The way a guitar duo watches each other’s fingers on the strings, until one turns his face away for a private moment of satisfaction, then returns to the light of his partner; the way mistakes are shared, laughed over, corrected together—this was Francile’s ideal. But Ted had made that tolerant face—stiff mouth flicker, hard browlift with three blinks—when Francile interrupted his phone scrolling to passionately share the details of an environmental podcast about sugar kelp farming.
“If they can expand seaweed packaging this could be big!”
“Could be a long-term investment opportunity,” he granted before going back to his phone.
There was no fucking music here. Francile’s heart dipped its tentacles into the brown slurry, sank further, lost a beat or two. She’d go for a run. Ted didn’t care about her thoughts. Had he ever?
“A run will resuscitate me.”
“Okay, Francy.” Ted didn’t glance up at all, didn’t ask, from what?
“I hate Francy.” He wouldn’t stop calling her the hated nickname but protesting was an act of self-respect.
What did work was running up the hill by the frozen lake, which shocked her heart back from its slush and into a steady New Order techno pleasure. I am dancing on the inside, Francile chanted as she avoided black ice.
Right/I am Left/dancing Right/on the Left/inside
which became round hole square peg
Left/round Right/hole Left/square Right/peg
Halfway up she hopped out of the street to avoid a truck and pulled out her phone to photograph the fish houses way out on the iced lake because they looked pretty and strange.
Ted had texted. To his “hey” she sent “running!”
People had parked cars on the ice and the week’s forecast was for temperatures above thirty, so time was limited. The uncertainty made her anxious.
He hadn’t realized she left.
<had to go>
You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole. You can’t fit a trapezoid into a rhombus. You can’t fit a volcano into a smartphone.
Francile started her engine again, willed the ashy sky to pull her shoulders erect, chugged along until the road flattened by the new retirement community. Ted wouldn’t be any different in retirement and it would kill her.
<Luciano’s for dinner tonight?>
<I wanted veggie lasagna remember?>
<okay order it at Lucianos babe>
<spent all morning prepping it’s baking now>
Francile’s knife on the cutting board had echoed throughout the house while she chopped zucchini and garlic. Her fingertips reeking of onions convinced her she hadn’t dreamed it. She was mostly walking now.
<really want the veal cutlet at Luciano’s tho>
At the four way stop Francile went straight instead of turning right. She didn’t want to go home even though her nose burned from the cold. Round peg.
<you fit once I’m really certain you did Ted>
<what if you had your lasagna and I ordered takeout??>
What if she cashed out her Ford stock and bought a truck with a trailer and a sleeper icehouse and cozied up on Amelia Lake with the die-hards and ran big circles around the edge when she needed a heart lift? Ted would never turn off the oven and the ricotta would settle into a black brick and the couple that bought the house would find it when they opened the door to bake a celebratory move-in cake. In the Spring she would chase wildflowers along highway medians, drive to the Long Island Sound, learn photosynthesis from saltwater, make a happy marriage with the kelp fronds wrapping around her ankles and ribcage, kissing her just so.