid reader and an at-times sporadic writer, she's passionate about horse racing (the racing part, not betting), tea, whisky, handbags, and art. She has work appearing in: Nature, Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, Daily Science Fiction, Grievous Angel, Grimdark, and others. She's edited several anthologies for independent presses and is a member of SFWA and HWA.
See more at http://www.gerrileen.com
Follow her on Twitter @GerriLeen
Cover Amanda Bergloff
Enchanted Conversation Magazine