Athena swallows the last of her whiskey and then on impulse flips her glass over, securing the gold band lying between her and Adam.
“I thought I would settle eventually” she says looking beyond the alcove, "I thought maybe one day you would come up behind me while I studied the birds in our apple tree, and it would register in my chest that I was content." Athena pulls her knees up to her chest and wraps her toned brown arms around them. “But it didn't happen Adam. This…" she gestures towards the hunter green walls surrounding them, "...will never be enough for me." Athena reaches out before her, tracing the grooves of the glass with her ring finger. It was lighter than she remembered. “Adam, your life isn't my life. Surely you of all people can see that."
"This isn’t your life?” Adam lets out a dubious laugh. “What the fuck are you talking about, Athena?" Beyond Adam and the alcove talons flash by and then reappear, settling in the closest branch of their apple tree. Athena watches the white barn owl in silence.
"Now you have nothing to say?" He asks. Annoyed by her indifference, Adam rises from his seat and hurls his glass towards those green walls she was so hell bent on repainting.
“Adam" Athena says watching the glass recoil and slither against his skin, "You're acting like a child.” The white barn owl starts at the shatter, unwittingly dislodging an apple from its stem.
“The first year we were engaged you decided we needed to postpone the wedding, because you wanted to finish school” Adam’s hands are held out in front of him now, palms together like someone beginning a prayer, “so I found us a house in Eden Park not seven minutes from your university. When you finished Ornithology school and wanted to travel for your research, what did I do?” He asks, placing his fingertips against his bare chest, “I quit my job and booked us one way tickets to Tanzania. Fucking Tanzania! Do you know how hard it was for me to live there!” Adam smacks the table. Athena's glass doesn’t move. “Athena” he says her name like a plea. “My whole life is centered around giving you what you need. Can't you see that?" Behind Adam the clouds break letting the sun creep in and Athena watches as the dust particles float about his head.
“It's not about what I need Adam, it's about what I want and that's not you!" Athena pauses to remove the hostility in her voice. “I’m sorry” she says eventually," I didn’t mean to be so harsh.” Adam rests his palms against the table and hangs his head, the light splitting against his back. She could see him clearly now. “Adam” Athena says leaning in closer, "there’s a piece of glass lodged in your skin, look." Adam curves his backbone with the fluidity of a snake to see where she is pointing. “Here” Athena rises and walks towards him, stripping the white T-shirt up and over her head on the way. When she reaches his side of the table Adam takes a step back. “Please Adam” she reasons, “let me help you.” Adam’s shoulders shed their stiffness and he turns around to settle against the table, his right hand hovering above his head. “This shouldn't hurt.” Athena says, bending to dislodge the glass from his side. When the shard is out, blood the color of apples begins seeping from his skin and Athena wipes it away with her white T-shirt. "Don't worry" she says when he winces, "It's only a flesh wound. All your ribs are still intact." Water smacks Athena against her forehead like a church blessing and when she looks up, she finds Adam is crying.
“Look” he says pointing out beyond the casement window, “there’s a white owl in our apple tree.” Satisfied his wound would no longer bleed Athena rises, tossing her stained white T-shirt atop the shattered glass on the floor.
“It’s a barn owl.” she says resting her bare ribs against his. Adam gingerly lowers his arm around her, and they sit for a while.
"I thought they traveled in pairs." Adam asks eventually. "No,” Athena says, watching the owls white wings flutter in the setting light, “not the owls. They prefer to hunt alone."
-- Cleveland native Andrea Y. Rodriguez is an Afro-Latina writer based in Chicagoland. She recently graduated with her BA in English from Lewis University. Rodriguez's work has been featured in Ghost Heart Literary Journal, The Rise Up Review (2021) and Windows Magazine where she won first place for her piece “A Black Boys Guide” (Spring 2020).