This one is for Jacky Hillary, because it’s been too long.
A measure of voice (284 words)
“Are you sitting comfortably?”
Cello exhales gently, and listens to a long indrawn breath on the other end. Rust clears her throat and continues.
“It was not the first time they had had such a conversation, and the room grew warm as their voices heated it.”
Cello closes her eyes and sags back in her chair. She has already drawn her knees up, elbows pulled in, ready to be rocked gently by the low waves of Rust’s quavering voice. With her eyes shut, she can hear every flicker of hesitation in the recital, every pause for breath or to swallow, the faint tick of the watch underneath the sound of voice.
Her limbs grow heavy as the story rolls over her, more words than she has heard all day, and she presses the phone close to her ear to catch every vibration.
“… took off their clothes and moved forward, slow and wavering like tree lizards, towards the water, a dull penny under the milk-puddle sky.”
Her own watch drones with the barely-perceptible hum of electrical fields that she feels, rather than hears. At midnight she will wind it, ready for tomorrow, but for now it shivers with four last words. Cello is paid well to spend her voice all day, but she always makes sure to reserve a little for this.
“Another chapter tomorrow,” Rust says at last, after what seems no time at all. She must have read longer than she meant to; they never leave each other so brusquely. “Goodnight.”
Cello takes a deep breath. “Goodnightloveyou,” she says all in one gasp, as if saying it fast enough could fool the watch. It doesn’t, and her watch ticks down to one.