Morgan's leg muscles are bulging from the strain of forcing himself to pedal faster (his urgency unequivocally physical, a bowel movement overdue); he coasts, makes a sharp turn (anus starting to quiver, aching to contract); one more stretch ahead; he streaks across the parking lot, half dismounts on approach, skids to a halt, sets his kickstand (poorly; the bicycle topples in his wake), fumbles for his house key, grabs the mail en route, leaves the door ajar, and sprints for the toilet.

Salvation! An IMMENSE evacuation ushers in relief... eyes clenched closed reopen, refocus, fall upon a letter—written evidently (her name on the envelope) by Michelle. He checks the postmark: local... next the date: stamped Monday. Did they lie, then? Angel, Cindy, Chris, Leanne, Molly each confirmed that Michelle had left abruptly, gave no forwarding address. "Good riddance," had been Chris's sentiment, "bitch was too damn big for her itty-bitty britches." Molly's muttered attitude was much the same. While Cindy ventured a less disdainful opinion: "She always said she'd scram when she found Mister Right. Some of us believed Mister Right was you." Meaning Morgan, whose courtship, though short-lived, had been observed.

But if Michelle had plans to leave, she had not told him.

Dear Morgan,
by the time you read this, I'll be long gone. You're the primary reason, but not for the one you think. It's because I used you. I had to. Maybe, if you could've loved me, I'd have thought of another way. But you only loved my outside. Remember that poem you wrote? It showed a lot about you, not much about me. Like how you're really smart without being all that intelligent. About people, I mean. You look at people from a distance, like you're superior, or something, and the rest of us are who-knows-what? Dumb, I guess. All those nights I hoped and prayed you'd ask me out, you never did. I had to ask you. And when I finally did, you almost turned me down.

Still, you came in the end. And, more important, you got me pregnant.

I planned for that to happen, so don't get upset. Or worried. I'm not asking you for anything. Honest. What I wanted I got when we made love.

Did I tell you I had given birth? I think you maybe guessed. Mostly, if I mention it, I say my daughter died. But she didn't. I signed for her adoption before she was born. She's six years old, now. I went to see her today, for one last time, knowing she would soon have a brother or sister. She doesn't know I'm her mom, so I just said goodbye. From afar.

Did you know I cried that night you came to my apartment, after you left? Partly out of happiness, and partly because I was sad to think our first would be our last. I was glad to get a second chance, though, with somebody so special.

Thanks, Morgan. I mean it. Maybe you just pretended, but I think we did make love that one sweet night. A baby, Morgan. Our baby. Except that she, or he, will be mine to raise alone.

Michelle D'Angelo

Morgan sets aside the letter, wipes himself, stands up, adjusts his clothes, then flushes the commode. Pregnant? She could scarcely know so soon. Retrieving the letter, he reads it one more time... then hides it. 

"Morgan?" Gillian enters the bedroom with trepidation... looks toward the bathroom. "There you are. You scared me. Thought we might've been burgled; did you leave the door open?"

"An emergency."

He motions toward the pot.

"Well, better move your bike; I nearly ran it over."

She retreats. Morgan feels a poke; the letter jabs his groin. He takes it out of his underwear, folds it three times neatly, then tucks it into his blue-jeans' left hip pocket.



with a pretense...

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