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Myra said, “I fall a lot. Inside myself, I mean.”

Henry stared. She wondered if he would get it. Probably not. And yet…she leaned forward.

“I saw a clip on Facebook the other day about a guy who has no arms or legs, so when he falls, he’s like, you know, a turtle on its back. He twists and bounces until he rights himself. That’s the secret, he says, you don’t let yourself stay down.” She smiled beseechingly.

Henry nodded. He fiddled with his watch. He didn’t reach for his phone, lying black and seductive on the table, but Myra saw the longing in his eyes.

They’d gotten together through a dating site. Henry was such a catch she was surprised he’d responded to her profile. But her description wasn’t too shabby either. She was still young – though she’d fudged her age a little – and not bad looking, a curvy, green-eyed blond. She had a decent job selling real estate. Somehow that job brought out the best in her. She had a certain knack for reading people, for knowing what home they needed, where they would flourish.

She’d been so excited about this evening. Her mom had helped her look for the perfect dress. Since her dad had vanished, they’d been a team. Mom would grill her each time she met a guy. “Did you feel it, did you feel that spark? When the right one comes along, you’ll feel the spark.”

Mom tried to be optimistic, but she worried. Something in Myra hadn’t been switched on. She wasn’t sending out. She wasn’t receiving.

“Seen any good films lately?” Myra said, fluttering her lashes.

“I’m a busy guy. Don’t have much time for films.”

She hurried to excuse him. “I know, I know…me neither. Besides, what’s the fun of sitting in those tiny, boxy halls? No glamour. My mom told me when she was young the cinemas were as fancy as opera houses. Glittering chandeliers, plush upholstery, red and gold paper on the walls.”

“Uh, huh,” said Henry. He puffed air between his lips, whistling a little. “I’m working on a case, a big one. Gotta get up early.”

“Oh sure, oh sure…we can go now if you want.”

“No rush.” His eyes swiveled, searching for the waiter. “You want coffee, dessert?”

“Too late for coffee if I want to sleep, but maybe…”

“Over here, bill,” said Henry, snapping his fingers.

Myra fell. She slid from behind her smile and plummeted. It always amazed her how quickly she hit bottom. She sprawled there, gasping for breath.

When Henry paid, he’d expect her to be ready, the easygoing woman he’d come in with. Get up, she urged herself, get up, get up.

“Turtle” was published in MacQueen’s Quinterly.


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