by David E. Yee

I was hiding from Becky on the fire escape overlooking the rear of the property. She'd accused me of lying about wanting to move in, and yeah, I wasn't wild about the idea, but a wedding is no place for such petty fights. That's why I saw them, Burke and Jean, canoodling in the parking lot. My mom used that word when she talked about her father, how he loved so many women but never settled down. She always told me, Never be like him. You find something decent and cling to it. Canoodle. That word made me snicker, and I did then, leaning against the chipped paint of the metal rail, smoking the cigarette I had bummed from one of the other groomsmen.

Twenty feet down, an old Cutlass Supreme stood out from the sedans—its champagne topcoat still mint—and Jean was bent over its trunk. The lot was lit by these half-orbs atop faux marble spires projecting cones of sepia over the vehicles. I was hidden in the shadow painted across the old manor. I thought, At least I'm not those two. Not that a little strange is something to be ashamed of, but Jean's been married for five years, and Burke was on his way to the altar next summer. That chill September wind flared the cherry on my cigarette, and I knew Becky would smell it on me, would scold me, call me irresponsible. I'd probably just take it, wait for her to calm down. In this way, we'd spent two years waiting each other out. My lips pulled on the filter, savoring the small flame. I liked to let the smoke billow out through my barred teeth, pretending the meanness of that expression suited me. I was halfway through it when they finished, Burke's shoulders stiffening, head tilted back so that the lights turned his face blank and white. Jean pulled her skirt down about her, turned to him and sat on the bumper. I could see strings of silver dangling in the glitter of her eye makeup, thought, Don't cry dear. Reality has a way of ruining the instants after an orgasm.

But her demeanor changed like glass shattering—teary eyes thinned and arced, the line of her maroon lips cracked into a smile. She sprang from the bumper and threw her arms around Burke, whose pants were still deflated around his ankles. They bobbed and swayed to an unavailable song, hugged as if they were refugees finally reunited. Jean's laughter sounded almost insane in timbre, breaking through the night air. I watched them, the breeze tossing my hair, last bit of tobacco burning away from the filter. They had their foreheads together, and I could see a primal energy boiling between their profiles. I didn't want to be the first one to leave their embrace. When they took a step toward the reception, they halted, eyes trained to the red dot of my cigarette, and I thought, God, please, don't look at me. Just go on, unnoticed.

BIO: David E. Yee is a fiction MFA candidate at the Ohio State University where he was an Associate Editor for The Journal. Sometimes he misses Baltimore. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Gulf Coast Online, Sycamore Review, and NANO Fiction.