The Soul Mate Requirement
by Kelly Sandoval
Listen to the audio version
Paula wakes, shaking, to the press of lips against her shoulder. She's been crying in her
sleep again, chasing memories of Marcus. Dante is holding her. She can hear the patient rhythm
of his breaths; her own gasping sobs slow to match him.
"Forever, forever, forever." He makes it a mantra, kissing the promise into her skin.
She has never really loved him.
"Well?" Dante asks, as he flicks on the garage light. "What do you think?"
There is a moment, as the bulb warms to life, when everything is shadow, and she can
imagine safer surprises. A puppy. A new car. A loaded gun.
But no, there's the crib, just as she expected. As an object, it's beautiful. The wood is
dark, highly polished, and carved with a pattern of oak leaves. He has worked hard on this. She's
smelled it on him, sawdust and hope, for months. Ever since her last promotion, when they could
finally afford the application fees.
She presses her open palm to her flat stomach and tries to imagine what it might feel like
to have life flutter there.
She has always dreamed of a child. A daughter, actually, with impossible hair and dirty
nails. For the past three years, since she and Dante bought the house, she's imagined her daughter
with his crooked smile and her long eyelashes. And even still, Paula dreams her daughter with
Marcus's bright, infectious laugh.
"Paula?" Dante sounds worried and more than a little hurt.
She's forgotten to act happy.