Audrey_kalman_The Appointed Time and Place

The Appointed Time and Place 

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Lara tilted Christian’s chin upward so the light fell more evenly. For an underwear model, he had a lovely face.  

“How’s Bowser?”

He always asked about her dog, the one topic they could safely discuss.

“Great.” Lara stroked blush over Christian’s cheekbones.

“Did he like the toy?” Christian had presented her with a brown paper bag after last week’s shoot. She’d peered inside, fearing it might be a sex toy, but it was a knobby rope tug obviously intended for Bowser.

“He destroyed it. So yeah, I guess he did.”

Lara stepped back to survey her work. Her job was to concentrate on Christian’s face while standing so close he could have kissed her thigh.

She was old enough to be his mother.

She nodded to indicate she was done. Christian made his way to the set: a corner designed like a 19th-century boudoir. Lara could have watched but looking at his body, even from a distance, would be dangerous. Instead, she opened her anatomy textbook and tried to concentrate on the bones of the foot. How had she ended up with her happiness tied to an underwear model? It wasn’t just the sex. She’d had plenty of that after the divorce. Somehow Christian seemed bound to Lara’s reinvention of herself.

The photographer ordered Christian this way and that on the velvet couch. Lara was too far away to hear. She imagined the crisp thwack of the shutter eating Christian’s body bite by bite. He loved to mug for the camera but never for her. With her, his face was sweet and serious and his touch as tender as a boy’s, cupping his hands around a wounded chick.

Lara forced her eyes to the page. Accessory navicular syndrome. The precise descriptions made anomalies seem manageable. The words became a converter to transform life’s chaos.

She knew how it would go. After the shoot, wearing sweatpants and a hoodie that made him look even younger, Christian would stop by the table where she was packing and slip her a scrap of paper. He’d expect her to show up at the appointed time and place because she had on five or six earlier occasions. It was a pattern, a habit, or maybe something more dangerous.

She crumpled the paper and practiced what she could never say to Christian because she didn’t have his number, couldn’t contact him except at photo shoots or by showing up at one of those addresses. I’ve got class tonight. This has to end. It’s not healthy.

Lara crossed the concrete floor, nodding to the photographer’s assistant who was vacuuming the velvet couch. Beside the door a trash bin overflowed with water bottles and empty food containers. She hadn’t memorized tonight’s address. She would drop the paper in the trash and that would be the end of Christian.

Lara stood for a long time beside the bin, squeezing the pulpy ball in her palm.

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Audrey Kalman has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pen. She published the novel “Dance of Souls” in 2011 and has had more than ten short stories published in print and online journals. Her novel “What Remains Unsaid” will be published by Sand Hill Review Press in 2016. She edited two volumes of Fault Zone, an annual anthology of California writers, and is at work on another novel. Find out more at www.audreykalman.com.

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