"The job is mine, Shortcake,” Joshua’s voice says. To stop myself from standing up and punching him in the gut I’m counting one, two, three, four … “Funny, that’s what Helene just told me.” I watch his backside walk away in the glossed surface of my desk, and vow that Joshua Templeman is going to lose the most important game we’ve ever played.
Happy birthday to the snapchat queen, a PS wizard and a great friend @cobaltcharlie ;*
Happy New Year, everyone. You’ve all been a great part of this one for me. Thank you.
* * * * * * *
He doesn’t even think to
call her until well after ten. It’s not
that he doesn’t like the holiday, or that he doesn’t wish her well, just that
he doesn’t know if it’s his place to wish her anything. He’s been given no rules to follow on this
holiday – it doesn’t bring to mind family, or church, or children, or office
parties. The holiday that doesn’t belong
This year, it belongs to him
and his television. He’s splayed out on
the couch with a tray of bad cookies on his chest, watching a movie, when he thinks
of her and convinces himself it’s appropriate, even funny, to call now. He dials with the intention of blaming this
movie forever if he’s wrong.
She answers on the second
ring and he hears voices, festivity. He
licks his lips, holds his breath, torn between the anger that she didn’t invite
him and the guilt of interrupting. She
assures him quickly that it’s the TV and then they have a moment of silence as his anxiety leaves him.
“I think we’re watching the
same thing,” she says and he can hear her smiling.
“Well, it’s this or Dick
Clark. Not a lot of options.” He doesn’t know why he’s downplaying the
serendipity of it, the romance, when he was the one who picked up the phone, he
was the one who thought of her as Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal pretended to
themselves not to be in love.
“Did you see it in the movie
theater?” he asks.
“On a date.” He can feel his eyes light up, though there’s
a scowl in his chest. He doesn’t know
why her whereabouts in July of 1989 should produce either reaction.
“How’d that go?”
“We made out a little in the
dark, but we got into an argument afterwards and I never saw him again.” He lowers the cookie in his hand back to the
“You made out? In the movie theater?”
She laughs a barely audible
hiss of a laugh. How little you know me, it says, how little you understand, how right Nora Ephron is about the
friendship between a man and a woman.
“Scully,” he admonishes, but
he’s sat up at attention in the sinking ship of his leather couch. It’s cold in the apartment tonight and he’s
brought in so many extra blankets he might have to throw himself overboard at
“It’s not like we had sex in
a playground, Mulder. It’s the movies,
it’s a date, people do it.”
“Oh, stop it.”
“I’m not going to tell you
“This is so unfair,” he
“What, like we had some kind
of appointment for me to share my darkest secrets? You
“This isn’t your darkest
secret, Scully. We have darker secrets
in our office than this.”
“He put his hand up my
All his body parts go into
conservation mode, freezing as they preserve energy for survival past this
moment of crisis, except his eyelashes, which blink excessively, as if to process
the image more quickly and be free of it.
She doesn’t cover up the silence,
doesn’t try to make him more comfortable, and fair enough since he’s the one
who pushed the issue. He comes to his
senses, relaxing a bit as the scene begins, the one he was thinking of to begin
with, when Harry and Sally are split-screen, watching the same movie while on
the phone in their beds. Suddenly, he
realizes he doesn’t know if she’s in the kitchen, or on her couch or…
“Too bad you don’t have a
bed. Then this would really be cute.”
He’s grateful to have moved
past the movie theater thing, though this newer image, he soon finds, is not
much easier to handle. Is she in her
satin pajamas? A big t-shirt like the
one she was wearing that first night he asked her to go for a run? A robe with nothing underneath… she reads his
“So, Mulder, what do you
think?” He instantly panics, his stomach
lurching, his hand frantically adjusting his shorts as if she can see his hard-on
through the phone.
“I don’t – I was – “
“You know, can men and women really be friends?” She doesn’t have to add the rest, the without sex interfering part of the
movie’s hypothesis. He doesn’t know how
to tell her no, no he doesn’t think so, since he’s sitting here picturing a
woman he has never intended to seduce in her underwear, picturing a
woman who gets spinach stuck in her teeth at lunch in nothing but a
robe so sexy he doubts she even owns it, doubts any woman actually owns it.
“Sure, they can be friends,”
he lies instead and the inflection of the humming noise she makes tells him she
doesn’t quite believe it either. Last
year, he would have expected for her to swear that friendship and sex were
separate. But ten days ago, she took him
by the tie and kissed him, really kind of kissed him, at a corny office
Christmas party, so he’s not sure what to think.
“So how come no plans?” she
“I never make plans on New
Year’s Eve. Wouldn’t even know where to
“It always seems like such a
setup for disappointment,” she agrees, though he gets the idea that maybe she
doesn’t fully believe that either. She’s
humoring him, making believe she shares his melancholy, because that’s the kind
of friend she is, even when he’s being an asshole picturing her naked, she’s
that kind of friend. He remembers this
part, the friend part, and decides to tell her something he has never told
“I’d like to have a real one
like the one in this movie someday. You
know, girl all dressed up, Auld Lang Syne playing, kiss at midnight.”
“Don’t forget the big speech.”
“I can do a big speech.”
“You do them every
morning. With slides.”
He chuckles. A minute passes, two, as they both watch the
film. He hears a rustle of bedding he
recognizes from crummy hotels across the nation and knows she’s getting
tired. She yawns. She’ll be hanging up now, any minute, he
thinks, and feels sad, the kind of sadness he usually avoids by not making
plans on this night, not setting any of those wicked expectations.
“You wanna just stay on till
midnight passes?” she asks. He could
almost cry at the gesture of kindness.
“Sure,” he says, persuading himself of his nonchalance by dusting a crumbled Fig Newton off the couch. Then they’re both quiet until the credits are
rolling and his neck is stiff where it’s crooked around the heavy plastic of
the phone. He thinks maybe she’s fallen
asleep but doesn’t want to be the first to hang up…
“Happy New Year, Mulder.”
“Happy New Year.”
It’s easy to forget things
out here in the middle of nowhere; that’s what they liked about the house in
the first place. They had a lot to
forget then, and they wanted to be forgotten.
So it’s no surprise to him that in the time she’s been gone, Scully has
forgotten some things - the zip code, where he keeps the toothpicks, the paper
clips, or how the soup bowls only fit when they go in a certain way. What today is.
He does remember what today is.
He’s been anticipating it since she decided to stay the night after
fucking him on the living room floor. It’s the anniversary of their first kiss – not
counting that mistletoe kiss that one year – the only anniversary they’ve ever
really been able to mark. He’s
considered giving her a gift, making dinner like he always did, but to
acknowledge the date would mean discussing how long she’s been here (seven
nights). It would mean finding out what
this duration of stay means, or more worrisome, that it means nothing. So he doesn’t mention it, goes about the day
like it’s any other day when the woman he loves has come home. Carefully.
She runs errands during the
day as she’s done frequently the past week.
He would offer to do it for her, but he knows she doesn’t need anything
other than to be part of the world. That
was part of the problem the first time around.
It’s something they’ll have to address if they - if she – no, he won’t
do that to himself, won’t imagine packing up his stuff with her, arguing about
condos versus co-ops, planning what to keep, what to get rid of, how to start
She stashes her shopping in
the bedroom and they eat a pleasant but uneventful dinner. She says she’s heading to take a bath and read. He normally follows her up when he hears the
word bath, responding like Pavlov’s
dog to the tune of the faucet. He pads
in quietly, slips a hand into the bubbles to watch the slow, expectant smile
cross her face without her eyes ever opening.
Tonight, he stays and waits ‘til she’s safely out of earshot to put Dick
Clark on. He wants to see the year pass,
needs it. It was a year without her.
He hears her footsteps at ten
minutes to twelve, amidst the canned energy of the pre-taped show ramping up
and the real energy of Times Square contained only by the confines of the box
in his living room. He taps the remote,
but the batteries are low, and it doesn’t respond on the first try, the second,
the third. And anyway, by the third,
he’s not even aiming correctly because he’s turned around and found her coming
down the steps in a short blue cocktail dress.
Navy blue or maybe it’s green. Low and heart-shaped on her breasts, ruffled
from the hip down. At first he thinks
he’s seen her in it, or seen it in her closet, it seems so familiar. But it looks nothing like her, nothing like the
classy, cap-sleeved black dresses he can so easily picture her in.
“It’s the closest I could
find,” she says and he immediately remembers the scene in the movie – Meg
Ryan’s pale shoulders, Billy running in, the weight of a happy ending weighing
heavy on his shoulders. There’s no crowd
here, no lighting, but Scully is pretty enough to make up for all of that - her
hair pulled up messily from the treachery of bath water, her blue eyes rimmed
in runny mascara, her cheeks still rosy with heat and maybe more than just that. She reaches the end of the staircase and
bends, slings a pair of satin high heels off her fingers and onto her
feet. “I didn’t want you to hear me
He’s on his knees on the
couch now, elbow locked and leaning, his jaw nearly thudding the wood planks of
the floor. He turns slowly, a carousel
on its last round, following the swing of her hips as her shoes slowly
clip-clop to the space between him and the TV.
“I’m not dressed for the occasion,”
he says and she glances at the clothes he hasn’t changed out of today – a flannel
shirt, a pair of old jeans – and nods.
It’s true, Harry only realizes at the last second that he loves Sally;
he doesn’t have time to get dressed for it.
Mulder wonders how many years Scully has been waiting to do this just to
truly catch him by surprise.
He swings his legs out from
under him, puts his feet on the floor as she sidles up, her knees between his
knees, her bony ankles slightly wobbling against his in the unfamiliar
heels. She lifts his chin.
“Go ahead, make your
speech,” she says.
“I didn’t have time to
“You had twenty years.”
“You are everything to me,”
he blurts. She playfully bobs her head
from side to side – good start. “This past seven nights have been so –“
“Eight, now.” He grins and sputters on, wishing he had his
projector and slides to rely on.
“It’s been so amazing. Please don’t go.”
“I’m all dressed up, I have
to go to the party. You’re going to have
to try harder to make me stay.”
He puts his hands around her
waist, the funny, shiny material itchy between his fingers, and pulls her
closer, kisses the cluster of freckles above her cleavage – this is one of the
things Harry would have mentioned had he been in love with Scully instead of
Sally. But Mulder’s already told her
about it hundreds of times. He can’t
really think of anything he hasn’t told her a hundred times and silently
applauds Harry’s creativity.
“I didn’t mean tonight,” he
whispers. “I meant don’t go ever.”
“Oh,” she says with mock
surprise, a teacher hearing about an overambitious science project. “Then you’re really going to have to try
He glances at the TV, the clock
visible in the upper right hand corner.
He has seven minutes, so he gets right to it, slides his hand up the
inside of her leg, pushes the stretchy, lacy panties to the side and cups her
in the heel of his hand. Her body tilts
forward in it, the carriage of a ferris wheel passing low, letting him climb
These seven minutes that
have seemed so long every other year from couches and barstools seem positively
fleeting with his fingers inside her and his mouth wide around her breast, then
narrow around her nipple, the green-blue prom dress scratching the scruff of
his chin. This, he realizes, is how one
is supposed to pass those last minutes.
He’s been doing it wrong all these years, everyone has.
She comes sooner than he
expects, with one minute to go, and he wonders if she was paying attention to
time. He would not be surprised to find out
she could calibrate an orgasm that well, not after the things he’s seen, but
there are still things he doesn’t know about her, there always will be. He pulls her dress up back over her breast
and the weight of her body sinks against him to wait.
When the countdown begins,
his face is between her hands, her chest rising and falling beneath his nose. The last things he smells this year are his
saliva and her bubble bath, popcorn butter and peppermint. They both listen like this, not moving, as if
straining to hear something very quiet, eavesdropping on a revelrous crowd of five
She kisses him at precisely
midnight, with a smile against his teeth when the screaming comes. She points into the empty air of their old
house as Auld Lang Syne begins to play, as if to say her plot is complete, as
if to say she’s plotted every New Year’s celebration since that song was
written. He presses his ear to her chest
and wraps his arms around her, all of her, a hand around her neck and one
around a calf. He thinks of how much he
loves her, how much he has missed her, but also of her tits and the color of
her underwear, and he knows even all these years later, he cannot just be her
“Happy New Year, Scully.”
She reads his mind like
always, taking off her underwear (black) as she answers the rest of his
“Happy anniversary, Mulder.”
This holiday has always
belonged to her, they all have.
life as a NT: a regular soap opera with people who go drink coffee to talk about sally’s new haircut
life as a person with BPD: a spanish novella, with excess tears and overdramatized facial expressions in extreme close ups, and don’t forget the unrealistic plot twists, the intense music always playing in the background,,