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Spy Games - Emily Painton

I glanced up from the notebook I was scribbling in to watch you stride into the room. You were still wet from another one of your long hot baths and wrapped in a damp towel hung low and loose around your waist. Water dripped from your dirty-blond hair down your long neck, trickled along the curve of your back, and onto the floor. Standing in front of the mirror you began to sway your hips, delighting in your own reflection. With your broad tanned shoulders, your firm belly, and strong legs, you had every right to be proud. You were beautiful. Too beautiful for me, I feared.

I admired you, and maybe even more so I envied your ability to admire yourself. I wondered if perhaps you admired yourself too much. Maybe that was why it never felt like I was enough.

You took the speed up a notch, swishing your hips more aggressively. Right, left, right, left. Seemingly mesmerized, you watched yourself until you began to laugh. I couldn't pretend to ignore you anymore. My giggles gave me away. I was a worthless spy.

Only then did you seem to notice I was in the room. Our eyes met and you bounded across the brown carpeted floor to leap on top of me. I recoiled and let out a shriek, pretending to be fearful but I was completely enthralled by you. You shook your shaggy mane and soon you had me wet, as well.

At nineteen, we moved in together and played house until it wasn’t fun anymore. We didn’t break up. No, we merely moved into separate places just across the street from one another. Everything was fine. You were still mine, you said, but often you stood me up or you were incredibly late.

Soon resentment set in and I began to count the minutes. One, he’s late. Two, tie my shoes. Three, write a note. Four, grab my coat. Five, shut the door. Six, dash down the stairs cursing your name. Seven, sprint across the lawn hoping not to spot you leisurely ambling up the sidewalk with a smile on your face. Eight, start to cry. Nine, take a long walk away from you.


Emily Painton, a painter and writer, grew up in Norman, Oklahoma but now lives in New Orleans. She earned an MA in Art History from Tulane, an MLIS from the University of Texas at Austin, and once spent a summer studying in Paris at the Sorbonne. She loves to travel and one day hopes to be able to spend every hurricane season in Berlin. Her work has appeared in Queen Mob’s Tea House, Ellipsis Zine, Deep South Magazine, Third Wednesday, Route 7, Green Briar Review and in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. She is currently working on a memoir.


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