Bez reads over my shoulder as I work on a story in progress. She is the only person who is allowed to do that. No one else can see a piece until it’s done. I like to present a finished work to the world, and not let them see the nails and tape and bits of string holding it all together. I’m certain that I’m not unique in this.
“There’s a story inside of your story,” she says. “About unrequited love.”
“All love is unrequited,” I say. “At least in some way. We’re all Dante aching for Beatrice, even if we don’t admit it to ourselves.”
Juteau, who is laying on the sofa across the room, speaks softly, not asleep as I had assumed she had been. “Love is a wisp of cloud that slips from the lungs and out over the lips, moving on cat-fog feet like that Sandburg poem. You can feel it when it comes, when it curls around your legs, and then moves up to your waist, and then your chest. You can taste it when it slips into your mouth.” She rolls onto her side away from us and pulls the blanket up higher. “Love tastes like strawberries.”
Juteau has been living here for three weeks. Bez hasn’t gone home to her apartment in two. I can’t remember a time when my house was empty of them both, and I don’t want to imagine a time when it will be.
“I’m going to bed,” Bez says. She puts her hand on my shoulder and gives it a light squeeze. “Don’t stay up all night.” She walks up the stairs, going to my room, to the bed that we have spent so much time in together that I find I have trouble sleeping now without her in it.
We are an odd little family, which is what I realize we have become. We live together in our house, raised up on a hidden island, undiscoverable in the atlas of love.
I am too tired to work on my story any longer this evening, and so I put it aside. Juteau is already asleep, for real this time, so I turn off the lights and walk softly upstairs to my room.
“Come to bed,” Bez says, her voice soft and low. “I’m cold. Warm me up.”
I take off my shirt and slip into bed.
Bez isn’t cold in the slightest.