John Rush sits in the slatted sunlight leaking through the window blinds, guitar in his lap, cigarette forgotten in the ashtray. He’s working out the bumps to Heart Shaped Box and watching his wife, who lies supine on the floor in front of him. She’s in sweats and a dago tee, blonde curls haloing her head. Biceps flex and knot – she lifts the kettle bell over her head, lowers it again, slowly.
“The Writer Lady’s coming over again today.” Bob O’Neill leans in the kitchen doorway, tall coffee cradled in his broad hand.
“Ah God.” Nicola lets the weight drop over her head, rattling the floor, huffing her indignation. “She wants to work on me.”
“Easy, babe.” Rush’s fingers pause over the strings and then find the melody again. “She’s just trying to help.”
“I’m not sure I even want people to like me.” Nicola sits up, pushes her hair back with the flat of her palm. Sweat glistens on her shoulders and arms, darkening her firefighter tattoo. “Why do they have to like me?”
“It’s all about her Amazon and Goodreads rank.” Bobby flops on the other end of the couch and bats at Rush’s cigarette smoke. “You’re holding the rest of us back.”
“Bob.” Rush cautions his friend with one word, brows raised minimally. Picks his cigarette up and inhales deliberately.
“Not true!” Nicola pulls an ugly mug, bottom lip thrust out. “And why the hell am I the main character anyway? I don’t even like talking to her.”
“Work on it, sugar.” Rush exhales a nicotine cloud, ragged plume settling just in front of Bobby’s face. “Might be important, right?”
“Not.” Nicola scoffs. “Look, the writer lady has a real job when she’s not hanging with us. Why doesn’t she just stay in her stupid fire station and leave us alone?”
“I dunno.” Bobby has settled behind the smoke screen, cobalt eyes half closed behind his glasses. “She found Sophie for me. That was good.”
“Yup.” Rush is strumming his guitar again, not looking at his wife. “And she lets us have all the booze and sex and cigarettes we want. That’s worth a lot.”
“Fine!” Nicola tugs her hair in frustration. “What do I have to do?”
“Tell her who you are.” Rush’s words flow over the music; in the next room The Writer Lady catches her breath in anticipation, and fumbles her Tablet out of her purse. “Just tell her who you are.”
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