We walked back from the restaurant, just across the street from the hotel, and because we were far away from our homes and the people who waited for us, and because it was one of those nights we remembered from when we were younger—those nights when we’d walked just for the pleasure of being alone in the dark, my hand at the small of your back, yours in one hip pocket of my jeans—we sat a while on the park bench near the hotel’s front door, and we watched people come and go on a late summer night when the air had cooled just enough to make it pleasant to be outside, and we were happy to have each other’s company and to know that in time, we’d rise from the bench, go to our room, and there I’d kiss you, and you’d kiss me back, and slowly we’d undress each other, but first a car stopped in the hotel driveway, and we watched the young woman behind the wheel and the young man with her say the last things people say to each other before good-bye, or in this case good-night; then they kissed, and the young man got out of the car, a small overnight bag under his arm—he wore a denim jacket and plaid sleep pants—and the young girl watched him until he was inside the hotel, and then she drove away, leaving us to make up stories: I said maybe he’d just gotten out of a hospital and for whatever reason he was staying at the hotel, but you said, no, they’d been somewhere private, maybe the girl’s apartment, and now she was bringing him back, and she was watching him like she didn’t want to let him go, the same way you didn’t want to ever leave me, though we both knew eventually we’d go back to our homes, but we didn’t have to think about that yet because we still had time, even after our lovemaking when I thought about how lucky we were on this night when we didn’t have to say good-bye and how thankful I was—please say you were, too—that we found each other again after all those years—and I wished for countless nights when we’d give ourselves to each other, as we did again toward dawn when you turned to me and our mouths found each other’s and our hands and we knew where to touch, and we were glad to love each other in that room before morning light broke, to lie close in the dark, while all around us behind closed doors people like the man we’d watched slept or lay awake, none of them giving us a thought, hidden as we were—so we chose to believe—lovers now and ever after in a story, this sweet, sweet story that began once upon a time.

Lee Martin is the author of the novels, The Bright Forever, a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction; River of Heaven; and Quakertown. He has also published two memoirs, From Our House and Turning Bones; and a short story collection, The Least You Need to Know. He is the winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ohio Arts Council. He teaches in the MFA Program at The Ohio State University.

author photo by Jo McCulty

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Lee Martin

Bedtime Stories