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[on sipping]

“Is that the same bourbon you poured three hours ago?”

“When I drink this, I drink slowly.” He lifted the glass to her. “Help me?”

She took the glass in her hand, lifting it to her mouth. Taking a small sip, as one is supposed to do with bourbon, she felt her lips swell with the stinging sensation of straight liquor. She handled the glass gingerly, still managing to smear fingerprints on the crystal. She scowled. It was truly frustrating how easy it was to soil nice glassware and look like a first-time alcoholic in the process.

“Come here.” She motioned toward him to put his feet up on the sofa and rest his head on her belly. This was her favorite way to lay with him…or was it laying sideways next to him, filling in the negative space of his body? It was likely a bit of both, fluidly moving from protector to ward and back again. Here, she could entertain her maternal inclinations without the effort and mess that accompanied nine months of incubation and more than 18 years of pride or irritation or some combination of the two. Yes, this—this instant gratification of biological instinct—this was much easier.

She combed his hair with her fingers. There was always so much of it. She made a mental agreement with Fate that he should never lose it. “What are you thinking about?”

“Nothing.”

“Liar.”

She sipped again from the bourbon; it seemed that he had given up on it, knowing it was now in her grip. The burn was always the initial impression, first numbing the lips, then the tongue, working its way to the throat, where it would fall and be converted into warmth, housed deep inside the belly. Only after this would she taste anything: oak, cherries, honey, smoke, all manner of other things that brown liquor is supposed to taste like. She gave up long ago on having a refined palate. She liked the taste and liked the power it gave her—the power that came with being a woman who could order drinks in fingers and ask for them to be “straight up” and “neat.” She sipped. She was one who sipped.

She cradled his head in her lap as Paul Simon played in the background. Gently cupping his cheek with her free palm, she thought, This is the kind of moment you read in a story. “I should write this,” she said out loud.

“Write what?”

“This. Everything. The bourbon and the music and holding you. This.”

“Oh.”

He looked up at her and smiled. She smiled back and took another sip. She would write this. She leaned her head back, closed her eyes, and let the bourbon warm to her body. She always dreamed in color when she drank before bed.

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