("The Knife Thrower," from Matisse's Jazz series)
“Your hands are cold.”
“Your thigh is warm.”
“No thanks to those penguin fingers of yours.”
“Um . . .”
“That's what I thought.”
“It's just that, if you'll notice, my penguin—fingers—was it?”
“Keep it up.”
“Are now folded neatly in my lap.”
“The other penguins, in their other penguin cars, thank you for considering their safety. I'm driving here.”
“Of course . . .”
“Out with it.”
“It's Valentine's Day.”
“And you're wearing that dress. With those heels. And . . . stockings.”
“And it's Valentine's Day.”
“You said that already.”
“And I've fallen in love with you, Jenny.”
The car swerved across the dashed line.
“I'll say it again if you like. It's always been a dream of mine to die in an old Impala.”
Her lips twitched.
“I love you, Jenny. And not because it's Valentine's Day. And not for the stockings, either.”
Her mouth opened. Then shut.
“Christ, I don't know why. The why's not really the thing, is it? I just do. I'm like a teenager again. This entire month.” He shifted in his seat. “It's disgusting, really.”
She drove. He watched her face, illuminated by headlights, from the corner of his eye. Those lips still dancing.
Finally, she cleared her throat.
“My thigh is hot. Not warm.”
“No argument here.”
“No, I mean it's stupidly hot. I think I'm on the verge of spontaneous combustion, or something.”
“Oh. We can't have that.”
“No. We can't.”
His fingers grazed black silk. And climbed the sheer. Until they met with an unexpected ridge. Elastic. One inch, and a mile, across—
From rose petal skin.
“God. I think I lied. Before.”
“I know. You love me for these stockings.”
“It's okay. I wore them for you.”
“You did? I mean, I know.”
“Now you listen.”
“I'm going to pull off the road up here.”
“Because this is my kick-ass '78 Impala.”
“They really don't make them like this anymore.”
“With a backseat the size of a bed.”
“I love this fucking car.”
“And that's my glove compartment.”
“Also really great.”
“With my mixed tape for you inside.”
He flipped it open with his free hand.
“That I made for you the day after we met.”
He plucked out a cassette.
“Because I'm a silly, silly girl.”
He smiled at the first title.
“Whose knees are shaking.”
He looked at her, looking at him.
She slid deeper into his hand.
“And you're the guy who makes me believe in love songs again.”