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shanna yetman

New Fiction


by Shanna Yetman

delauanay painting
Les Fenêtres Simultanées, 1912, by Robert Delaunay

      Olivia Turnbull looked out Robert Delaunay’s Window and saw her reflection. As she meditated on the colors her lips appeared out of the orange, her eyes (although blue) became visible in the yellow. Yes, there she was, staring back at herself—caught in the act of seeing. As though this painting were a real window. She knew the artist liked to play with these themes; but never before had she seen her reflection.
       This was just a moment in a museum, though. She turned her head slowly to the right side, tilting it even, to get a different perspective. This time, the orange looked like a sunset. She concentrated on the soft supple-edged orange triangles; noticed the yellow, similar to the swaths of orange composing her sunset at the end of the canvas. The yellow was edgy, poking the orange, pushing it to recede into the linear border. This reminded her of the Grand Canyon. Not the color really, more the way it claimed its shape, delineating itself from the vast expanse before it. Like those canyon cliffs. Olivia wondered if Delaunay had any landscape in mind when he painted this picture. The views outside most of his windows were Parisian cityscapes—some even gently featuring the Eiffel Tower. She’d grown accustomed to meditating on these colors, looking through his windows and creating whatever landscape came to mind.
       She shifted her weight. What was she thinking? When the Baltimore Museum of Art announced this Orphism exhibit she’d been overjoyed. Purchased tickets a year in advance and waited patiently. Geometry to meditate on, she’d told her students. She’d even designed a whole course around it, focusing on the techniques of cubism and the correlation of color and music. But now, standing in front of Delaunay’s 1912 Window all she could see was a vast precipice. Edges on rock faces that led nowhere.
       Her students were gone, receded into the background. What lay before her was that frantic fast-paced emptiness of first-time motherhood. And, unexpectedly, loneliness. She hadn’t really given much thought to being the primary caregiver of a child, until it was upon her, until Joe’s first day back at work.
       Emily slept in a co-sleeper next to their bed. Olivia fed her at six, then again at nine. Between nine and ten, Emily was awake and Olivia dressed her, changed her tiny diapers and tentatively touched her. Caressed her small fingers, tickled her toes, kissed her on the cheeks. She didn’t think she was doing any of it right, especially since she wasn't experiencing that euphoric chemical high—that Oxytocin that is released to make mother-child bonding so much easier. Her own mother died long before she could remember her, leaving Olivia, ultimately, with her paternal grandparents.
       On that first day, Olivia planned to go to a breastfeeding support group, but she felt paralyzed. She worried. The road, immediately outside of her house was a busy one—what if somebody hit her? Would she be able to properly secure her child in the car seat? How was she going to feed the child when the time came? She wondered about taking her daughter to a place where there were other babies. Should she even do that yet? So, on that very first day, Olivia stayed home staring down at her newborn daughter. Watching Emily’s eyes flutter open when she was awake, and spending a long time figuring out the proper positions for breastfeeding.
       In three weeks’ time it wasn’t any better. Olivia could leave the house with Emily, but she found herself scared to death to do anything. She was defective. And, in that great imitation of a mother, she had given up everything that defined her. She hadn’t picked up a paintbrush in almost a year. In fact, she’d almost forgotten what it felt like. The smell, the bristle tips dipping into the paint, the intense high she’d have for days when she got it right. To be able to perfectly replicate an image from her head onto canvas was satisfying. What she needed was that up-at-all-hours-of-the-night-rush of discovery. She wanted her half-known world.
       She examined Delaunay’s shapes once more. In reality, all she saw were a bunch of formless half circles, triangles, angular round lines and solid colors. Some window, she thought. She moved away from the window. She remembered the other reason she liked museums: the controlled, slow-moving crowd. Olivia often pretended to look at a work of art, but instead stared at strangers. There weren’t many places where people were given permission to gaze. For her, people-watching was a natural extension of viewing artwork. She enjoyed examining people’s features and behaviors and fantasizing about their lives. Some days, her observations would make it into her journals. This happened a lot when she was viewing abstract or modern art. After a time, her eyes would wander and she would look beyond the painting or sculpture. In those moments, she would meld the works of art into the people she saw. Sinewy, pointy-noised women would become Degas’ ballerinas or Miro’s sculptures. It was a game, something to occupy her mind.
       She played this game now. The room was white with hardwood floors that crankily announced the presence of each visitor. It was one of those middle rooms in a museum, containing entrances on two of the four sides. Most people entered and exited by following the natural flow of the exhibit, but some always moved against the grain. She chose to focus her eyes on that exit, the exit through which people would be pushing their way into the room. They would be seeing the exhibit backwards, upside down, even. She moved to a cushiony sofa in the center and let her eyes follow the floor to the edge of the white walls. This was where the security guard stood.
       The guard was dressed in a museum uniform, a nicely pressed blue jacket and beige slacks. He wore a wire that connected the ear piece on his right ear to the radio at his side. He was standing still, but shifting uncomfortably on his heel. To Olivia, he looked like he had to go to the bathroom. His nose was flat and his eyes barely registered the people in the room. Occasionally, he would nod to a visitor and only once did she see him leave his post to tell someone they were standing too close. Most of the time, he would play with his hands, and pull out what looked to be a photograph. Then, he would look up, look around, and slip the picture into his rear pocket.
       Olivia wished she could see the guard’s picture. She wanted to move behind him so the next time he’d pull out the photo she’d be there to see it with him. She decided against this. Observation wasn’t meant to be interactive, but it could be imaginative. She wondered about the photo. She imagined he needed money and the person in the photo was the reason he was working this extra job. A child, perhaps? This guard was confident in his role as a caretaker, eagerly willing to make the sacrifices that came with parenthood. So, she pretended that every fifteen minutes or so this guard took out a picture of his 9-year old son, Mikhail. The guard was Eastern European, so his son’s name came easily enough to her. Being a single dad was tough, but certainly worth it. A child, in his mind, was reason enough to do anything.
       Olivia thought about her own life. Being a full-time mother, disappearing into your child for the better part of twenty years seemed like a blessing—a purpose, even. When Emily was growing inside of her, she imagined herself drinking coffee with other mothers, sharing recipes or pediatricians, taking Emily to play groups, yoga and story time while Joe was around on weekends and evenings. She hadn’t really comprehended the reality of it all. The complete and utter panic that came with the weight of another human being.
       She pulled out her phone—the numbers blinked at her obtrusively. Time to go. If she was lucky, she’d have a couple of hours at home by herself before Joe and Emily finished their daddy-daughter day. She left the museum through the double doors near the visitor’s entrance and was struck by the bright, cold day. The wind pressed harshly against her body, piercing her dry skin. The cold air caused her hands and face to redden. She’d planned to walk the fifteen or so blocks from the BMA to her home, stopping for lunch along the way. Now, she wasn’t sure she could make it. The wind made her nose run and she couldn’t feel her face. This momentary numbness coupled with the nerve-damage she’d experienced as a natural complication to her C-section made her think of death. To feel absolutely nothing, no pain, no tingling sensation to remind her of her physical self, was a great relief. If she poked her abdomen or rubbed her cheeks right now she couldn’t even be sure she existed. Or at least there was no physical notion of her existence. With her head towards the ground she walked forward.
       Olivia stepped off the curb to a loud honk and a nerve-jolting knock to her body. This hard blow left her left side screaming—taking her numbness away. Her left hand hit a car hood, smacking it, and almost upon impact began to swell. She found herself twisted on top of a sun faded 1987 Toyota Camry Station Wagon. Her parents stared out at her through the grainy glass window of the car. She had to shake her head to get rid of the vision—this was only her imagination. By the time her parents were in their thirties her mother was dead and her father momentarily saddled with baby Olivia. But, the likeness was unreal. She could see the woman’s face clearly, and this woman, with her long nails and wild eyes, was gesturing at Olivia. As if this accident were Olivia’s fault.
       Olivia began to remove herself from the car hood, but the painful jagged rage that had been stirring inside stopped her. She could feel the rocky feeling in the pit of her stomach, pressing through her damaged nerves. Sharp and angular like the Delaunay landscapes she’d seen this morning. The feeling of a serrated knife cutting through her began to move up her stomach, through her esophagus, past her voice box until finally it reached the inside of her mouth and she could feel a thousand little spikes of steel in her throat.
       She faced the car window she sat in front of and screamed. At first, she put both hands on her face inadvertently mimicking Edvard Munch’s famous painting. But then her scream became something else entirely. Her throat began to pop, and with each rattle of her voice her left hand, already swollen, clenched into a fist and she hit the hood of the car. Pop. Bang. Pop. Bang. Pop. Bang. She was quickly losing her voice, losing the momentum in her throat, but her left hand was still moving. Fist tight, each pound on the metal of the Camry was life-giving. Her knuckles began to bleed and her index finger became more mangled and misshapen with every powerful hit to the car.
       Finally, she stopped. She stopped when she could not take it anymore, when the pain in her hand, the pain radiating from the left side of her body, from her fingers up her wrist and arm was too much to bear. She could feel the reverberations of her pounding on the car hood in her shoulders and neck. Her parents stared back at her through the window. Her mother’s pale face was made brighter by the mascara streaks marking her cheeks. Her lips were red and when she frowned Olivia could see tiny cracks in her skin. Her eyes searched Olivia’s face—asking Olivia if she was okay. This motherly concern made Olivia giddy. She felt happy; the pain and that open-eyed look of worry took away all that terrible numbness she’d been feeling. Olivia moved off the car to sit on the curb.
       It took only ten minutes for her parents to come out of their car. In that time, Olivia sat and watched the colors reshape and form on her hand. She could barely move her fingers and when she tried there was an exquisite, luscious pain that ran through her, making her tingle. She kept this pain close to her, and when it began to subside she’d move her fingers as hard as she could. Her hand was bright red, cut, ruined. There was such effort in its architecture and construction, tendons to muscles to bones to fingers, fingernails and cuticle beds. So carefully tended to and protected. She thought about her daughter, the hands she had created, the hands that, with proper nutrition and care, would grow long and thin like her own.
       I cannot be a mother. She turned her hand over slowly, watched the blood drip onto the ground. She said these words louder. “I cannot be a mother.” And again, “I cannot be a mother.”
       “What?” Her parents were finally out of the car.
       She had the momentary compulsion to tell her parents everything, to show her true vulgar self to them. But, then, of course, they already knew her. Olivia stood up and walked towards them. She held her left wrist up like a defiant shield. Her mother stepped back.
       Her first impulse was to tell her mother that stepping away from her wasn’t a very motherly thing to do. But she didn’t want to drive her away. So, she simply asked for help. Her voice was meek, reflective of her utter exhaustion. She tried again, hoping to ask her parents why they didn’t stop, why they hadn’t seen her. Why, they’d almost run over their daughter. But she knew this would be going too far; reaching into the recesses of her muddled mind and pulling out broken pieces that even she couldn’t make sense of.
       She spoke again. Repeated the same word to her parents. She showed them her hand. They didn’t know what she was asking, really. Had no idea that she didn’t care about her hand, no knowledge that when she was asking for help she wanted an absolution of sorts—something much greater than these two could ever give her. Instead, her mother took off her sweatshirt and wrapped Olivia’s hand expertly in it. Her father reached into his coat pocket and pulled out some Tylenol. His hand was unsteady and stiff as he offered her the pills.
       Her father, like he always had, preceded cautiously with Olivia. She took the Tylenol. She wanted to ask him if he had something stronger, perhaps some of the Jack Daniels he used to keep underneath the front seat of his car; but that didn’t seem appropriate. A child asking a parent for alcohol was too far off course. She sat back down on the curb.
       Her mother spoke first. “You should go to the hospital.” She pointed to Olivia’s pinky and index finger. “Your fingers are broken.” Olivia blinked at her, hoping that was a response enough.
       Her father’s face was scrunched up and he squinted to shield his eyes from the sun. His voice was sharp and high-pitched, surprising for his appearance. “We didn’t see you.”
       “I know.” Olivia touched her tightly wrapped hand.
       Her parents exchanged a glance at each other. It was so nice to see them together for the first time. To see how they interacted with each other. There was a flirtatious rapport between these two. They would have had an easy life together had her mother not died. Her father looked at her mother. “What?”
       Her mother moved her head back, like a clucking chicken. Breaking reality wide open to mutter her companion’s name. “Robert.” She clucked her head. “A little rude?”
       “Anna. What do you want from me?”
       Anna moved away from Robert and towards Olivia. “The hospital’s on our way out of town.”
       Robert and Anna. Olivia blinked, trying to steep herself back into the conversation and push this fantastical memory of her parents aside. Hospital? She shook her head at the couple.
       Anna frowned and moved closer to Olivia.
       Olivia spoke. “Look, you hit me with your car.” She paused on that point. “I want to go home.”
       Her couple began to confer. Anna was emphatic, shaking her head, waving her arms; while Robert would carefully consider each of Anna’s statements and then nod or shake his head in response. Olivia wondered if her parents fought like this, so respectful and reasoned—yet also fiery. Finally, Anna gestured for Robert to get back in the car. She turned to Olivia and opened the car door, “Get in. We’ll take you home."
       Olivia wanted to say no; to turn around and walk away. But it was cold, and as the wind hissed in her ear, she heard herself agree. Sometimes, she did this. She agreed too quickly and then regretted her decision.
       “Where to?” Drivers were honking for the three of them to pull over, move to a side street, do something, do anything, except stop in the middle of the road.
       “Cathedral and Eager. Around there would be great.”
       Robert nodded. Olivia got a whiff of the car even before she stepped inside. The Camry smelled of dog and bourbon. Dirty dog prints stained the interior. She used her good hand to brush off the dog hair before she sat down. When she sat her whole body sagged, and as she leaned against the back seat, the pain of her hand became so intense her ears began to ring.
       She made a sucking sound, and Anna turned back to face her, “You’re sure you don’t want to get that looked at?”
       Olivia shook her head, “Later.” She sucked in some more air, paused to look at Anna, “It makes me feel better.”
       Anna frowned. “What?”
       “The pain,” Olivia shrugged and held on tighter to her left hand. Too much, her head began to spin. She loosened her grip.
       Robert stopped the car at the light on 28th street. Olivia felt her body make impact with the cushioned seat in front of her. She should put on her seatbelt, but she didn’t want to let go of her left hand. He looked in the rearview mirror at her. “You okay?”
       “Robby?” Anna whispered.
       “What?” Robert began weaving in and out of traffic and looked at Olivia through the mirror once more. “You’re not going to go on one of those murderous rampages and kill us?”
       Olivia felt shy and small. She arched her back against the seat. “No. One a day is good enough.”
       Anna laughed.
       The car was silent and Robert drove faster than necessary. Probably for a quick exit. Olivia watched as landmarks she knew sped past her. There was the gas station off of Mount Royal and St Paul, taxi cabs and busses lined up near the train station, that strange half man-half woman interlocked monument with its bright purple heart. Olivia loved that sculpture, not for the design, but for what it meant: an arts district finally coming into its own.
       The Delaunay exhibit seemed so long ago.
       Suddenly, it was important to know if her couple had been at the Orphism exhibit. Had they seen Delaunay’s paintings? They’d hit her as they were coming out of the BMA’s parking lot—so it was possible. She started to tap Anna on the shoulder, but just cleared her throat instead. “Did you see the Orphism exhibit?”
       No answer.
       Olivia tried again, “You know the Delaunay exhibit, the BMA? You were driving out of there.”
       Robert finally registered Olivia’s voice. He stopped at a light and turned to her. “Delaunay’s my namesake. My mother loved him.”
       Oh. So they had been at the exhibit. “What’d you think?”
       Anna put her hand on Robert’s knee. She momentarily adjusted the rearview mirror so she could see Olivia through it. Strange, Olivia thought, why doesn’t she just turn around? But when Anna looked at Olivia through the rearview mirror it made Olivia look at her eyes. Green, something she hadn’t noticed before. Reflective surfaces, just like Delaunay.
       “We bought three tickets. The third one was supposed to be for his mother.” Anna gestured to a cake box that Olivia saw on the floor. Olivia looked at the plain white box wrapped loosely with string.
       “She loved to talk about his windows.” Anna turned to Robert and he readjusted the rearview mirror before driving on. “What did she say?”
       Olivia shifted her legs to give the cake box Mom a wider berth. She waited to hear what Robert had to say, but her ears were burning and she began to sickly examine the box, looking for visible signs of ashes or bones—almost hoping to see them, really.
       Robert spoke, “That sometimes Delaunay’s paintings could be so transparent you might actually catch a glimpse of yourself. Like a window.” She looked at the back of Robert’s head. He was balding in the back, his blonde hair receding into nothingness at the tip of his head. Her father had never been bald.
       “Did she say what would happen if you saw your reflection?” Olivia wanted Robert to give her some meaningful answer—something that might give her life a purpose other than her daughter. This, of course, was absurd.
       Robert laughed. “She did. Actually, she used to say that if you saw yourself through his window and felt peaceful your life was going in the right direction.”
       “What if you weren’t?”
       "Weren't what?" He shrugged his shoulders. “At peace? I don’t know. I never see my reflection.”
       This time it was Anna who laughed. Olivia was close enough to smell the mint she’d been sucking on. “I saw your reflection,” she joked, “it looked great.”
       Robert playfully poked Anna. “It’s just modern art anyway. Isn’t it supposed to make you laugh or think about the absurdity of life?” He turned to face Olivia, stopping the car. “We’re here.”
       She was surprised by this, hadn’t even noticed that she and her couple were finally at the corner of Cathedral and Eager. She got out of the car and shut the door. She was about to walk away, but stopped and faced her parents again. “I saw myself today.”
       They both looked confused. She readjusted her statement, shifted from her left to right foot. “I saw myself in his window, you know, Delaunay’s window.”
       Her mother played along, “How’d you look?”
       “Not happy.” They didn’t look as surprised as she’d expected them to. She supposed it was because they had made her and parents know their children in the most intimate ways.
       “Why not?” Her father asked out of genuine concern.
       Olivia attempted to smile, but it was more in her head than anything else. Her face didn’t really move at all. “Is your mother really in that box?” She aimed the question at Robert, turning to reality again.
       Robert gave a perfunctory nod and frowned, “We’re going on a road trip.” He paused, “To spread her ashes all over the American West. You know. The Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, the Wasatch Range, the Pacific Ocean. Everywhere she loved.”
       “That’s a long trip.” A lot of effort too, Olivia thought. “Why?”
       “She was my mother.” He shrugged, “It’s just what you do.”
       “What was she like?” Olivia knew she was pushing the limits of intrusiveness, but her couple still played along.
       “She was just there. You know like a mother.” This struck Olivia as ridiculous and insulting. Didn’t he know that all it took was one simple act—and you were saddled for life, no experience necessary?
       Robert continued. “She should have been a Park Ranger. She was for a little while after we all left. She would take us on these epic camping trips. For weeks, really, during the summer. We’d fish when we could, eat at the National Parks, grill over the open fire. She loved the West. Loved the emptiness. She used to drive us all the way out from Baltimore to Arches National Park in Utah. It was straight through, no dilly dallying. After my brother and I could drive, we didn’t even stop.”
       “What did you do when you got there?”
       “Well, she had these crazy back country camping passes. So we’d camp right in that Goblin Valley, as soon as you got in. Flat and open, full of cactuses.”
       Robert laughed. “We’d leave the car at the visitor center and then be on our own. Those rock faces were like her home. She was so comfortable there.”
       Olivia thought about her own experience with the West. When she was a girl, she had tiptoed to the very edge of the Grand Canyon during a walk on the Southern Rim Road. The buses traveling along the road got close to the edge, teetering only yards away from the cliffs. But it hadn’t been close enough for her. At her first chance, she’d jumped off the bus and ran towards the abyss. The way she darted towards the vast opening had frightened her grandmother. She remembered watching the hawks as they let the wind push them over the canyon ridges. Wobbly birds that seemed so graceful when they caught the right wind-gust. She wanted to join them.
       “I just had a baby.” Olivia blurted out, responding to Robert’s question from minutes ago. She thought back to Delaunay’s picture. There had been a magnificent reddish brown swath, more red than brown which sat across the canvas from the yellow that had so mesmerized her. Perhaps she should have meditated on that color more. Earth mother, maybe that edgy yellow was making her impulsive and crazy. She thought about the Grand Canyon. The mesas would be blanketed with a small layer of snow this time of year. It would be nice to paint.
       “I hate it, I can’t do it.” She could feel her words prickle the air around them. She felt disoriented, like an abstract painting, she was composed of too many messy lines and bleeding colors. Her couple wouldn’t know what to make of her. So she kept talking. She told them about her own painting, and her first morning alone with Emily. She told them about this morning. How even still, almost a month into it, she had no idea what to do with her baby.
       To this, Anna stopped her, “They’re really just peanuts at the beginning. You can do whatever you normally do.”
       More advice. “Go back to painting. Set up an area where you can put her. Emily, right?”
       A comparison. “You know my sister has two kids and she told me all you need is a routine.”
       Words on time management. “Or you could get up in the morning and paint. Maybe your mother-in-law or your husband can take her for a couple of hours.”
       These were such reasonable solutions being thrown out at her by perfect strangers on a street corner in Baltimore. As if anyone could come up with solutions to her problem, as if she just needed to talk it out—to make some logistical life adjustments to her schedule, and everything would be okay. None of the answers, of course, dealt with her emptiness.
       More honking. Robert turned on the Camry’s hazard lights and pulled up closer to the curb, startling Olivia. In fact, almost hitting her with the car again. But she readjusted and walked alongside the car for a second or two. Didn’t really stop talking either.
       So then Olivia told them how she felt. She told them about worrying if Emily grew up perfectly healthy, but sad and worrying about Emily getting sick or dying.
       They both brushed this off as being typical parental worries, nothing out of the ordinary; something you just eventually deal with or try not to think about. They were starting to get fidgety, looking at each other, becoming more abrupt in their responses. But still, they talked to her.
       “You know what I think you have,” it was Anna again, “postpartum depression. Your hormones are all out of whack. You should definitely go to the doctor.”
       “I don’t think that’s it.” Olivia looked down at her hand; it had begun to bleed again. “I think I made a mistake.”
       “Why did you have Emily?” Robert was uncomfortable—tapping his foot on the brakes and gas—making the car move forward slightly then stopping. Olivia had ceased holding onto the car, figuring at some point she would say something and he would just close the doors and drive away.
       “Because I thought it would come naturally.”
      It was Anna who finally shut down the conversation. Olivia supposed she was afraid of what would come next, not willing to be complicit in orphaning any child. “It comes with time,” Anna turned to Robert. “We should go.” Then she turned to Olivia, “You know, you guys will grow into each other.”
       And with that, Robert shut his car door, rolled up his window and merged into traffic as quickly as possible, leaving Olivia alone in the middle of the street.

       She never did go to the hospital to have her hand looked at, and now, two months later, the bones were healing crookedly. Her pinky and index finger were permanently misshapen. Fortunately she was right handed, because it was very hard to hold anything at all with her left hand. She’d spent the last two months watching Emily grow, looking for her first smile and those more intentional gestures with her hands and feet. She’d begun painting again—and each day when she got up at four or five in the morning to paint—she replayed that conversation with Anna and Robert over in her head. Each time she thought about it, she would tell them something different, something more honest and pointed. She would tell them about the empty flat feeling framed by perpendicular lines and tiny arcs. She would tell them the truth about looking into Delaunay’s window. She would tell them she was afraid of being a mother—of the mistakes she would make when somebody else’s life was involved and of the art she wouldn’t paint and the things she wouldn’t do because she was too busy tending to a child. She would tell them she’d looked in his window and saw her mistake. So, her life become like one long interlude; even when she was staying she knew she was leaving.
       The clock next to her read 10 p.m., and it was time for Emily’s last feeding. The baby attached instinctively to her nipple. As Emily nursed, Olivia played with her hands, interlocking her fingers with Emily’s. She’d gotten in the habit of tickling her toes too because the child would almost immediately fall asleep anytime she nursed.
       She shifted Emily from her right to her left side. At this moment, it didn’t seem so difficult to imagine staying with her. Introducing Emily to solid foods, seeing her toddle around, watching her go to pre-school and kindergarten. They were only this small and incapacitated for such a short time. Very soon, every day would be different. Olivia touched Emily’s cheeks and straightened her small tuff of hair. She wondered how long it would take her breasts to dry up—for them to forget that they were supposed to be feeding a child. She’d already experienced breast engorgement and it was painful. In a day or two, she knew her breasts would be leaking hard rocks—a fitting punishment for a mother without a child.
       She put Emily back in her co-sleeper. Joe was in bed next to her. He hadn’t stirred while she was nursing, probably because he’d gotten up early last night with Emily. They’d been splitting the late-night feedings so each of them could get extra sleep. Now, he was sleeping in a heap of disarray. His glasses were still on, tilted to one side and his computer sat on top of his lap. She picked up his laptop and moved it to the dresser. Then, her hands reached for his face to remove his glasses. He was always doing this, sleeping with a perfectly good, expensive pair of frames. She paused; this was no longer her problem. More importantly, she shouldn’t wake him. She should leave. She’d already withdrawn the cash she would need and packed enough clothes for a couple of days. Anything else she could get when she reached Arizona. When that ran out, she would figure out what to do next.
       But she couldn’t help herself. She reached towards Joe’s face and gently began to remove his glasses. He had a pointy European nose—just enough of a tip to kiss. She lifted the glasses from the bridge of his nose and as soon as she did that, he moved his head towards her and opened his eyes.
       “What are you doing?” He shifted in the bed and began to sit up.
       “Go back to sleep. You fell asleep with your glasses on, again.” Her voice was calm, although she was jittery inside.
       He gave her a half sleepy smile with squinty eyes, “Did you feed Emily?”
       “Yup. She should be good until 3 a.m. or so. There are some bottles in the fridge.”
       “You’re so good.” Joe rolled over onto his stomach and patted the bed next to him. “Where are you going?” he mumbled into his pillow.
       “I can’t sleep. I’m going to paint.”
       His head shot up off the pillow. She turned to him.
       “Can you turn the light off in the hallway on your way out?” His face was back in the pillow.
       She nodded.
       Olivia was dressed underneath the robe she wrapped herself in; it only took her a couple of minutes to gather her things and leave the house. When she left, the door slammed a little louder than she would have liked, and for a moment, she thought she heard Emily whimper. It was soft and barely audible. A sigh, a breath. Perhaps, Olivia’s imagination entirely. She was outside when she heard it, so she figured it was probably in her head.
       The walk was brisk and exhilarating and left her eager to see more clear skies. She would catch a taxi cab to the airport and then wait until the morning to catch her flight. She hoped to be in the sky by the time Joe awoke. She looked up, watching the stars in Orion’s belt as they followed her along her journey. It was cold, probably in the teens, and there was a light dusting of snow on the ground. She noticed her footsteps as they turned down one side street and then along another.
       The snow on the ground was untouched and her shoeprints left a definitive mark. For a minute or two, she walked stepping down on the ground as hard as she could—leaving a good, solid footprint in her wake. She did this numerous times with first her right and then her left foot. When she pressed one foot down hard, she found she was using her whole body. Her knees bent from the pressure of her foot slamming down; her arms clenched tightly by her side and even her face was contorted. With these few steps, she used every muscle she had.
       She wondered what Joe might think; if he would see these footprints and realize they were hers. She wondered if he would know what they meant.

Shanna Yetman hails from Salt Lake City, Utah. Yes, Utah. And, ever since her parents plopped her down in that strange foreign land of desert arches and Books of Mormon, she’s been obsessed with the intersection of religion and, well, normal life. Shanna is currently working on a collection of short stories, Absent Without Leave, where she explores some of these intersections. And, as she is writing and revising, she is happily preoccupied with her two-year old son, Gabe, and all of his antics—which include not sleeping through the night, spitting out vegetables and the zoo.

Shanna's fictional short story "Small Bites" is scheduled to appear in Connotation Press, this December. Her nonfiction writing has appeared in Maryland Commons and the Patuxent Papers. Shanna currently works with the theatre organization 2nd Story as their Development and Donor Relations Coordinator. She has a B.A. in English from Wellesley College and an MFA in Fiction Writing from the University of Maryland, College Park. Prior to receiving her MFA, she worked as the Communications Manager for the Maryland Food Bank.

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