The plate would have had a lot of spaghetti on it even if Turner hadn’t been stuffed to the gills, but as things stood it was the Mt. Everest of pasta plates topped with a glacier of meat sauce.
Clementine quietly served him, then served herself. She sat down and glanced briefly at him. “Enjoy,” she said.
Turner looked at the salad and the loaf of French bread that she had sliced, buttered, and sprinkled with tiny bits of chopped garlic. “That’s not rue from a jar. You must have spent all day making this meat sauce,” he said.
Turner ate the first bite of spaghetti. “Man, it’s delicious.”
“Glad you like it.” She didn’t look up.
By the fifth bite he thought he would gag, he was so full. By the time he’d cleared half the plate he was chewing like a robot. It was the hardest, most awful thing he’d ever done.
She looked over at him. “You’re sweating into your plate, which is really gross,” she said. “You don’t have to finish it.” She had watched him wade through the pasta bog, and with each bite she softened. She wasn’t upset or hurt anymore. She was gentle. She was … different.
“I’m gonna finish it, Clem,” he said, on the verge of throwing up. “For you.” She stopped watching and went over to the tiny kitchen.
“You’re pretty much the first guy who’s ever tried to show his devotion by making himself sick.”
When Turner was done he was afraid to stand, but he did. He put his plate in the sink, and she turned around. That tiny spark he’d been trying to snuff out, to deny, to kick sand on until it stopped flickering and died, the tiny spark that was hotter and more burning than anything he’d ever felt in his life roared up into a conflagration so sudden and so searing and so all-consuming that everything went blank in front of him except for her and her face and her skin and her hair and her brown eyes and her smell of woman so that when he drew her to him she came softly and willingly until they both stood there together naked in their clothes and he held her with the enormity of a love as powerful as any man had ever felt for any woman, a love that raced beyond him and her so that it was greater than the love of any man for another man, of any woman for another woman, of any father for a son, of any mother for a child, something that burned him so completely that when he held her against his pounding chest he would have made her part of him if it had been physically possible, and this passion burned him so completely that the old him, whoever that was, had been incinerated completely in the heat and all that remained was the new him, the first boy in the history of the earth to fall totally, deliciously, helplessly in love with a girl.
“Turner?” her muffled voice said against his chest, which was throbbing so hard he was sure it would burst.
“Would you let me go? You’re suffocating me to death.”
He relaxed his arms and looked down at her face. It was covered in tears.