Molly opens her eyes with the kettle already shuddering left on the highest heat. The man with the Turkish press gone on his way to the bakery which just reopened after a month of never mind the rats repair. He says he does not trust the coffee to her now even several days in to this close the curtains kind of friendship. Each night arriving after the traffic slows, a scene in which hard angles melt on her soft face.

With a Frenchman here who is not really French, she knows. She smiles at the man’s compensatory goldfish on the dresser, swimming around a miniature Eiffel Tower. Molly never laughs when her lips are nude now on the daylight side of the end of an evening. Always with a sheen, a sweaty layer between dust and pale pale skin. Her feet stretch beyond the end of the coverlet. Made up face smudged across the pillow.

She holds many hands, always tightly but not for long or too long with the loose grip of masculine mediocrity. She knows mediocrity, especially past midnight. The Frenchman liked it short and tight and she tended to agree. As fake Frenchmen do, he thinks he should seem particular but knowing. To make her feel like a big catch, like she’s French right along beside.

Dead flies in honey and all so smooth
talk ropes around again the one who is smarter
than tomorrow and damn prettier too

Giggling through her nose, she rubs herself into his pajama bottoms and throws on the man’s robe he left wet on the bathroom floor.

She lights his thin cigar from the previous night. Puts on the record too that makes her hop on the balls of her long feet. Her toes crack against the peeling linoleum. Flecks of gold. She steps on sharp, stale crumbs but can’t feel them through the rough working skin of her heel. She liked the way they met, downtown past two am. At the club several days ago.

Between friends she said, him too. He got a drink on the house. After her last dance, last serve she began tugging at the light switches in the front. He stayed, but shy like a younger man. Innocent enough that she sent her bar back home before she saw him in the shadows. He slipped her a blank piece of paper shaped like a business card. But not. An address written in thick black cursive. Smudged with a large thumbprint. Slow night, she didn’t even look at his face. Just took his hand and said come here a little closer. Briefly, she didn’t feel so dull.

After the croissant breakfast she’ll slide back into her working dress and hum her way to the other side of the river. A freshly painted peck on each of his cheeks. And one for the hollow bust of Sartre he proudly boasts on the chipped mantle of the fireplace that does not work. Maybe I’ll see you tonight, honey. Get some fresh air. She lives alone, somehow paying enough tribute to a landlord end of every month by offering to clean out vacant apartments. Closet favors.

There must be more than one way
sway like that red polished rocking chair
on her mother’s sandy porch

The length of a city summer day is measured in blocks walked with the French friend through sunset in the park where the jazz concerts give sound. The lost men on the street don’t bother her any more, with him drooling at her kitten heels. She still gives them a piece of change or two and a smile. He dismisses the kindness as weakness. She dismisses his weakness as could be love.

Laughing to the louder noises their bodies make with the curtains open. That full mirror moon reflecting back their heat to the other side of the Atlantic. Molly has stopped missing the fishy smells of home. Forgotten her lingering attachments. She lights a candle in his window every evening and lets it burn all the way down. Still awake and dripping.

The city is covered in velvet these days. Heavy afternoons waiting to be cut open. She still shakes all that for the rowdy now, even knowing something better. Head over the ice to cool boiling notions. The shifts drag on she thinks of him, potentials and odds. Calculating the drop of her penny in the fountain of all that. The other gentlemen drop jaw at her loyalty. The fast integrity of her. Sure could use a woman like Molly.

I’ll teach you how to collect old things from Wednesday morning trash heaps on the fancy side of the village. Cloudy champagne flutes chipped with browning lipstick round the rim. A kitchen chair only needs a good recaning. Ripped paintings of women in repose. See how each one is so peaceful, so pastel? How could anyone think to throw these women away? He tugs at her bobbing hair and kisses between her ear and the collar of the blue blouse he likes best. We will take them home and frame them and love them like you love me. Begging her to come repose just for him back in the park. Grass stains on the frame of her hipbones. Late for work, girl. Her mother says through the receiver what ahr you thinking?

They don’t just listen to his records. They dance together now in bare feet and embrace for a while before they fuck the sun up. Slower pace now and she wants to tell him how he should be pronouncing her name. French or no, Molly is no Chanel. Likes to think she’s better than that, but who is she kidding.

She remembers her singing voice and lullabies the man. She brings her mother’s old slippers over to stay. Calls her his well fed fox as she shimmies to the table for another bakery breakfast and says he will never let her leave. But I’m still hungry.

She pretends to read the comics on the Subway. Never been so sad when the moon starts to shrink again. Why should it shrink now when it has the whole bowl of the sky to grow up inside? She still fears the dark. Enjoying the stare of her reflection in the river. She is dipped in silver.

Go harder for
find that glamorous life that pays the bills
sticking the punishment if the crime drowns her all
or loves enough

In love is when Molly gets careless and the hunters tip higher for the sake of her swoon. She is given a real faux fur from Mr. Owns Me. Moon on the half. She offers the knee length coat to the Frenchman with nothing but her self underneath.

To thank me, silly, for all the care I take with his thirsty boys. Don’t worry sugar; I won’t be at that lousy place forever. Wouldn’t you like to rescue this little minx? She’ll love you forever. Rescue you right back, you sad little cabbage.

The swoop of her nose is a perfect fit for the heel of a smooth man’s hand. A warm tongue of fresh blood collecting in her dimples. Not worth a cry because she expects every little thing that arrives with midnight knowing how to be what he wants her to be.

The swoop of her nose is perfect for wide, hard lips. He takes her down to the floor on the coat where it lay, where she pretends to pretend just to piss him off. She knew he wanted naked and thankful. She can entertain the fact that he wants to bare his teeth but won’t return for a night or two just to show him who she is. Who she is capable of being.

On the bar her collarbones protrude with the slightest distance from shoulder to chin. Her bones are thick under tender skin and bruises fade to the color of her nipples. The rust of tidal rocks. A finger under the jaw means she’s figured you out. Clasping in her lap means she has won the hand. He will never see her so sure as when he thinks he has hurt her the most. She will never admit that she does not mind being lonely so long as she is entertained. Molly will leave when she is good and done.

Her bleeding heart fingernails dig into the curve of her own waist. She’s waiting behind his bathroom door when he returns late from another place. New stars forming under no moon. Her vanilla pudding thighs in high heat. The Frenchman flicks on his bedside lamp and casts a shadow across her painted toes. Hello darlin. From her aging hands, Sartre crashes into his pale face. Head to head. Nose to nose.

I know a suspicious doctor mustache and all
He knows how to cut straight and lace a corset
fix your face and your accent

He bleeds fast, loudly whining himself onto the tidied bed onto the satin footstool in the corner. At home, a man may have hit her right back then learned to love just a little smarter. Slow burn and biting her tongue. Molly drops the neck of a philosopher. Slicks back his hair. Pulls tight, taking his thin cigar from where it has set fire to his rusty splatter on the floor. Drags the smoke through her teeth.

Loie Merritt is a writer and mixed media artist currently residing in Boulder, Colorado. Recent work has appeared in Lemon Hound, The Cafe Review, The Thought Erotic, and Blinders Journal among others.