Sarah picked his hand off of her hand and examined it.
It was definitely a man’s hand — not pretty. Not delicate. Had some dry skin. A little hairy.
A couple of random scratches.
Carthage put his doctor gloves on. They made his hands look smooth and unreal. The gloves were so close fitting they were like skin. It looked like he had cornflower blue hands. Such a pretty color. Such a cold, unfeeling color. He picked up the needle and came towards her. She wondered if his hands could feel anything at all.
But John’s hands weren’t like Carthage’s hands. They were warm. They were alive and damaged and real. There was nothing wrong with them.
She quietly reconsidered her decision to live with Jeff. He was still young enough that he could smash the head of anyone who tried to hurt her. And he had a great reading voice. He knew how to use his voice to make the words feel like magic in the air.
She studied John’s trim, uneven fingernails.
But there was something special about John. It wasn’t so easy to figure out. He was older than Jeff and way older than her. He definitely looked like he could be someone’s father. He wasn’t in shape the way Jeff was. He was a little overweight. He had gray hairs all over his head.
“What are you going to do?” He didn’t sound afraid when he asked it. He sounded genuinely curious. And he didn’t look afraid either.
Sarah stood and helped him up to his feet.
Clarice must have figured that it was safe. She joined them. “Are you both okay?”
“Yeah. I’m good. What about—”
Sarah held her hand in a halt sign.
“What?” John asked.
She emphatically pointed at herself and at him.
Sarah eye-rolled. Obviously, he was going to need a little more help. She pointed at herself, spread her hand above her heart, hugged herself, and pointed at him.
She figured it couldn’t get any plainer.
Okay. So, it needed to get a little plainer. She pointed at herself, at the floor, and at him in three very decided points.
“Wait.” He frowned. “Are you saying you want to stay with me?”
She nodded emphatically.
“What about Jeff? I thought you wanted to—”
She did another halt sign and shook her head. She pointed at him again.
“Me. Just me?”
Clarice smiled. “You shouldn’t be so surprised, John.”
He looked at her with a pleased expression on his face.
“After all, why wouldn’t she want to stay with someone as wonderful as you?”
“Well, I…I…Are you sure, Sarah?”
Sarah eyerolled again. How could he ask a question like that AFTER she gave him such a definitive answer? She had made up her mind for good this time. She wasn’t going to change it ever again.
She marched over to the table, reclaimed her book, gave the couple a dismissive wave, and retreated to the front porch.
It was a shame to leave them alone. She would miss out on a lot of hugs and kisses and flirting, no doubt about it. But she had a lot of thinking to do and a lot of reading to catch up on.
She sat down on the front step and looked up at the sky.
Carthage was out there somewhere. Not up in the sky, of course. That was just a ridiculous thought. What would he even be doing up there? No, he was somewhere out in the world.
Maybe he was still in Pinkerlee.
Maybe he’d walked off to some other city.
Maybe one day he’d come back.
Maybe it didn’t matter.
Maybe she didn’t want him to come back.