“I don’t regret it.  I don’t mind being that person I was with you tonight, Elliot.  For the right reasons…the right person…I don’t mind being her.”

She had regretted every second of the one hour and thirteen minutes she had been locked in the car with Elliot.  The first step she took out of her apartment building, the instant she caught sight of his nervous smile on the other side of the rolled up car window, the moment she pulled open the sun-warmed car door, she knew it was a mistake to purposely erase any of their limited amount of time apart from each other before they had to show up for work on Monday morning.  They needed to think, to sort through moments that so far seemed unable to be sorted through, and to figure out what in the hell they had done, why they had done it, and how they could stop it from happening again.

She had regretted every second of the one hour and thirteen minutes she had been locked in the car with Elliot.  And she had regretted each one because throughout their drive, she hadn’t been able to make herself regret a single second of time before she willingly, albeit reluctantly, slid into the passenger’s side of Elliot’s dust-laden Jeep.

“You know, I was thinking… It’s Sunday somewhere.”

“Yeah, I guess it is.”

“Got any plans tonight?”

“Elliot.  I thought we decided—” 

“We’ve gotta eat, right?  And that crab place I told you about, we could be there in an hour.”

“An hour, uh huh.  That’s if we actually make it out of my apartment.”

“We’ll make it.  C’mon, Liv.  Ask me about the crabs.”

She was supposed to regret it, every touch and unfamiliar sensation and second of enjoyment.  She was supposed to regret whom she had so eagerly been with and every hasty excuse she had convinced herself to believe that made it seem okay to be with him.  She was supposed to regret her lack of control, and how easily she had let what she had known was wrong win out over what she had known was right.  She was supposed to regret all of it.

But she didn’t.

Even though she knew that she should.


The web of mangled fishnets sagged above the peanut shell-littered floor.  The black maze looped over thick beams across the ceiling and swirled down dulled, notched logs of wood that were placed sporadically, from floor to ceiling, throughout the room.  Tables topped with red and white-checkered cloths were placed unsystematically across the scuffed tile floor, not in rows or patterns or evenly, but as if they were regularly pushed and shoved and moved and left in whatever location they happened to land in.

Olivia made it only halfway through the squeaky hinged door before coming to a determined stop, her fingers curving around the splintering doorframe, keeping her locked in place with one foot having crossed over the raised threshold and the other still planted firmly on the top cracked concrete step outside.

“You’ve gotta be kidding,” she murmured, her words attached to a heavy, disbelieving breath as she squinted, allowing her eyes time to adjust to the dim lighting in the room before shifting them in Elliot’s direction.  She scrunched her nose, turning her head to the side as the strong odor of fish whirled around her, engulfed her, and immediately adhered itself to her.  “We drove an hour out of the city for this?”  She ran the back of her hand beneath her nose, her dark brows dipping harshly.  “This place is a breeding ground for salmonella.”

“It’s the best seafood in the state,” Elliot returned, unhooking her whitened fingers from around the doorframe and pushing her through an ungainly step into the one-room restaurant.  “It’s not Uncle Mack’s, but if it’s crabs you want, I can guarantee you’ll get them here.”

“Is that a proposition, or are you talking from personal experience?” she muttered under her breath, making a half-turn to dislodge Elliot’s hand from the small of her back.

“A proposition… That’d be backtracking, don’t you think?”

Olivia rolled her eyes, hooking her arms across her chest and hugging them against her.  “Would it have killed you to take me somewhere nice?  Somewhere I don’t have to disinfect the silverware before using it?”

“Who said they have silverware?” Elliot asked, raising an eyebrow teasingly.  He nudged her shoulder with his, stifling his laughter as hers emerged as a whisper.  “Somewhere nice, that’s where you want to go?”  He nodded, just once, as sternly as agreeably.  “Name the time and place, and I’ll take you.  Anywhere you want to go.”

“Anywhere?”  She took a step back, studying him, silently dissecting his oddly—and rarely seen—calm demeanor.  “That was too easy.  What’s the catch?”

“No catch.”

She laughed, her voice dissipating into the continuous clanks of silverware against Formica-topped tables, muffled chatter of other patrons, and the sporadic, raised voices of the restaurant staff as orders were shouted out by identically dressed waitresses and then reiterated by gruff-looking, unshaven cooks who had sweat beaded across their flushed foreheads and bulging biceps peeking out from beneath rolled sleeves of grease stained t-shirts.

“But a little advice?” Elliot said, moving his face closer to hers.  “I don’t suggest using the bathrooms around here, much less, you know, doing anything else in them.”

“You’re a cocky son of a bitch,” Olivia returned.  “But just so you know, I didn’t wear the bra.”

“What about the garter belt?”

“Tossed it in the garbage on my way out of my building tonight.”

He crossed his arms, dropping his chin downward as he swayed toward her, his shoulder once again bumping into hers.  “What day of the week does your trash get picked up?”

“You’d dig through my trash to find that thing?”  She chuckled, giving a quick shake of her head.  “That’s an all time low, El, even for you.”

“Yeah, well, it’s a helluva garter belt.”

Olivia glanced around the room, her lips tightening into a grimace as she surveyed the half-eaten food that remained in oval-shaped plastic baskets on the occupied tables.  “So, I take it we seat ourselves?  A hostess is too much to hope for, right?”

“Just pick a table,” Elliot returned, nodding toward an unoccupied, square-shaped table in the darkest corner of the room with a checkered tablecloth draped crookedly over it.  “That one look good?”

Olivia shrugged, taking off ahead of Elliot and muttering, “As good as any,” as she zigzagged through the maze of Formica and nearly dilapidated, metal-base chairs.  She avoided making eye contact with the uninterested stares that followed her across the room, and dropped down quickly in a bright red vinyl upholstered chair.  Slapping her hands down on the tabletop as the chair swayed jerkily beneath her, she leaned to her right, lowering her head and studying the uneven legs as the blunt ends of three clanked against the floor and the fourth remained hovering above the dirty tile.

She glanced up, meeting Elliot’s amused smile with a deadpan stare as she balanced herself by tightening her fingers around the sticky edge of the table.  “You’re serious, we’re eating here?” she asked, unlatching her fingers, one by one, from the gummy periphery.  Flattening her palms on top of her thighs, she rubbed her hands back and forth over the dark blue denim.

“It’s the best seafood in the state.”

“Yeah,” she said, dragging her hands one last time down the length of her thighs.  “So you’ve said.”

“Just give it a try, huh?  Save the bitching until after we eat.”

Olivia leaned back in the chair, her eyes widening a fraction.  “Bitching?” she asked, adding a disgruntled laugh.

“Yeah.  You’ve been bitching since we walked in.”

“I haven’t been bitching, only stating the obvious.”  She arched her eyebrows, her face draining of all traces of emotion and registering only exhaustion.  “This place is a dump.”

“It has character.”

“Oh, that’s what you call it?”  She laughed, glancing down at the dirt-stained palms of her hands.  “Elliot, I doubt this table has been wiped down in the last six months.  You may call that character, but I call it jeopardizing my health.”

“So, what?  We’re gonna spend the rest of the evening arguing?  We drove a long time to get here, we both need to eat, so just give it a try.  Okay?”  Elliot settled into the smooth vinyl that lined the chair back, knotting his arms across his chest as a slight, shaky smile caused his lips to momentarily arc.  She looked miserable sitting across from him with her weight heavier on one side of the chair seat as she balanced herself on her left hip to keep the three metal ends of the longer legs flush against the floor.  To keep herself steady and to avoid teetering off balance as it seemed they had spent the past forty-eight-plus hours doing.  She once again needed to find solid ground, he knew, to once again feel as if she had at least a semblance of control in a situation that was more out of control than either of them had ever before experienced.

“Just give it a try,” he urged.  “That’s all I’m asking.  Just for you to give it a try.”

“And if I don’t like it?”

He shrugged a shoulder.  “At least you would’ve tried.”

She arched an eyebrow, staring at him for only a second before her gaze dropped to the tabletop and the gray and blue specks that bedecked the chipped Formica.  “Give it a try,” she whispered, the huskiness that suddenly filled her voice making it clear that she had found more than one meaning hidden in Elliot’s words.

“Olivia.”  He didn’t nod or flinch or look away as her eyes quickly lifted to meet his, but merely continued to stare.  “It’s just dinner.”

“No, it’s not.  It’s a weekend of—”

“I know what this weekend has been about.”

“You do?” she asked, her voice an even mixture of surprise and curiosity and relief.  “If you understand it so well, do you mind explaining it to me?”

“I didn’t say I understand it.  But I also didn’t plan or expect it.”

“Neither did I,” she whispered, dragging her fingertip from one pale blue speck to another on the tabletop, invisibly connecting the dots to create a picture that was identifiable only to her.

“Okay, so neither of us planned it or expected it,” Elliot responded, his demeanor far more casual than Olivia’s progressively tensing one.  “We’ve established that we don’t understand it, either.  So, can’t we just leave it at that?  Do we have to analyze it to death?”  He didn’t want her to think or analyze or reach any conclusions.  Because when she thought too much, when she analyzed too intently, things turned to shit.  It was her proven and tried and true method for fucking up her own life.  Thinking.  Because when she thought too much, she reached conclusions of self-punishment and things undeserved and talked herself out of enjoying the simplest pleasures in life.  And no matter what happened—if anything else did—between them during the next five minutes or five days or five years, he wanted her to be able to walk away from their irresponsible forty-eight hours together still without regrets and with only enjoyment as her prevalent memory.

“You don’t think we should talk about it?” Olivia asked, wrapping her fingers around the white plastic shell