Her lips rolled into a pointed smile, stuck onto her face like clay, and the tilt of her head was just a little too choreographed. Her voice echoed in my ribcage, bouncing off bones and organs like a fiery pinball, her words sharp even buried in small talk. No different from the last time I saw her, I had braced myself for tension but hoped for warmth, waiting for her eyes to register, to connect. I stood in front of her with an uncertain smile on my face, feeling her words pour into me unfiltered, trying to find the place in my head where it didn't hurt to hear her speak. Where is that head of yours? The words slide over your glossed lips with a sordid saccharinity, but there's something distinctly ... Jafar-like about the way you hold my attention.
Sometimes she touched my shoulder as though she had invested something in me, as though we were family, and the way her fingers pressed the fabric of my shirt into my skin made me instinctively tense my neck in flight defense.
When she left, we paced. We exhaled. We gripped hands and locked arms and buried our heads in the throw pillows. Our unease pooled in the center of the room, growing as we cycled through thoughts, placing bets on how many weeks it would be until the other shoe dropped, until our instinctive-grimace-reaction to her re-established itself as justified, until her thoughts dribbled through the phone speakers to draw blood.