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where the trees are on fire
01 05 11 - electricity
sleeping beauty
     “No, you can’t put your hand in my coat pocket.”
     “Why not?”
     “Because it won’t fit,” I said, forcefully removing said hand from the aforementioned pocket.
     “Oh.” He seemed surprised, affronted, or mildly insulted. Or maybe some combination of all three. “Why can’t I hold your hand?”
     I sighed. ‘Because I’m not feeling very hands-on right now’ would only complicate the matter, so I settled on, “It’s cold, so I want to put my hand in my pocket, ok?”
     “Ok.” I knew there was a protest going on in his head, but at least he realized I didn’t really want to hear it. We walked on in the near darkness, and I concentrated on the staccato clicks of my high-heeled boots on the pavement. Then I felt his arm around my waist, and I was still not feeling very hands-on. I cleared my throat.
     “What?! Why not?”
     “Please, just not tonight?”
     “You’re my girlfriend, and we’ve been together over a year—”
     But I wasn’t in the mood for that, either. I’d heard that speech a million times, and I sure as hell didn’t need to hear it again. So I grabbed him and kissed him. That shut him up.

sleeping beauty
     “Hey sweetie. A bunch of us are going dancing tonight. You game?” I glanced over at my boyfriend, back to me as he bent over the stove.
     “I’ve got a hot date tonight. Sorry.” I heard him chuckling quietly from across the room.
     “Oh, tell me all about it tomorrow?” She sounded hopeful.
     “You know I won’t.”
     “Such a disappointment,” she lamented.
     “Get off the phone with me and let all those hot guys at the bar buy you drinks, ok? I’ll talk to you later.”
     “Who says they’re not already buying me drinks?” she laughed. “Later girl!” I returned the phone to its cradle, shaking my head, and leaned back against the counter.
     “So…‘hot date’ like I’m hot, or this date is gonna be hot?”
     “‘Hot date’ like the food’s gonna be hot when it comes off the stove.”
     “Ouch. You’re ruthless,” he teased. “So ruthless.”
     “Oh, don’t even. You know I love you…most of the time.”
     “Sweetie, you’re killin’ me here. Can’t a guy catch a break? Especially one who’s cooking you dinner?” I pretended to give the idea serious thought.
     “No, not really. Gotta have standards. You know how it is, right?” I teased, grinning.

01 03 11 - nightmares
sleeping beauty
     I sat up in bed, legs tangled in the sheets, my breathing labored and erratic. A hand touched my arm, and I flinched away.
     “Sorry,” I whispered, hoarse. He sat up beside me in the darkness, and I moved to sit between his outstretched legs. His rough hands found my bare skin: he traced my scapulae, my ribcage, my vertebrae. I counted each of the seven cervical vertebrae—the same as most mammals—as his hands moved up my neck.
     “Did you know that two-toed sloths and manatees only have six cervical vertebrae? And three-toed sloths have nine?”
     “Um…what?” I laughed quietly; of course he didn’t understand. He’d picked up some new vocabulary words from my spontaneous spouting of facts from anatomy lab. Clearly this wasn’t something I’d mentioned yet. His hands had reached the base of my spine and began an upward path.
     “Put your hands on my neck again. Feel the vertebral bones there?” He made a soft noise of assent. “Cervical vertebrae. Most mammals only have seven. Giraffes do, too. Theirs are just…bigger.” I smiled.
     “Except manatees and sloths. Pretty cool. Any particular reason for the midnight anatomy lesson?”
     “It keeps my mind off the nightmares.”

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