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The Crusade

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Shawn stepped from his truck and flashed a smile toward me. But he wasn’t alone. Katie walked around from the passenger side and latched onto him like some leech, thirsty for blood.

I felt Danny’s arm around my waist, a protective vise against all that was bad to me and all that I hated. I hated her and Danny knew that. He was careful bringing her up as a subject. The only good part was Shawn would flash through my mind when she did. She didn’t actually flash, more like sparked slightly and ebbed out.

“Hey, Danny,” she sang off key. “Maura,” the flat note hurt my ears, making me cringe.

Shawn pulled me into a hug, warm and comfortable. He shook hands with Danny and wore his smile like a metal earned in war.

We sat down at a table and sipped at water until the waitress arrived in her tight shorts that didn’t hide the cellulite in her thighs. She had something smeared on her black shirt and I stared at it until she asked what I wanted to eat. I ordered a cheese sandwich. Would I like it toasted? No. Chips or French fries? No. Not even a pickle? Absolutely not.

Katie ordered a vegetarian wrap without mayonnaise and pepper and only dark green lettuce, no iceberg lettuce.

Danny and Shawn ordered hamburgers and French fries and the whole ordeal was over with.

I looked out from under the umbrella and watched people walk by and cars speed. There were couples where the girl wore the most hideous and revealing dresses and others where the guy didn’t even have a shirt that fit over his gut.

There were people walking alone, solitarily on their own world on their cell phones or hiding behind sunglasses and baseball hats.

There were groups of obnoxious teenagers, fresh out of middle school and ready for high school taking up the whole sidewalk and gibbering on cell phones like they mattered. They wore clothes that resembled the bright poster board in drug stores that I never used for my school projects.

“I think I chose my major,” Katie’s voice ripped open my content thoughts. It was probably - “Visual design.”

Useless. “That’ll be good for you,” Danny cut in.

“She’s already working on her portfolio,” Shawn sighed.

“It’s great. I can love what I do and have a fun job too. Besides, I really want to bring back the Renaissance styles,” she gushed and sipped from her soda, some of it sliding back down the straw.

“Why would you want to do something that’s already been done?” I demanded.

She looked at me, the ugly brown in her eyes boring me. “It’s beautiful.”

“Not if it’s been done. The creation of beauty is useless. It’s been here,” I pushed that thought at her and glanced at Shawn. He was smiling at me for teasing his girlfriend, for arguing with a painted rock with pink lips. Danny was just as amused but he thought I was joking around, arguing for arguments sake because I was supposed to hate her and everything she represents.

Our food came and we all took silent bites until Katie open her mouth, a piece of lettuce falling out of it. She talked relentlessly of art in its greatest forms and art in its worst and art in her definition and art, art, art. Screw art.

When lunch was finished, we paid, left a tip, and stood up, walking toward our cars. Katie jumped into Danny’s arms to say goodbye. I walked slowly into Shawn’s. “You, OK, Mar?” he whispered to my ear.

“Come over tonight? We haven’t had a movie fest in a while.” He nodded and nothing else was said.






---

Shawn walked in and sat next to me, flipping through the channels. Nothing was captivating so he turned it down and looked at me, sinking deep pools into my chest.

“What are you thinking about?” he chose to ask.

“You.”

“Why me? What about Danny?”

“Danny’s a pawn. Danny’s nothing. He enjoys me on his arm and my golden presence.”

“Do you enjoy being on his arm?”

“It breaks the monotony.”

“But it’s not what you want.”

“No . . . Of course it’s not.” I stood and walked in front of him. “Why Katie?”

“She breaks the monotony.”

“She doesn’t deserve you.” I pushed him back and kissed him.

“What are you doing, Maura?”

“Saving you.” Kiss after kiss, unstopped, undone.






---

He pulls the sheet away from me, pulls me toward him, pulls my hair out of my eyes. “What are you doing to me, Maura?”

“I told you. I’m saving you.”

“From what?” He was angry, a blackness on the moment that I tried to make perfect for him, for his enlightenment.

“From people that don’t deserve you, Shawn. I’m simple and perfect.” I ran my hands through his red hair and kissed his brow, kissing his shoulders, kissing his neck. I fed him my philosophy, shoved it down in such a way that he would not be able to analyze, so that there was nothing to analyze.

He had a scar at the base of his neck from when he fell out of a tree when we were eight. I told him about our childhood together, about where we went from high school and what had happened to him.

He was captivated by me and I continued to kiss him, to make him believe everything so that I could keep him safe in my arms.

We spoke all night. I told him how Katie was pulling his body from his limbs, how only I could keep him safe and how I only wanted to keep him safe. He was amazed and confused but the sun rose from the west and the spent the night in my arms, perfectly happy, perfectly safe.





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