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She'd dreamt those were Ned's hands that slid the length of her body, had addressed Carl as Ned.

Today's Story

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Game Night

By Peg Alford Pursell

The three of them met in a board games group Josie found advertised online. She and Carl, married just a year now, were new to the city and needed a social life, but they had few activities in common around which to build one. Finally they settled on the games group, which was lively enough at first. But little by little, members fell away until they met only with Ned, to play Parcheesi on Friday nights.

Josie had also joined a book club and Carl played on a bocce ball league by now, but their Friday nights together with Ned were special. Each Thursday, Josie went to the gourmet shop and bought wine, nuts, cheese, and expensive crackers. She made a spinach and artichoke dip that Ned especially liked.

Josie thought there were signs. The way Ned’s eyes locked into hers. Looks that lingered half a beat longer than necessary. How he noticed the moment her glass was empty and jumped up from the table to refill it. He looked approvingly at the flush the wine brought to Josie’s cheeks. When her husband’s tone of voice edged into irritation – It’s your turn, already, Josie! – Ned’s soft expression soothed her.

This Friday Josie trained her eyes on the Parcheesi board as if that would make her mind follow suit. Last night when Carl had reached for her in the middle of the night, she’d dreamt those were Ned’s hands that slid the length of her body, had addressed Carl as Ned. She’d come awake when Carl’s hands, on her hips, froze. “What did you say?” he demanded. Josie had then pretended to be fully asleep.

She could not look at Ned; surely he would see something of this in her face. “Your move, Josie,” he prompted, his tone echoing Carl’s usual annoyance.

Josie looked up, shocked. Her elbow brushed the dice to the floor. Her face burned as she bent down to retrieve them.

There under the table, she saw. Ned’s bare foot on top of Carl’s, caressing, caressing.

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Peg Alford Pursell’s fiction received The State Fiction Award (S.C.) and was a short-list finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Award. Her story “Fragmentation” is the title story of the Burrow Press Anthology (February 2011) Fragmentation and Other Stories, and two of her stories have been selected to be performed at Stories on Stage in Sacramento in May 2011. She founded and curates Why There Are Words, a monthly literary reading series in Sausalito, teaches fiction writing at the College of Marin and in private workshops, and is fiction editor at Prick of the Spindle. More info at www.pegalfordpursell.com.

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