“You’re really doing this.” Dennis stared at the square of paper Marcie had given him with her new Florida address on it. He’d come over to her nearly empty apartment to say good-bye.
“I told you I was.”
“Yeah, but a lot of people say they’re going to do stuff and never do.” He stared at her packed boxes.
“I’ll still illustrate your next book. I can show you the pictures by phone or e-mail, and then send you the hard copies when they’re done how you want.”
“I’m jealous. You can just leave.”
“I’m not married with kids.” That was always the reason Dennis gave for not sleeping with her. Marcie fiddled with a flap on a box of winter clothes for the Salvation Army while Dennis stared with the same seeming wish-lust he always did but never acted on. Waiting any longer probably wouldn’t change his mind about remaining the faithful husband and dad, and having given up the hope of ever getting something going with him, her time in this Arctic dirt-bowl was done. Calgary had been fun when she first got here during the oil boom—with its men and money—but life as the one night stand, or the five minute fuck in the bathroom, park, staircase, cab, behind the bar after closing—wherever—had worn quite thin by thirty. Being the dirty-secret mistress—a step up—had also gotten old. Waitresses, on or off shift, weren’t ‘quality people,’ or so Marcie had heard enough times from men looking for girlfriends and wives. Sure, she was making money in the bar, but what was there to spend it on except leaving? Between her savings and Dodger the Dog royalties, she had enough to take off. If she had to come back to Canada, she’d go to Vancouver, someplace where the grass was at least green.
Dennis held out his arms for a good-bye hug, which, with any other man, would have gotten carried away and landed them in bed, but Dennis just held her. She wished rape worked for women, but even if she could overpower a man, pinning him to the ground against his will wouldn’t exactly get him hard.
“If we were to, you know, do anything, my stuff would end up like yours.”
“I know. You keep telling me.”
“And if not, sex now would make good-bye worse. I’ve never lost anybody so important to me.”
“You’ve lived a sheltered life.”
“Without you, I couldn’t have accomplished my dream.”
“Same for me.” But history wasn’t enough of a reason to hang on.
“You’re used to men leaving. Maybe when I’m the next famous children’s author, Julia won’t care what I do, and I could afford a divorce and come and live where you are, or visit a lot.”
“I’ll make sure you always know where I am.”
“You never know. One day when it’s fifty below…. I have your address.”
“I won’t be holding my breath.”
“Call to let me know that you get there, okay?” He kissed her on the top of the head.
“I will. As soon as I get a phone.” She closed the door behind Dennis. On Dennis. She laid some photograph albums and several copies of Dodger the Dog on the bottom of one of her suitcases and sang, “Oh, say can you see? By or from the dawn’s early light.” Marcie fumbled her way through the beginning. They were the only words she’d sort of picked up after fourteen years of listening to big screen TV sporting events, often several per shift. She folded in a few sweaters on top of her shorts, tank tops, bikini, and art supplies.