Congratulations to Maria Marchese, who placed 2nd in the Adult Fiction category

 Love & Leotards, written by Maria Marchese, inspired by Familiar Space

Lira sat up slowly upon waking and looked at her best friend asleep in the grass. The women had slept in the park. She had never even been camping but here they were in Trinity Bellwoods Park. The city was showing early signs of life even though it was a Sunday. The annoying joggers were already jogging silently judging them as they bounced by. Lira scowled back.

    There were others who looked like they may have spent the night in the park too. Lira suspected some of them may have been permanent residents and they were uninvited guests. They had been celebrating Terry’s 50th birthday on her 52nd birthday. After 18 months in a pandemic induced lockdown, they were overdue for a girl’s night that had started with a girl’s day in Niagara wine country.

    Lira thought she didn’t like wine but after the third winery paired a Barberra red wine with a wood fired pizza, she seemed to have acquired a taste for it and appreciated the way the food and drink complimented each other. She felt very fancy.

The pair enjoyed a quasi-sobering bus ride to what was supposed to be their final destination, but their favourite bartender at their favourite gastro pub made up for lost time. They lost track of their drinks because well…here they were.

“When were we last at that place”? Terry asked, her eyes still closed. Terry hated nature and insects. But there she was lying in the grass unbothered by the vegetation or the ant crawling on her bare left foot. She was missing a sandal. Lira hoped it was around here somewhere. Walking barefoot in Toronto was not a pleasant thought.

    “It has been at least two years” Lira’s brain was still foggy. “I know we Ubered here. Very responsible of us”. Her tongue felt like it was wearing a scarf and her contact lenses were stuck to her eyeballs and they began to tear as she squinted at the sun.

She rummaged through her purse for her water bottle. The theme for Terry’s birthday was the 80s. The women were dressed in fluorescent green leotards complete with matching head and wristbands. The deal was they had to wear them all day and all night. They were quite the hit.

“Are we still drunk?” Lira asked after taking a swig.

Terry popped her head up with an elbow and reached for the bottle. “Possibly. I’m still wearing this bodysuit so…” She pointed to the outfit like The Price is Right model would point to a showcase.

“You’re not wearing the whole thing,” Lira informed her. Your nipple is out.”

Terry looked less than interested in that new piece of information.

“I had to pee and this fucking thing is one whole piece”. She didn’t make any move to immediately cover up.

The bodysuit had pockets which was a fact she remembered telling anyone that had ears about. What was it about women and pockets? “I love your outfit!”, “Thanks, it has pockets!” Terry took her phone out of one of them.

“How drunk were we?” Lira asked.

‘This drunk’ Terry let the image on her screen answer the question.

They were facing each other in a field and it looked like the arc of flowers was growing out of one of their heads onto the head of the other similar to someone appearing to hold up the leaning tower of Pisa in cheesy tourist photos. The photo confirmed they were drunk at the Bella Terra vineyards. It was still daylight. She was sure Terry’s phone held so many more memories they could try to piece together later.

While Terry scrolled and laughed, Lira checked her phone. Her children had texted her wishing them a good time. Her heart remembered that her two daughters were adults. A text from her husband telling her he loved her.

    She responded to the girls individually. One studying in another city, the other, mercifully still living at home.

    She replied with ‘I love you too’ to her husband but she wasn’t sure that was true anymore. Lira didn’t have much to complain about. Her daughters were fine, upstanding citizens, she was close to retiring and she would be able to do some comfortably. Her husband was supportive and loyal and kind. He still found her attractive and could satisfy her physical needs in his predictable but effective way. He respected her need for female companionship and took care of her migraines the morning after book/wine and cheese nights with her friends.

    Lira lived vicariously through Terry. Her marriage produced the children she wanted by divorcing the man she referred to as the sperm donor and lived her life on her own terms. She dated when she wanted to date, had sex when she wanted to have sex and didn’t have to sleep next to a noisy CPAP machine if she didn’t want to.

“I got what I wanted. He can make his own coffee in his own kitchen”. Terry had responded to Lira’s question about feeling lonely the morning afterwards.

Lira lay back down on the grass and stretched her arms and legs out like a starfish. She imagined doing this in her own bed and what it would feel like to roll over and not have somebody there.

Once upon a time, Terry wanted a life like Lira’s. Not her life exactly, but it would have been nice to have financial stability, some savings and a partner that adored her and wanted to be part of her children’s lives. She hadn’t found her person. She used to think that she needed a man and she had tried several on for size but she didn’t really know what to do with them once she got bored. She figured that when she found the one that could hold her attention, she would know. After 52 years, she wasn’t waiting. Her biological clock stopped ticking, and in her retirement, she wanted to work in a bookstore and live in a house with a lanai with her single girlfriends a la Golden Girls. She tucked her breast back into her leotard.

Lira thought Terry couldn’t be happy without a man. Terry thought Lira didn’t know what it was like to exist without one.

“I’ve been on my own too long, Lira. I don’t think I could live with someone again”. Terry declared. Lira had often felt like Terry could read her mind. “Enzo texted me for my birthday”.

Enzo was Terry’s kryptonite. Even though they hadn’t been together for years, it took one half-ass salutation to turn Terry into everything she didn’t want to be. Enzo was old fashioned and opinionated and rude to anyone that took Terry away from him. Terry knew they were better apart and they had broken up and made up more times than Lira wanted to remember, but when Terry said “I will love him forever”, she meant it but she put her own needs before Enzo’s and Lira admired her friend’s strength.

Once upon a time she promised that she would love Stuart forever too. But loving someone and being in love with someone were very different things. After 19 years with one person how was she supposed to feel? For the longest time, Stuart gave her butterflies. She smiled when she saw his name on the call display and she felt butterflies when she heard the garage door opening when he arrived at home. Anticipation was replaced with expectation and reliability. There was a comfort in that and wasn’t that what everyone wanted? A partner for life?

    Terry spotted her missing sandal a few meters away and rolled her way to it. “You ready for the Uber?”

    Lira gathered their things and stood up. She wasn’t in a rush to get back to her life. She knew what was waiting for her there. Terry slipped on her sandal and thought about the Prince Charming that she joked was making his way across the world to her on foot. She responded to Enzo with, “Thanks” effectively eliminating the need for further communication.

    Their driver was 3 minutes away in a Honda Civic.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This