She smiled with a scrunch of her cheeks and a millimeter of her teeth. She had dental trauma and couldn’t bear to show her open mouth. Thankfully, her full lips covered for her in those social situations when bright light was not her friend. Mickey said he didn’t see what the big deal was, but he was downright oblivious to others insights or feelings.

She wasn’t sure why she stayed with him all this time. Complacency about their living arrangement and an unhealthy amount of self-doubt played a big part of it, but she still had an abiding affection for him that bubbled up often enough to keep her in check.

Mickey had invited some people over for dinner. He loved to cook, mostly from celebrity cookbooks, even though the results were often underwhelming. His friends didn’t mind being guinea pigs. They loved him and forgave him for any slight or veiled insult he might throw their way. He inspired loyalty, despite showing little of it in return. She thought the secret was that he managed to reflect back just enough of what others wanted to see in him-the better parts of themselves smiling back.

They all ate and drank far too much beer, though she always stuck to Rosé, no matter the food. She suspected the fourth glass would do her in, but once they all left after dessert she was mercifully free. She could totter off to bed, set her sleep number and drift off. Dreams awaited her.

© 2021 Jeff E. Brown. All rights reserved.

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