Our closest friends ask nosy questions: Where did she come from? When is she planning to depart?
We don’t have answers for such rudeness, and stop communicating with them entirely.
On difficult days, she wanders in circles around the dining room, a loose little raincloud waiting for a push. We see how hard she is on herself. Some nights she crawls into bed between us, poking me in the belly with the sixth finger of her poor right hand.
“Do you like thee deformity?” she’ll ask, the will of a child sneaking into her voice.
“We’re all deformed,” I say, hoping my breath is okay.
At breakfast, a projecting tooth pushing out from her lips, she teases us about our sturdy Labrador retriever.
“You mutht thtop feeding him those Yorkthire Puddingth,” she lisps, swinging her blood-colored hair around like a lasso, tying it up and letting it fall.
“Fantastic hair,” I say.
“Thank you. But I’m waiting for that one’th wolf whistle,” she says.
My husband squeezes his lips together and blows.
When we take our evening stroll, she’s there at the end of the path, a galaxy of moles near her throat. In many ways she has conquered us.
“Happy rainless night,” my husband says, kissing her outstretched hand as if he’s Lancelot, she’s Guinevere. In the gloaming, I notice her long, flat chest.
I turn to my husband, studying his face.
“Anne Boleyn had nothing on her,” I say.
My husband agrees. “No joke,” he says. “There must have been a queen in her genes.”
Not long before Christmas, she hobbles around the living room wearing striped damask slippers, moaning with a toothache. I’m afraid she’s broken a crown on my home-made toffee.
At dinner, she watches us chew, lacing and unlacing her fingers, lips drawing an unzippable line.
“Beer anyone?” I say, hoping to crack the mood.
“Hops are a wicked, pernicious weed!” my husband scolds. I find myself taking deep breaths, apologizing for everything.
“Wouldn’t music be pritty?” she trills. My husband stares at her invisible breasts while I fetch my ukulele from the garage. “It’s out of tune,” I say, smiling and curtsying.
Later, I light a few candles, leaving the two of them alone with home-made cherry pie. I sit in the back of the house next to the fat dog, where it’s warmer.
She guest-stars in one of my dreams, wearing a scarlet petticoat, kneeling next to my husband who holds a bottomless chalice.
“Please learn to love him,” I plead. I wake with a stiff neck, feeling claustrophobic and weird. That night she slept between us again, something I’m still learning to appreciate. The bed can withstand an earthquake, but the curtain-posts tend to shake.
“Is that a sword? Or are you happy to see me?” she squeaks, while my husband cradles her tiny breasts. I can barely see them beneath the economy light-bulb.
“Little duckies.” He giggles.
Today she vomits on my side of the bed.
“How many Anglicans does it take to change a light bulb?” I say, wishing she could be healthier.
“Go away please,” she whispers in my ear, hiding her neck with her hands.
“Do we know whose it is anyway?” my husband says to me in private, a salacious leer upon his face.
Men! I think, ruined by how much I care—wishing he’d leave us alone.
I’ve been juggling bean bags in front of the mirror.
“Why did the King ban the Queen from court?” I say to the two of them at breakfast, trying to make them laugh while perfecting my three-ball cascade.
The three of us, alone in the world, toss around boy baby names. “Egbert? Edmund? Alfred? George?”
“Henry?” she says, sad black eyes on my husband’s pie-shaped face. “Yes, yes, yes!” he shouts. It really feels like Christmas here, with so many smiles.