by Chelsea Voulgares
As Jorie stands with Mike in the Holiday Inn parking lot, she feels like a teenager. She hasn’t been alone with a man (other than her husband) in years. It’s July 3rd, and Mike unwraps a bottle rocket. The packaging is near pornographic—a bikini-clad woman tosses her hair, lips parted. Ice cracks in Jorie’s gin and tonic. The fuzzy effect of the booze tingles through her neck, her back, her groin.
They haven’t slept together yet. Mike’s wife left him, and Jorie’s husband has been cheating for months. They agreed to meet here at the hotel after texts, phone calls, and a long talk at the neighborhood block party. She wanted to go straight upstairs. Mike, though, needed a celebration, just them, since tomorrow at the town fireworks they’ll pretend to ignore each other.
Mike finally sets the firecracker in an empty Coke bottle and strikes his lighter. While the fuse burns, he puts his warm hand on the small of her back. The firecracker flares, then shoots away from its holder in a bright and blinding, sulfur-scented spark. Jorie closes her eyes and lets a phantom light dance there, counting to herself as the gunpowder booms above them.
Chelsea Voulgares’s fiction has appeared recently in JMWW, Passages North, New World Writing, and Jellyfish Review. She is the Editor in Chief of Lost Balloon.