He pinches the bridge of his nose, because that is one of his favorite sayings.
“If you like work more than me, Declan—”
“That is not what I said, and you know it, Shannon. I said that life is what I fit in around work. We were talking about a soda or a bag of chips from the minibar and now it’s devolved into an argument about work-life balance.”
“It’s where you juggle the two to make them evenly important.”
“How can you claim to even try if life is what you squeeze in around work? That’s not balance. That’s gap-filling. I’m nothing but a full caulk gun to you.”
“I was using that as a way of defending against your ridiculous contention that you needed to deprive yourself of a Butterfinger because we’re not on a business trip!”
“Ohh, low blow, Dec!”
“Now you’re using my love of Butterfingers to win this argument!” Some lines can’t be crossed in relationships.
He picks up one of the offending confections and tosses it to me.
“Oh, I’m way dirtier than that,” he says in a voice that rumbles.
“Sex. Again.” I sigh and shake my head. I also crouch and pick up the candy bar, because hey. Butterfinger.
“Is that an observation or a...request?”
Considering that question carefully, I fume, and yet, in great anger there is great opportunity. What if I just throw myself at him and end this ridiculous argument? We’ve been bickering since we got on the plane, and this is not our norm. Other couples may fight in tiny little ways with micro-insults that are all about keeping score in some fifty-years war where the victor—what? Lives?
But I don’t want that kind of life.
If sex will heal this rift, then maybe I need to call him on his cute little bluff. Maybe that was just a sweet little joke. A poke.
Maybe I can’t tell, because it looks too much like a sharp stick he’s poking at me for me to know it’s really an olive branch.
“Which do you want it to be?” I peel open the candy bar and wrap my lips around the tip of the long, chocolate-coated piece of layered processed pretend peanutty whatever that some lab rat in a candy factory created with chemicals for the perfect consistency and addictive taste.
If this whole marketing-director thing doesn’t work out, I think I’ll become a chemical taster for candy companies.
“I want it to be whatever gets us to stop fighting. I hate this, Shannon. I hate not feeling connected to you.”
This is why I want to marry this man. This. Not the thousand guests, the tartan thongs, the cat as flower girl, or the forty-one bagpipe players. Not Mom’s Farmington Country Club dream, and not for the lavish gifts people brought.
“Maybe I should have sex with you,” I challenge, eyes on his, giving him the side-eye like I’m evaluating a rival before a boxing match. Except instead of hitting each other, we’re going to play an elaborate game of Battleship.
He’s the red peg and I’m G14.
Or pretty much any G spot on the board.
“Would it stop all this crazy talk about five-dollar sodas and personal shoppers and the clash between two socioeconomic systems that each make sense in-culture but that create nothing but conflict and inefficiencies when we argue?”
“You’re so sexy when you speak like a social economist. Please,” he says, licking his lips suggestively. “Do it again.”
“Russian cultural resilience in natural disaster resource allocation.”
He breathes heavily. I stick the candy bar in my mouth suggestively, making him grunt.
My mind races through sophomore-year classes. “Gunnar Myrdal,” I say. “Homo economicus. Prospect theory.”
“I’m not sure which is sexier. The way you’re mouthing that candy bar, or how you sound when you say ‘resource allocation.’ How about you allocate some resources my way?” he adds.
I throw a Butterfinger at him. Sure, it’s a waste, but in a pinch, you make sacrifices for a greater good.
He tackles me around the waist like an experienced Greco-Roman wrestler and I’m on the bed, wrists pinned, his knee between my legs as it looks like we’re about to make up.
“Why are we fighting about money?” I ask him before his mouth lands on mine, the kiss aggressive and demanding, the unraveling ends of our nerves trying to find some sense of order in the flesh.
“We never fight about money,” he croons, letting go of one wrist so his hands can go on a peace-seeking mission.
“We do so fight about money!”
“Are we now fighting about whether or not we fight about money?” He collapses on me as if he’s just plain given up.
It’s like Declan can’t even.
“We’ve gone meta,” I whisper.
“Is that like going emo?” His voice is muffled in my hair.
He shudders, then rolls off to the side, propping his head in one hand, elbow on the bed. His tuxedo jacket is open, one button lost somewhere between Boston and here. His shirt is horribly stained, and he smells like a sweaty man at the end of a long day, mixed in with the nose-tickling scent of Coke. Those green eyes are sagging, tired beyond his years, and as he grunts again in frustration I realize how stupid we’re being.
“Stupid,” I whisper. “Stupid, stupid, stupid.”