Sharks Won't Stay Asleep
A stained mattress, a lamp without a shade, a pair of tarnished silver candlesticks, chunks of candle wax melted down the sides of each stick and stuck to the surface of a beat-up dresser. This made up the surroundings of Wind's old room. Daria had not taken shelter here since high school. Wind had stripped it of all useable objects after the fourth divorce. That much had been made clear when Daria found an overdue bill on the mattress for marriage counseling dated back to 2010. She gave Wind a silent prayer because despite being an atheist she felt he needed the pity as the old bill crinkled under her clenching fist. She licked her lips when she reminded herself that she really feared the end of her own relationship and did not care much for the brother-in-law she would probably never have. Never have.
Daria shuddered at the thought as she tripped forward on her shoe. Her whole body hurled towards the ratty carpet below. Her elbows landed first followed by the rest of her. Her hair was the last to trail behind as it splashed over her back in Auburn streaks. She sighed at the strain in her arms as the pain crawled up into her shoulders.
As if the room was answering back a paper fell on her head.
She blew it off from where it hung on her forehead by a fold.
"Not now." Daria shouted when a knock came to the door.
The deed to the house fell in front of her as the door swung open.
"Daria what're you doing in here?"
He reached a hand down to help her up.
"I've taken a vow of celibacy and this was the only convent willing to take me."
Trent smirked, "I can't think of what's sadder. Wind crying in this room or how the room looks now."
"Well it's always been here for him."
"Why are you here?"
"Janey spilled her guts to me."
"That's usually my job." Daria's grip tightened on the deed hidden behind her back.
"I know it got pretty awkward. That's why I've come looking for you."
Daria backed up.
"I found this in your stuff. It was shoved in the back seat of my car under all your shirts."
Daria nearly fainted at the sight of it as the room spun around Trent's hand. A gold band with a twisting pattern of tiger stripes engraved over the circlet was pinched between Trent's fingers. She reached for what was left of the bed and landed without grace. She felt beads of sweat prickle her forehead, "Why were you cleaning out your car?"
"We're moving Daria! Now explain this."
Daria had never seen Trent capable of so much rage as his eyes narrowed down at her. She felt her stomach drop to her feet as she reached for the ring. He ignored her reach for it. She bit down on her tongue to hold back the water in her eyes. The blood trickled out of the nick she made with her teeth. Trent dug his socked feet into the carpet. Daria swallowed, "It was- IS for JANE."
"You want to marry her?"
"I had it made when we were still in Boston and I was supposed to give it to her at the Sox game."
"Janey doesn't like baseball."
"That is not why. You would have to know the meaning behind all that to understand."
"Wait she said you were supposed to go see one because you had never been there before."
"She is the one whose wanted to go see a live baseball game. She was too embarrassed to tell you so she blamed it on me."
"So you were going to use it as an excuse to propose to her?"
"Yeah and then we went and got hit by a car a week later. I had tickets for the week after and I was going to surprise her."
"But there's more?"
"I have told you what you wanted to know. Is that not enough?"
"Of course not. You've been moping around this house for months and you won't do us the decency of explaining why."
"Jane may not ever be able to paint again Trent and I put her on that bike."
"You're lying. I can see it when your lip twitches like that. Whatever it is you've been hiding spill it now."
"I have not even reached out to Jane about all this."
"I know. That's what's ruining you both."
"Snarkerbergs offered me a position outside Boston and my coworker got jealous. He got into a fist fight with me in the break room and we were both sent home on unpaid leave."
Trent handed the ring over.
He turned his back to her, "Fix this Daria."
Wind's door closed.
Daria felt the grooves in the gold band as she imagined picking it up from the jeweler. The glass windows had been stained with rain from the day before and the Boston Summer had been so muggy that day that the shirt Daria had on pasted to her sweat soaked body. She had walked three miles so Jane would not see the car gone. She had been careful to send Jane away from home for the day just in case. The jeweler was an ebony skinned woman with a thick afro of dark hair pulled back by a fuchsia scarf. Whiskey colored eyes were set into the creases of her beautiful face as she prepared the box for Daria's order. Daria mumbled like an idiot when she handed over her credit card and the jeweler simply smiled in return. They never exchanged more than a glance with Daria so nervous. The jeweler finally said, "I'm sure she'll do just fine whoever the lucky lady is but if you hand over a ring looking like that she won't trust in your confidence." Daria was taken aback by the jeweler getting so familiar with her and grumbled in her general direction as she signed the receipt. She stared into the inside of the wedding band and saw the quote engraved into it, "Life is very long. -T.S. Elliot."
The light flickered in the lamp and the bulb went out. Daria fell asleep in the dark as she sunk into the bed. The insides of her eyelids showed yellow spots. The spots floated across as she fell deeper and deeper into dreams. Her general awareness faded as the edges of oblivion became known by flashes of a happier time. Jane was there. They were cornered against a brick wall by the groping of each other's bodies as their clothes went missing. This brick wall stood adjacent to a small kitchen where the oven filled the open loft with the smell of roasting turkey. When all the clothes were spread around them the timer beeped. Daria groaned at the sound just as Jane bit her neck.
"It'll burn." Jane said.
"Mmmrm." Daria rolled out from under Jane, grabbing for her shirt.
After slipping on the shirt she grabbed the oven mitts and pulled the roast out.
Jane walked naked across the floor to snake her arms around Jane's waist.
"Did you make potatoes?"
"With lots of butter. Just how you like it."
"There's baby spinach in the salad bowl."
"Blue cheese dressing?"
Jane dipped a finger in the cup of dressing on the counter and circled Daria's lips, smothering it with dressing, and taking a bite of Daria. Daria managed to lay out some plates before losing her shirt again.
"The roast will get cold." Daria murmured between mouthfuls of Jane.
Daria chuckled and pushed Jane out of the way while she got dinner on the table. When Jane took a seat at the table Daria wandered into the other room to get out something she had hid under the mattress of their queen-sized bed. The gold band dropped onto the floor and made a clatter on the wood. Daria's hands shook.
"Daria?" Jane called from the kitchen.
"Coming!" Daria shoved the band back under the mattress and sighed.
"What's wrong?" Daria asked as Jane came out from the hallway past their bathroom door.
Daria blushed, "Nothing."
She felt her cheeks heat up and could feel that same fever carry into 2012. Daria woke up and said to herself, "I've tried to propose twice now. Maybe my third time will be a charm."
She curled her hand around the band and felt the weight of it for the first time. Daria pawed the wall with her feet in the dark. She could smell the mold in the wall and the carpet with it. A heavy sigh and she was up off the mattress. She could hear the Tank's engine outside. She wanted to go back and hide in Wind's room. She could hear yelling down the hall.
"We go tomorrow. I won't stay here another day." Jane bellowed from inside her bedroom.
"But Janey." Trent whined as she heard Trent's books drop into a box.
"Jesse already offered his extra bedroom and a couch."
"Janey we can stay in this house at least until they're ready to put it on the market."
Daria jerked against the wall in the hallway, "bad idea, bad idea, bad idea."
Daria slapped her hands over her mouth. Jane came creeping out into the dark hall. Daria started to run back towards Wind's room. The wedding band dropped and bounced off the carpet onto Jane's foot. She saw the gold shimmer when Daria tried to reach for it. Jane's eyes bugged out of her skull when she saw the engravings inside and out. The tiger stripes caused her eyes to narrow, going back and forth from Daria to the ring.
"Ugh, Jane will you marry me?"
Jane's eyes curved up like half-moons and her smile twisted down. She slipped the ring on her left finger once her right hand was all the way out of its sling.
"Well it fits." Jane said.
"I-" Daria started to speak when Jane's lips locked on her.
Later that morning started with boxes being flung into all three cars as Jesse, Max, and Nicholas helped Trent load what little they would keep. The rest of the furniture was being hauled away by a junk collection agency, including the remains of Wind's bedroom. Daria silently thanked that lamp with no shade as it was carried out by a uniformed woman. She made sure to keep watch over Jane so the bad arm would not see any use. It all seemed unreal when she heard the door to Tank slam.