By Hedeia
* * * Sequel to "In Two Dimensions" -- A Miri and Galen story * * *

People talk about my image like I come in two dimensions…
I wish they could see us now in leather bras and rubber shorts
Like some ridiculous new team uniform for some ridiculous new sport
Quick! Someone call the Girl Police and file a report…

Autumn hurried by quick and brutal this year, a few bright, crisp days and then winter elbowed its way in, blustery and oppressive.  The first snow had caught us off guard, piled itself deceptively on the evergreens outside our front door.  I'd had to stop my love sprinkling handfuls of salt on the slate steps, worried about slipping.  And salt is poison for flagstone, did you know that?  It does melt the ice.  But then it melts the stone too, first with webs of small cracks, then gaping splits.  By the time you realize it, it's too late to do anything.

The ice hung heavy on bare brown branches when I saw her across the quad, hurrying with bent head against the biting wind.  Then she glanced up and, cheeks pink with cold, she stopped and stared. 

It was not the first time I had seen her; it was a small town, a small campus.

I could have turned and walked away.  One foot started to pivot as if to hurry me along the path home.  It was growing late; I did not like to keep my girl waiting.  We'd set a crackling fire, maybe cuddle on the carpet.  The rogue foot swiveled a bit more.  I could just turn around and leave.  I could.

Instead I spoke her name.  Not a shout, but loud enough that it carried over the persistent winter whistle of chilly air and leftover snow.

"Miri," she looked past me instead of at me.  I had nothing to say that she would want to hear.  How long had it been this way, before the line was drawn?

"I…saw your piece on Catullus," I told her.

"What did you think?"  Her eyes were vague again, fixed on some point over my shoulder.

What did I think?  I studied her face, taking advantage of her distraction, the web of fine lines bleeding around her eyes, her mouth, the cracks I could see now.  Her writing was like that, I had realized; maybe she wasn't watching herself, now.  It was exposed, too much filtered through it, not the tight prose I remembered.  I hadn't made it through the first few paragraphs.  With distance, I saw too much of her.

"It was fine," I said.  

"I saw you before? With…"

"Susannah," I filled in the silence automatically, regretted it at the set of her lips.

"Susannah."  She repeated.  "She looks very," she paused.  "Young."

"She's my age, Galen," I said quietly.

The green outside the library was still and pious, dusk draping itself like mosquito netting.  A few students passed us, their laughter breaking the night, thickly bundled against the cold.  Snatches of their conversation filtered through.

"You're leaving for Maine…" She spoke quietly, her ellipses almost tangible.

I nodded.  "In a few weeks."

She blinked.  "It's so cold there."

"It's cold here, too."

She nodded, drew one hand across the other a few times, unconsciously.  Her knuckles were chapped.  I knew the gesture intimately, had seen it a thousand times. 

I shifted my weight, back, forth.  A clear signal: I want to go!  Once she had known this.  Now she just stood there, blinking in that odd, arrhythmic way. 

"I should get going."

"You live on Old Pine now?" she said quietly, casting a glance east over the green stretch of the quad.  The fat little Georgian two-story was just visible, three corners away. 

I nodded.


"I need to go, Galen."

She turned her hands palm up, studied them for a moment.  Once, I would have waited, tried to draw her out.  Seen depth in that vague stare, heard volumes in the awkward silence.  Now I touched her shoulder lightly with one gloved hand, surprised on some level that my fingers didn't burn. 

"Bye," was all I said.

"Take care of yourself?" she called when I'd already turned, taken a few steps away.

"I did, thanks," I said, not looking back, following my own footsteps into the darkening night.  Through the web of almost bare trees I could just make out the lights of home, beckoning.  I pushed my hands deep into my pockets as a lone leaf fluttered to the path in front of me.  I changed my gait as it skittered gently across the ground, dry and brown, and smiled to myself at the satisfying crunch it made under the heel of my boot.


* Lyrics from Ani DiFranco's
Little Plastic Castle. Once again, no copyright infringement intended.