fiction by Amy Koppelman

The Groom

My best girlfriend wants to fuck her riding instructor.

I say, “Really Sam, you’ll be a cliche.”
She says, “I know, but I love him.”
I order an egg-white omelet, she orders fries for her one year old daughter who is with us and a diet coke for herself.
“You know,” I say, “horseback riding is dangerous.”
“He’ll protect me.”
I think she is heavy with the ketchup but the little girl takes the fries okay.
“Protect you how?”
Sam leans across the table. “He makes me feel safe.”
“And Barry doesn’t make you feel safe?”
“It’s different. This guy doesn’t let me fall.”
“Thai’s his job.”
“You don’t understand.” She looks at her kid, second kid, no words yet.
“What don’t I understand?”
“It’s more that you don’t remember.”
“Don’t remember what?”
“Don’t remember what it’s like to be in love.”

We drop her kid off and I go with her to her shrink crosstown, a psychoanalyst on Central Park West.
“This is a fantasy.”
I watch Sam pick at her cuticles.
“You have to ask yourself what this guy offers you and figure out how to get it from your marriage.”
“Barry doesn’t like riding that much.”
“It’s not about riding.”
“I know.” This is what Sam says whenever she’s not paying attention.

We are on out way home, the park is crowded, nice day.
“He told me that my eyes are the color of a chestnut mare.”
“And you think you’re the first girl he’s said that to?”
“Yes.”
“How can you think that?”
“I know him.”
“You don’t know him. If you knew him you’d know that his shit smells just like Barry’s.”
“That’s not the point.”
“What’s the point then?”
“The point is that I don’t care if his shit smells.”
“That’s only because you haven’t smelled it yet.”
I leave her at her awning, she lives on Fifth, I live on Park, that part all worked out.
I give her a hug. “You have everything to lose.” I am surprised by how desperate my voice sounds.
She pulls back, looks down at me, “[ know.” This is what Sam says whenever she doesn’t care.

We meet every Tuesday for lunch. Nine years, lunch every Tuesday.
“He called me from a pay-phone.”
“What did he say?”
“He said so far so good.” Her little girl is picking at broken bits of a grilled cheese sandwich.
“So far so good?”
“He’s meeting me in Montana.”
“You’re going to ruin your life Sam.”
“No I’m not.”
“Yes you are.” I watch her heavy with the ketchup again.
“He has a kid too.”
“That makes it better?”
“You don’t have to look at me like that.”
“How do you want me to look at you?”
“I want you to be happy for me.”
“Happy for you?”
“Yes, happy for me.”
“Happy for what?”
“Happy that I am in love.”

“Sam’s going to Montana with a few friends.” I tell my husband later that night while I take my bath.
“What do you mean?”
“Sam, Becky, Laura, they’re going on a riding trip together.”
“Weren’t they just there?”
“That was a dude ranch with their families. This trip is no kids, no husbands.”
“They are going to go out at night and flirt with cowboys in bars.”
I watch him clip his toe nails.
“I think I’m obligated to call Barry and tell him this.”
“Tell him what?”
“Tell him that they are going to go out at night and flirt with cowboys in bars.”
“I never said that.”
“You don’t have to.”
He’s over me now, touching my mouth, his eyes.
“I would have you followed.”
I smile.
“You’d never go anyway.”
He pushes hard, we don’t have much time, the kids.
The soles of my feet are firmly planted in the mattress. My back is arched.

She looks great. Thin, tan.
“What happened?”
She pulls the wrapper off a red Charms lollipop.
“We watched the rain fall.”
“And your friends?”
“They were sleeping.”
The lollipop bulges through Sam’s cheek when she smiles. I order, “I’d like an egg-white omelet and a diet coke.”
“Nothing for me.”
I watch her bite off a piece of the lollipop and chew it.
“That’s all you’re eating?”
She leans in closer.
“He said, ‘I want to kiss every part of your body.’”
“Did he?”
“Almost.”
I imagine her wrapped in those arms of his, waiting for a burst of thunder, then counting, “One two, three, four, five, six—” ”—But we didn’t sleep together.” And then the flash of
lightening.
“What do you mean?”
“I told him I wanted to wait.”
A small cabin, the smell of hay, a smoldering fire.
“Wait for what?”
“Wait until we’re together forever.”

The check comes.
“What are you doing this afternoon?”
“I promised Rachel I’d take her for new shoes.”
Rachel is her older one. “That’s nice.”
“She wants Corkies.”
“Corkics?”
“Remember Corkies?”
“Sure.”
“Corkies are back.”
I smile. “Crowded in here today.”
“Yeah.”
Nine years we’ve been friends.
“Why Sam?”
“It gives mc a little happiness.”
“What part of it?”
“Being loved greatly is really good.”
This is the part I don’t understand.
“What does that even mean?”
“You’re going to laugh.”
“I’m not.”
“You’re laughing.”
“I’m not laughing.”
She scrapes a forkful of uneaten hash-browns off my plate.
“Did I tell you about my horse?”
“Your horse?”
“I’m leasing a horse.”
“Where are you going to ride it?
“Central Park.” She’s excited.
“Central Park is not the same.”
Outside, her long hair blows free from its ponytail.
“Barry didn’t love you greatly in the beginning?”
“Barry was never my kindred spirit. He signed his note You are always with me, my kindred spirit.”
“He wrote you a note?”
“He sent me pictures.”
I look at her in all that turquoise jewelry, “You can’t do this Sam.”
“I’m careful.”
“Everyone thinks they’re careful.”
“Anyway, he told me to be patient, that we share one broken soul, and one day—”
“One day you will be one again.”
“Yes.”
“That’s a line,”
“Maybe.”
She gives me a kiss as a taxi pulls to the curb, “Maybe everything’s a line.”

The message says, “Sam has canceled lunch.”
I call, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing?”
“You sound funny.”
“I’m bleaching my teeth.”
“You’re bleaching your teeth?”
“I don’t want them to look like my horse’s mouth.”
I think I might give up.
“He said, ‘I had a really good time Sam.’”
“When did he say this?”
“We spoke today.” I realize then that this is why she canceled lunch.
“What did you say?”
“I said, ‘Me too.’ and then I said, ‘Tell me something.’ and he said, ‘It’s crowded in here.’ “Tell me something anyway.’ and then he said, ‘I love you.’”
I can hear her smiling.
“Did you tell your doctor this?”
“Yes.”
“And what did she say?”
“She said, ‘See you Thursday.’”

“I don’t know what to do.” I tell my husband later that night
while I take my bath.
“It’s not your problem.”
“How can you say it’s not my problem?”
“You didn’t fuck a cowboy.”
“She didn’t fuck a cowboy.”
I watch him clip his toe nails.
“I think I’m obligated to call Barry and tell him this.”
“Tell him what?”
“Tell him that his wife is fucking a cowboy.
“1 never said that.”
“You don’t have to.”

He’s over me now, touching my mouth, his eyes.
“I would have you followed.”
I smile.
“You’d never fuck a cowboy anyway.”
He pushes hard, we don’t have much time, the kids.
The soles of my feet are firmly planted in the mattress. My back is arched.

Her eyes look tired.
“I can’t do it anymore.” She stirs her coffee.
“What do you mean you can’t do it?”
“I can’t stay here.”
“You can’t stay here?”
“I am happy in the mountains.”
“That’s why it’s called a vacation.”
“You’re not listening.” I feel bad that she thinks this.
“I’m listening.”
“You’re not hearing what I’m saying.”
I rest my fork on the edge of my plate. “What about the kids?”
“He’ll take care of the kids.”
“How is he going to take care of the kids?” .
“He’s got a job.”
“He’s a horseback riding teacher.”
“Once I’m with him he’ll be more than that.”
“And you think Barry’s just going to let you up and leave with his kids?”
She holds the mug at the edge of her lips. “The mother always gets the kids.”
“Not always.”
“Well I’ll get the kids and the two of us will open a bed and
breakfast and”
“—you’ll have a simple life.”
“Why does that seem so ridiculous to you?”
“Because you made a commitment.”
“Barry was a different man when I married him.”
“Barry’s always been a Jewish guy from New York.”
“Fine.” She looks away.
“You promised those kids of yours a family.”
“When did I promise them that?”
“The moment you decided to have them.”
“I have two little girls” Her voice is diminished.
“Yes you do.”
Sam puts down the mug, “I want them to know what it is to be happy.”

The same things always give it away.
“How could you be that stupid?”
“Since when does Barry look at the phone bill?”
“Obviously he had a suspicion.”
“Obviously.”
We are strolling our kids through the zoo.
“You want one?” Still with those red lollipops.
“No thanks.”
She pulls off the wrapper.
“What did you tell him?”
“I told him that he’s crazy, that I’m planning a trip for us, why would I ever, how can he even think?—”
“And he believes you?”
“It’s easy to believe what you want to believe.”
She is really too thin. “You are really too thin.” I watch her unbuckle our.kids. “Be careful guys.”
“Never admit it Sam.”
“I know.”
“No, listen to me.” I make her look at me. “Never admit it and
move on.”
“But—” Our kids, just in front of us are waddling hand in hand toward the seals. 
“There are no buts.”

“Sorry I’m late.”
“That’s okay.”
“I feel like I spend my whole life waiting for workmen to come.” Sam throws down her bag and snuggles into the booth. ”What’s the problem?”
“That lemon yellow paper I chose for my bedroom is turning mustard so I thought I’d have the room painted. I picked a cool blue.”
“Nice.”
“Except that now it’s turned into this whole ordeal. The paper needs to be peeled then the walls need to be sanded. Did you order?”
“I was hungry.”
“That’s okay, what did you get?”
“What did I get?” The waiter walks over to our table.
“I’ll have an egg-white omelet too but with a few tomatoes.”
“So?”
“So I’m better.”
“You’re better?”
“I’m okay.”
“What do you mean?”
“I know he’s out there and loves me so I’m okay.” She takes a toe-nail scissors from her bag.
“What are you doing?”
“Looking for dead ends.”
She snips a strand of split hair. I watch her do this, one, two,
three times. “You’re not okay.”
She keeps searching, “Who’s okay?”

“Men cheat all the time.” I tell my husband later that night while I take my bath.
“Sure.”
“Why is that accepted?”
“Men aren’t careless.”
“What does that mean?”
“Men don’t fall in love.”
I watch him clip his toe nails.
“I think I’m obligated to call Barry and tell him this.”
“Tell him what?”
“Tell him that Sam’s in love with a cowboy.”
“I never said that.”
“You don’t have to.”
He’s over me now, touching my mouth, his eyes.
“I would have you followed.”
I smile.
“You’d never fall in love with a cowboy anyway.”
He pushes hard, we don’t have much time, the kids. The soles of my feet are firmly planted in the mattress. My back is arched.

A graduate of the MFA program at Columbia University, Amy Koppelman lives in New York City and recently completed her first novel.