Corresponding Shapes
by Annakovsky

"So, you're cheating on me, then?" Billy Boyd asked conversationally. He had just pulled open the curtains of the hotel room and stood looking out with his hands behind his back. It was autumn.

Margot stretched on the bed, all post-coital and naked and white against the graying hotel sheets. Her eyeliner was smudged. "I'm married," she pointed out. "I'm not cheating on you, I'm cheating with you."

Billy had met Margot three months before at the party of a mutual friend, who worked in theater in New York.

"This is Margot Tenenbaum," the friend had said. "The playwright. She's a genius."

Margot, expressionless, had taken a martini from the server walking by with a tray. "Was a genius," she had said.

"Then what are you now?" Billy had asked.

"Nothing," she had said, taking a sip. "Or anyway, no one knows."

They had fucked in the cloakroom forty-five minutes later.

Margot rolled onto her side and propped her head on her hand to look at him. He was wearing dark trousers and a white dress shirt with the first few buttons left undone, having just returned from getting ice. The ice was now melting in the bucket on the side table and leaving rings of condensation on the wood. He had not yet turned to look at her. "Besides," she continued, "you're cheating on me, aren't you?"

"Not technically," Billy said. Technically, he got occasional drunken handjobs from Dom, but he hadn't thought she knew about that. He walked to the bed and sat on its edge, his back to her. There were small brown flowers on the bedspread.

"You're sleeping with Eli Cash, aren't you?" Billy said. The bedclothes felt rough under his hands, rough and cheap.

Margot didn't answer.

"His books aren't even very good," Billy said, hunching his shoulders.

"That's not really relevant," she said.

"It's a little relevant," Billy said. He looked over his shoulder at her. Her face was the same expressionless pale that it always was, her eyes ringed in black and lips turned down. "Why are you so sad, anyway?" Billy said.

"Why are you?" Margot returned.

Dom's face flashed into Billy's mind, but he shook it away and said, "I'm not sad."

"You're not really a hobbit, you know," Margot said. "You don't have to be happy all the time like it's a job."

"I'm not," Billy said. After a moment, he clarified. "Happy all the time. Or a hobbit. Or sad."

"What are you, then?" Margot asked.

"Nothing," he said. "I'm not anything." He swung his legs up onto the bed and laid on his back beside her, close, but not touching. He focused on the spider web he could see in a corner, gray and dingy. "You have a talent for sucking all the emotions out of a room," he said.

"That's what you like about me," she said, rolling onto her back so she was staring up at the ceiling next to him. "You only like to have emotions when you're pretending to be someone else."

"That's not true," he said. He twisted his hands in the sheets. "I don't like anything about you."

She reached over and took his hand, her fingers warm and dry as they threaded through his. She transferred their linked hands to her breast so his thumb rested on her nipple. He moved it gently back and forth, stroking her softly.

"Sometimes I wish I could pretend to be someone else all the time," Billy said softly.

"Who would you be?" Margot asked. She rolled onto her side, facing him, and moved her bare leg over his.

"Don't know," he said. He shrugged with one shoulder, his hand moving down to trace one of her ribs. "An astronaut."


"Dunno. They're... y'know, firm and resolute. And they have those helmets."

"Adequate head protection is important," she said.

"And seeing earth from space, that'd be cool, I guess."

She was breathing very evenly, calmly, looking at him with large, melancholy eyes. "Everything looks perfect from far away," she said.


"It's a song."

"Oh," he said. His finger traced around her belly button. "Who would you be?"

Margot was quiet for a long time. Finally she said, "My brother had a bird. Mordecai. A falcon. He would fly it off our roof."

"You'd be Mordecai?" Billy asked.

Margot didn't answer, just leaned in and began kissing him, her tongue in his mouth and her hands unbuttoning his shirt.

When she moved to kiss down his jaw line, Billy said in a low voice, "Do you kiss Eli Cash to shut him up too?"

Margot stopped kissing him, but didn't move, her breath warm and damp on his cheek. Finally she rolled away from him, turning onto her back to stare up at the ceiling again. "Yes," she said.

"Does it work?" Billy asked, not moving.

"Mostly," she said. The ceiling was white with black specks. "Do you kiss Dom?"

"No," Billy said, too quickly. In the next room, someone was watching CNN with the sound turned up too loud. Billy could hear the reporter talking in a serious voice, and thought, Journalistic integrity. "Actually, yes," he said. "Sometimes."

"Does it shut him up?" she asked.

"Nothing shuts up Dom," Billy said. The bed creaked underneath him as he shifted slightly, putting one hand behind his head. The light coming into the room was the pale, cool light of October, and Margot looked sallow and washed out. "In fact," he said, "I think he is the opposite of you in every way."

"That's what you like about him," Margot said.

"No," Billy said, "that's what I like about you."

Margot turned her head and looked at him without expression. After a moment she pushed herself up from the bed and walked over to the table, picking up her pack of cigarettes and taking one out.

"Are you in love with Eli?" Billy asked, sitting up.

Margot looked at him oddly. "No. What kind of a question is that?"

"A normal one," Billy said.

Margot put the cigarette between her lips and lit it. She took a drag and blew out smoke. "Why, are you in love with Dom?"

Billy shrugged, then said, "What do you care?"

"I don't, particularly." Margot sat in the chair and kept smoking, crossing one bare leg over the other. Outside the window, a gust of wind blew red and gold leaves from an oak tree.

"What are we doing?" Billy said, almost to himself.

Margot propped her chin on her hand. "We're having an affair," she said. "Unless you don't want to anymore."

Billy scratched the scruff on his chin and didn't answer.

Margot took another drag on the cigarette and tapped her wooden finger against the side of the table. "If you love Dom, you should just go be with Dom," she said.

"I don't love Dom," Billy muttered. "I don't know what you're on about."

Margot smoked her cigarette.

"Besides," Billy said, "I think he's fucking Elijah."

Margot breathed out a cloud of smoke. "So?"

"So, I'm not you," Billy said tightly.

Margot put her cigarette out in the ashtray, long white fingers grinding it down. Then she got up, and began to dress. "That's true. But on the other hand, you're here, aren't you?" she said.

Billy watched her put her striped dress back on and re-clip the green plastic barrette in her hair. "I am here," he said softly.

She picked up her fur coat and put it on. "Same time next week, then?" she asked.

Billy nodded and she slipped out the door without looking back. "I am here," he repeated to himself. In a cheap hotel room with a rumpled bed and ice melting in a pool on the table, the ashtray wafting smoke. He went to the window and looked down at the street below. Margot was walking quickly away, her hair yellow and slightly mussed in back.

Once he saw her turn the corner, he put on his shoes and went to follow. The door clicked gently shut behind him.


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