With a few cars donning headlights, Gracie Gibbs slid on her sunglasses. It was a jaunt down the street to the local pet store and a lovely walk it would have been on a pre-summer’s eve; the soft air like liquid swallowing the sun, giving birth to moon beams filled with fluttering moths.
She parked in an empty parking lot, disposing her cheap shades on the dash. Her heels graced the pavement to the squeal of a rusted door. No matter, Gracie headed into the store straight for the cat aisle, plopping a medley of wet cat food into a basket hooked on her elbow. Her sprayed red hair in delicate curls framed her small features.
The kind of cat food didn’t matter; beef, chicken, seafood platter. Could the cats really tell the difference? One cat ate nothing, the other everything. Gracie filled her basket until she had a sampling from each aisle reserved for cat care, efficient even though she was in no hurry. She had nothing or no one to rush home to. Carl would be snoozing on the couch with a bag of potato chips spilling out onto his holey Motley Crüe T-shirt, draped on a body that had not voluntarily broken a sweat since the eighties; the same era as his T-shirt.
The boy at the register couldn’t have been older than Carl when he acquired that T-shirt, long before he and Gracie met. The kid surveyed Gracie and her hands, fresh with a henna tattoo. Gracie’s eyes rested on ink slithering like a snake up his sleeves where his design no doubt continued unbroken, following the lines of his collarbone to sculpted pecs. She stared in plain sight.
“Is that a tattoo?” he asked.
Gracie cleared her throat. “Oh, this? It’s henna.” When he raised his eyebrows, she explained. “It’s just temporary.” She compared his complex ink display of skulls and tongued lizards to her soft brown hues of flowers and scallops covering her hands and fingers.
The word temporary had no bearing as his eyes sparkled a translucent blue, his spiked hair black. He leaned in. “Here are some coupons for you. You save one dollar when you spend three. Next time,” he said, touching her hand. “And when you complete this survey, you save three dollars.”
He had explained the receipt at such length. Her fleeting thoughts intersected with the display of lizards on his arm, which appeared to fly as he moved to and fro. She could work here, she thought, with the lizards. With him. She could offer him advice or stare into his eyes; this kid, who would have been the same age as her own if she’d had one.
But lizards need crickets and she couldn’t bear to touch crickets. She’d drop them to the floor.
He placed the receipt in her palm.
Their tattoos met in the exchange. Hers would fade, his would last forever.
She clasped the paper and walked into the night of chirping crickets, rubbing their wings together in the bushes out of sight.
Just as it should be.