He tells Beth to come in, but she doesn't hear him. She is looking at a dandelion, standing on his porch. His name is Jason, and he tells her to come in again, only figures louder. He always tells her to come in, that his door is always open.

Eleven months ago, she saw him singing at a charity where she taught elementary music. She introduced herself, and he asked her for her number.

His place smells like polish. He is always waxing. His tiled floor, his wooden table, the keys of his piano. Yesterday, before Beth came, he was waxing his friend David's new Toyota. Dave moved in a couple months ago, having come from California, where he was renting jet-skis that skimmed the surface of the ocean.

Beth goes inside, where Jason is strumming his guitar. He is lightly singing. He is always singing, writing and recording. David has a day job, working with computers. He used to be a drummer, played in Jason's band. Beth teaches children at an elementary school. She is teaching music.

When David first flew in, Beth retrieved him from the airport. Jason was off, singing in New Jersey. There was something calm, reserved in David that she really liked, that she hadn't seen in Jason. She didn't tell this to anyone, surely not to Jason. After he came back, the three of them did many things together, like renting movies, making dinner, going to the gym or to the park. They created music. Every morning, after they woke up, they sat around the table, drinking cups of sweetened coffee.

She slept with Jason almost every night. There was something perceptive in him when he was in bed, when he was her lover. He was giving, and he listened. But, apart from that, he kept a certain distance that she couldn't define. She asked him about it once, and he couldn't define it either. But things seemed to be ok, and then there would be laughs and hints of gentleness. They were around David.

Then David met Rebecca. There was a newness to their group, to their dynamic. He met her seven weeks ago, when the three of them were at the park, eating sandwiches from Subway. She was pale and striking, wore the faintest color on her lips, sported pinkish make-up. She was a mountain climber, and she had a thing for dancing. David said hello and that was it. The two of them were together, like sugarcoated pretzels. Beth found it sweet and charming, but it reminded her of going to the pet store, where she wanted to hold the cutest puppy, but she knew that once she brought it home, it would be something different. She figured a small part of her was jealous.

Yesterday, Beth went inside when the door was open. She walked around, trying to find Jason. When she walked into his room, she saw Rebecca and Jason underneath the covers of his bed. They were underneath the silken sheets that Beth's mother had given her two years ago for Christmas. Now her mother's dead.

- - -

Now, Beth is in Jason's home, and she is looking. She thinks she really sees him. His hair is brown and curly, and his blue eyes are hot with red. She sees what is going on. She's thinking of Rebecca. She's thinking about David. She is outside of this arrangement.

She thinks about when the four of them were all together, as if they were a family. Beth and Rebecca became friends. Rebecca brought out something new in Beth that she found exciting. She found Rebecca free and daring. Beth found herself plain and ordinary, as if she had been lacking.

She wonders about seeing them again: David, Jason, and Rebecca. This is a threat, it scares her. She might see them at the grocery store or maybe when she's running, or maybe she'll see them at the park when she might be walking Oreo, her neighbor's German Shepherd.

Now Beth is seeing Jason. She really is not looking. She's giving him his keys. She has not told David about what happened with Jason and Rebecca. She doesn't want to get between them. She has mentioned this to Jason, and he says absolutely nothing.

Beth looks upstairs and she smells perfume belonging to a woman. She knows this woman is Rebecca. Jason tells her that he's sorry. She says goddamn, you should be. He hands over her dirty pair of Roller Blades, and gives her his new CD, his latest compilation. She has been very loyal, his most perceptive critic. Jason says that David helped him with his lyrics, that he helped him tweak the sound, record it. She already knows this. She is thinking about David. She does not know what to say.

She takes Jason's new CD, even saying thank you. She really wants to hear it. She knows she will be hurting. She hopes she isn't tempted. She drives away. She is talking to herself. She is shouting. She will never listen.

About the author:

Kim Chinquee's stories have appeared in Noon, North Dakota Quarterly, Denver Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, Confrontation, Cottonwood, and other journals. She lives in Illinois.