by Jeff Wood
His dress shirt was missing the top two buttons.
After he left, she kept the shirt hanging in the back of the closet, where no one else could see it. No one but her.
He had left the shirt behind because of the missing buttons. One of their first nights together she had straddled him, loosed his tie, and then ripped his shirt open, the buttons popping off as she bit his chest. He rolled over on top of her, quickly peeling off his shirt as she watched with glee, the buttons scattering into the dark corners of the room, never to be found. She had looked, many times.
It became a joke between them, how she was going to sew the buttons back on one day. She was a horrible seamstress. And the buttons were long gone.
She lay on the bed with the shirt sometimes, when she would think of him. He always told her how much he loved the smell of her, the perfume, the lotion, the shampoo, the heady mix of it. But those were all conscious decisions, scents deliberately added by her.
He wore no cologne, no body wash, no fragrance of any kind. Still, he had a scent. A complex scent, but guileless and organic. Made of sweat, of bath soap and generic shampoo. The almonds he’d snack on at work. The stupid pine tree air freshener in his car (another private joke between them). The occasional secret puff on a cigar.
The scent of him. It was simply the scent of him. Nothing added.
She took the shirt off its hanger at the back of the closet, as she had so many times before. She dragged it behind her, as if it were a heavy weight she could not lift. She fell onto the bed and wrapped the shirt around her shoulders, losing herself not just in the smell of it but the warp of the cloth, the feel of the fabric. Her fingers played with the two empty buttonholes at the top of the shirt, the buttonholes matched by no button, empty, awaiting closure.
Jeff Wood lives in Colorado with his two daughters and three cats. He has had over twenty short stories published in print magazines and online publications such as Boston Phoenix, New York Press, Camas: The Nature of the West, Fiction at Work, Six Sentences, Everyday Weirdness, The Greyrock Review, Bellowing Ark, tomlit, CRATE, Java Journal, and Clifton. He also has a children's play included in the anthology CHILDSPLAY, in the company of such authors as Sam Shepard and Maya Angelou. When not writing he spends way too much time staring at the night sky.