THE CONTRACT: A SHORT STORY by JT Louder
New from Bent. Queer literary fiction by the author of the First series and Fast Girls in Short Shorts Always Score.
Maggie figured the contract was about twelve pages long, words like ghosts from the toner running low on the last few pages. How interesting, she thought, but didn’t say, our new reality fading even before we start. When her wife Bridget had dropped the contract on the kitchen table, it had barely made a sound as it slid Maggie’s way, the top few pages settling only when she touched them.
“It’s everything we talked about,” Bridget said, her lips bright red as usual this early in the morning. “I’ll sign it if you do.”
The contract arranged the details of their new open marriage, its restrictions, its agreements. For example, Maggie or Bridget would not watch Dateline NBC, the Investigation Discovery channel, or old Family Feud episodes with other lovers. They would both enjoy four out of seven nights at home together with Kip, Bridget’s ten-year-old son from her first marriage, including all the major holidays, and some non-majors, too, like Valentine’s, even Earth Day. They would not re-engage with exes. They would not involve Kip, in any way, in the relationships outside their marriage.
“Maybe five days,” Maggie said, flipping through the pages, her eyes not focusing on much except for that, the only part that mentioned her stepson. “Maybe five, just for Kip, so he doesn’t sniff us out.”
“Kip sees his dad on weekends. He’ll be fine.” Bridget spoke with her back to Maggie, fingers rapidly tapping the screen of her tablet, which lay flat on the glass top of their stove. “He’s still just a boy. He’s more concerned with whether or not he’s wearing cool sneakers.”
Maggie stood and walked to Bridget, wanting to lay her hands low on Bridget’s back, but nothing felt normal, nothing felt easy anymore. She said, “The kid’s got feelings, though. He totally picks up on our energy.”
When Bridget turned toward her, Maggie was reminded of all the reasons she had fallen in love with Bridget: the way her eyes darkened when she didn’t get what she wanted, how her lips pouted just slightly, and the way a muscle twitched in her neck—like right there, that little jump—when she felt as though she was kept waiting too long, when she felt like someone was dicking her around.
Bridget put soft, warm hands on Maggie’s cheeks and kissed her lips dryly, gently. When Maggie opened her eyes, Bridget was holding a pen.
“You don’t have to sign if you don’t want,” Bridget said.
Maggie took the ballpoint from her fingers. She said, “We’re making the Goodridges proud, huh? Look at us.” She signed her name on a barely visible line.
“The Goodridges divorced,” Bridget said, taking the pen from her fingers and signing her name next to Maggie’s on the exact same line, even though, using their computer’s software, she had dashed one out for herself. “Didn’t you hear? Historic or not, that marriage didn’t last longer than a couple years or so.”
Signing the contract was how Maggie and Bridget got around the infidelity. Once Bridget lifted the pen, it was done.