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lift her, pull her, from the orchids

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It’s a Tuesday.

And not even a particularly remarkable Tuesday, at that.

It’s a Tuesday, and Frankie’s on the couch cheering on some kid in the spelling bee who’s stuck on a word Grace has never heard of. She’s shouting letters as if the kid can actually hear her, and if the grin she gives her phone is any indication - she’s just won ten bucks off of Sol. Grace puts her book down on the arm of the chair and peers over the rim of her glasses, with all intentions of telling Frankie to please keep it down.

But she doesn’t. Because Frankie’s grinning, not at her phone and not at the TV, but at her, and it does something funny to Grace’s chest.

(Not in a bad way, not like what happened in Robert’s chest last year.

No, this is funny in a good way, but she doubts there’s any word in the entire spelling bee to describe it.)

“I’m up fifty dollars,” Frankie says.

Grace gives her a little thumbs up, and Frankie re-crosses her legs so she’s sitting on them the other way.

“Concatenate,” the boy on the television says. “C-O-N-C-A-T-E-N-A-T-E. Concatenate.”

***

It was enough, she told Robert the night after That Dinner.

And it was. It was enough for her, it was enough for him, it was enough for their girls. Enough for them. Enough for then.

And if it hadn’t been for That Dinner - if it hadn’t been for Sol and twenty years of infidelity coming out over the dessert course - it would have been enough until she died.

She thinks about that, lying awake before her Ambien kicks in, listening to Frankie snoring gently in her room down the hall. Living with her ex-husband’s new husband’s ex-wife has become so comfortable, so happy - and there’s a thought that makes the part of Grace still sitting at That Table during the salad course raise her eyebrows sky high, happy with Frankie? You hate that woman - that anything else doesn’t quite seem like enough anymore.

Even if That Dinner had just been dinner, and she’d gone home and slept next to Robert the way she had for decades and woken up without her world turned upside down, it doesn’t seem like it would be enough compared to what she has now.

(She has less now, comparatively. But it feels more.)

Her mind starts to fuzz around the edges. She closes her eyes, letting the ocean waves and the Ambien lull her to sleep, while children under the age of thirteen nervously walk up to a microphone inside her mind.

Grace. G-R-A-C-E. Grace.

Frankie. F-R-A-N-K-I-E. Frankie.

...sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

She falls asleep.

***

Frankie spends the next day spelling everything, from R-E-F-R-I-G-E-R-A-T-O-R, Refrigerator to H-E-R-B-A-L-T-E-A-I-N-F-U-S-I-O-N, Herbal Tea Infusion. She’s done this for the past two years, but Grace is less annoyed by it this year.

She’s not not annoyed (and loses the battle against rolling her eyes at P-A-I-N-T, Paint), but she’s less annoyed. And that seems more the point than anything.

She comes home after spending the day with her grandchildren, and smells it before she even sees Frankie sitting out on the patio.

“M-A-R-I-J-U-A-N-A. Marijuana,” Grace says dryly, in lieu of a proper greeting.

Frankie twists in her chair and waves, a satisfied grin on her face, and blows two smoke rings upward toward the sun.

At 7:00pm sharp, they both sit on the couch, Frankie hogging the half-eaten bowl of popcorn and Grace sipping at her second martini, and turn on the finals.

The first word’s easy, and the girl barely lets the announcer finish the word before she starts. “G-R-A-V-I-T-Y. Gravity.”

They start the night with one full cushion between them. By the end of the night, they’ve shifted and moved so much that their knees are touching.

With the champion crowned - exulansis - Grace clicks off the television and they sit in the darkened living room, watching the moon rise over the ocean through the picture window.

Frankie sighs and settles against the pillows stacked next to her. Her thigh slides against Grace’s, and as Frankie falls asleep, Grace holds very, very still.

Her chest does the funny flip-flop thing again. And again, and again, like a gymnast on a balance beam heading for the dismount. Because her Ambien is upstairs, and because she takes it every night, and because she doesn’t want to move, she has a long time to think before sleep overtakes her.

The tendency to give up trying to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it.

***

Later, when it inevitably comes out to her country club friends and they drag her to a light lunch that’s mostly vodka and demand that she tell them what’s going on, she’ll have a hard time explaining.

The issue isn’t that Frankie is a woman.

(Two years ago, the issue would definitely be that Frankie is a woman.)

The issue is that Frankie is Frankie, who has somehow become her best friend.

(Her country club friends would see both things as issues, which is why Grace declines the lunch when it happens.)

***

Grace wakes when Frankie does, because Frankie wakes up like she’s in a cartoon and plants her bony heel in Grace’s thigh.

This couch wouldn’t be comfortable to sleep on if they were thirty years old and didn’t have to share. There’s a not inconsiderable amount of stretching and groaning from both of them as they push themselves up and standing. Grace’s hip pops as she stands up, and Frankie’s knees crack.

“We could be in Stomp,” Frankie says. She bends her knees, and they crack on command. She laughs.

Grace is pretty sure she’d have to sleep sitting up, holding herself perfectly still while someone else hogs most of the couch, in order for her hip to make that noise again, so she doesn’t try. She smiles wryly as Frankie yawns and half-dances her way around the couch, and follows Frankie into the kitchen.

Their hands reach for the refrigerator at the same time, and Grace freezes, her fingertips resting against Frankie’s hand.

“What?” Frankie says. She tilts her head and narrows her eyes, as if she can squint hard enough and see what Grace is thinking. She doesn’t move to take her hand from the refrigerator handle, or away from Grace’s.

B-A-S-O-R-E-X-I-A. Basorexia. The boy lost on insouciance.

“Nothing,” Grace says.

“Bullshit. What are you thinking about?”

Maybe she’s just the right amount of not-awake-yet. Maybe it’s been two years. Maybe she’s fed up with the idea of enough.

“Kissing you,” she says.

Frankie blinks. “I was expecting eggs. Or orange juice.”

Grace thinks on that for a moment. Frankie’s skin is warm underneath her fingertips. She’s holding very, very still again. “Those sound good, too.”

“And yet it’s the kissing thing that I’m focused on now.”

“Me too.”

Frankie shifts her weight, just barely, half a breath closer than she was before. And there’s a look, Grace has seen it before, the I’m flirting overly hard because it’s funny look, except it’s not quite the same look. It’s the quirk of an eyebrow and tilt of her head, a subtle twitch to her lips.

It’s an invitation.

Grace leans in as Frankie lifts up on her toes, and she presses her lips to Frankie’s.

There aren’t fireworks, but they’re too old for fireworks. There’s comfort and a promise, a feeling of the world sliding a little more into place. The flip-flop somersaults off the end, and sticks the landing.

Grace pulls away, a tiny smile on her face.

Frankie’s sporting a matching grin. “So. Eggs?”