Keith stands his ground — but for what?





Lesli was getting a roll going. He knew he wasn’t going to get a word in edgewise. Not that he had done very much when he had the chance to speak.

She stopped roaming around the living room — the way she kept scanning the space, he could’ve sworn she was looking for the heaviest object she could find to brain him with — and stood, hand on hip, the robe coming undone. She didn’t bother retying the belt and simply let him have it, her eyes darkening, glistening.

“What the hell is it with you? My asking whether I’m moving in was supposed to be a rhetorical question, you moron! I can’t believe in the first place that I’m offering to completely give up my freedom. More than I already have. What kicks my behind, though, is you actually turning me down.”


“Shut up! Do you really think something better is going to come along? Better than this?” With which she threw the robe wide open, shrugging it off her shoulders, letting it bunch around her hips.

“And that’s just what’s on the surface. I’ve got a mind and a heart and a soul, too. Which I stupidly gave to you. The heart and the soul, anyway. You are not going to take my mind. No, sir. You will not drive me crazy because you don’t know a good thing when it’s been banging your brains out all this time.”

Looking him up and down, summing up his worth in a most unflattering manner, hand still on hip, she began wagging her head side to side. “You’re so stupid I would feel sorry for you. If I didn’t hate you. Yes, dammit, don’t give me that dumb, hurt look. I hate you! For wasting all this time. For being a coward.”

Tears came, trickling. “Worst of all, I hate you because I didn’t have any better sense than to fall in love. With your sorry, can’t-make-up-your-mind behind.” Her voice was breaking. “Well, baby, I have just made up your mind for you. Here’s your robe back.”

Eyes watering, she slipped her arms free and threw the robe on the sofa. Then, swiveling on one hip, head high, she deliberately, measuredly walked away. He watched her disappear down the hall. And heard the door slam shut like a rifle shot.

“Son of a—!” she yelled. He couldn’t make out anything after that the way she hollered, screamed, and slammed dresser drawers. He heard the door open, then slam back shut. Poor Bruno came flying out, raced across the carpet and scrambled up the landing to hide in the kitchen.

“This,” Keith heard himself almost whisper, “can’t be happening.” He didn’t  know what to do or what not to do and damned sure couldn’t figure out what to say. He was lost.

The bedroom door opened again and she walked out, eyes dried, in her favorite get-up, tank top and cutoffs, wearing sandals. Purse slung on her shoulder, suitcase in one hand, cat-carrier in the other.

“Lesli, don’t go.”

“Drop dead.” She put everything down. “Give me one good reason to stay. One. One reason I should hang around. It’s not like we crowd each other. Hell, we both spend half our lives working.”

She took a long breath. “If that’s not enough space for you, then screw it. I’m done with this. You love me but I can’t live with you? What kind of horse-crap is that?”

She stepped toward him and stopped with the coffee table between them. Lowering her voice, fixing on him a heartbroken stare, she began watering at the eyes again but held it back. “Is there some way I come up short? I mean, I know you’ve had your share of women, but I thought you were with me because this is the one you want.”

“You are, Lesli.”

“Then act like it! Put a ring on this finger. It doesn’t even have to be a damned wedding ring. Hell, I’ll settle for a friendship ring. And a commitment from you that we’re in this thing for life.”

He didn’t say a word, and she just stared. Before disgustedly shaking her head, turning away to pick her bags back up and go collect her cat. She was out the door before he knew it.

He’d held his ground. He’d had his reasons. A fat lot of good it did, now that she was gone. Now that Lesli had left.


Next week: One gone, one coming

Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403. 


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