On the day my root dried, Ben was at the grocery store stocking up on low-cal meal options—he knew that a few of us were about to come loose. My feet cracked off the stem and I took two wobbly steps before I was able to strut correctly—taking the full range of my long legs, right, left, right, left. I was wearing a green Valentino halter with some wool Prada pants and silver Jimmy Choos. The French doors that lead to the kitchen were on my right, but I wasn't sure about where to go. All the other girls were still attached and gawked enviously until I strutted right into the tall wooden fence.
"Ha, ha. Hahahahahahahahaha." Their laughs all blended into one. One thing about me is my great muscle tone, an experiment Ben tried on my crop. We also have straw-colored hair and brown eyes. I have freckles on my nose, which Ben says is because I was always looking at the sun when I was growing. Basically, I am an all-American girl with a slammin' body. I like to think slightly more slammin' than the others, but we're all a high-quality product.
There are more of us than you might think—Ben developed the seed in 1999, planted my crop in 2002, and we took a year to grow. In 2003, he made a seed that grows faster, but the whole crop only grew to 5'7" and Ben had to get them jobs at the plastic factory in Rockport. They stay in the house with the rest of us. All ten of them are tall (but not tall enough) beauties who have trouble at the factory doing their jobs—turning a knob, pressing a button—because Ben engineered us to walk, glare, turn, walk, and not much else. So it was back to one year of growth, and I'm glad I wasn't part of that harvest.
By now we're all over the runways, and you probably couldn't distinguish one of us from a traditional model. Put me next to Heidi Klum or Molly Sims, and you'd never guess that they were born of mothers and that I germinated in fertile soil upstate.
We rise from the ground, full-grown and draped in couture, and open our eyes, breathe, smell, and talk as soon as our heads are completely out of the ground. In the yard there is a constant chorus: "I asked for Evian!" "Why does Milla get the extensions?" "I said no dressing on this salad!" Ben watched fashion documentaries to get ideas for the things we would say. We break off knowing all the things we need to know about the modeling world. If we know something about the outside world, it's because there was a mistake. Ben made it that way because it's what's best for us. There are a lot of days that I wish he had been home when I broke off of my stem. If he had, I would still have my innocence. He does everything for us, and if anyone's unhappy, it's not his fault.
We follow Ben's rules because he's our guide. We wouldn't know anything without him. We wouldn't even exist if he hadn't made us. He's like a dad, but not. He is only twenty-seven and most of us look about twenty. A few of us see him as a boyfriend. We are made to trust him and be attracted to him. People were always mean to him when he was growing up. Nothing changed in college, so he dropped out and started working on the seeds. He tells me that the truly brilliant are not capable of connecting with others, which so far has been true for him. That's why he made us, perfect fashion models who prefer knobby knees and acne. He doesn't keep us cooped up with him, though. We get to have careers, which Ben is mostly in charge of.
Occasionally my muscles have been a drawback—for high fashion they want you bony. On the day I walked into the fence, they came in handy. I pulled myself up by clawing at the fence, hand over hand. I didn't know when to stop, and before I knew it I was at the top, legs dangling and my torso leaning forward into the neighbors' yard. Before Ben got a chance to explain anything to me, I glimpsed the world outside of fashion, and it ruined me.
On the other side of the fence there were rows and rows of chairs, full of people in really nice (but really boring) outfits. Up at the front there were three people: a guy in black robes, a man in a suit that I could tell was Armani, and a girl in a white Armani dress. You'd think it's impossible to look bad in Armani, but somehow this girl did. The dress was long, plain, and simple, and instead of hanging off her shoulders and falling straight to the ground, it was all interrupted by her huge hips and butt. It was distracting. I heard the end of what she said.
"And because of this love, I know that as long as you are waking beside me, I will always have what I need. You are my beginning and end. I see myself and our future every time I look in your eyes." Someone stood up in the front row and gave her a tissue. She made a big honking noise into it and wiped her eyes. Her nose was huge and her eyes were tiny and very close-set.
Then the guy started in. He was balding and narrow in the shoulders.
"Anna, I have been waiting for you for years, and when I met you I knew that I was looking at the rest of my life."
It was not what I would have wanted to see.
"You make me laugh, and when you cry, I cry. We will be together in all that we do, and when we are apart I will carry you with me in my heart. From this moment, I am first and foremost your husband."
These words were all foreign to me—comfort, future, husband. I hung onto the fence even though my arms were getting wobbly.
The guy in the robes said something and they put rings on.
Then he said something else I didn't quite hear. The ones in Armani kissed and walked back toward the house, holding hands and staring at each other. I thought they would trip and fall. The people in the rows were clapping.
Finally, my arms gave out. I dropped to the ground and stayed close to the fence, trying to hear what was going on. I peeked through the fence boards, but there wasn't much to see. The couple was closer now, and they looked even uglier close up. But he just kept kissing her as all the people filed by, shaking their hands and saying congratulations. The girl was crying again, but not in a sad way. I was looking for a bigger knothole to look through so I could figure out why they were acting like that.
"Hey!" yelled a voice behind me.
I turned around and there was Ben, charging out of the back door.
"What are you doing? You want them to see you?"
"I-I-I. I don't know. What should I do?"
"Nothing. You do nothing until I tell you to do something." He turned to the other girls. "You hear that? You break off, you do nothing until I come to get you. You don't know what you're doing yet."
He grabbed me by the arm and we went in the house. There were water bottles set out on the table. I grabbed one and gulped it ravenously.
"You can do that now," Ben said, "but once you start working you'll have to start sipping. No gulping."
I nodded tentatively. I liked that he seemed to know things. It was nice to be told what to do.
"Let's go." He walked down the stairs and I followed him. The basement was a complete studio—cameras, lights, backgrounds, props, even a puppy in a little cage. He was a Jack Russell terrier, hopping and whining to be let out.
Ben stuck a couple fingers in the cage for the dog to lick. "I foster them," he said. "When they get too old to be useful for shoots, I get a new one. Here's the makeup." He pointed to a well-lit vanity.
I sat in the chair and examined the brushes and palettes. They didn't have that foreignness that everything else did—I knew exactly what to do with them. I held up different bottles of foundation until I found one that matched the skin on my inner arm. I spread it onto my face with a wedge-shaped sponge, then followed with blush, dramatic Asian-inspired eyes, and full copper lips. He had an outfit ready for me. I slipped into the two-piece bathing suit and stepped in front of the camera.
"I'm glad you broke off so soon," he said. "It's nice to get a head start on the portfolios. Hell down here when four or five girls are breaking off every day."
Suddenly I was not so interested in what he had to say. I concentrated on my pout and the camera, jumping around and trying different facial expressions.
"It was hell getting in and out of here today, too," he said. "All those people next door."
"I saw them," I said.
"Stupid," he muttered.
I pouted a little, for real this time.
"I wouldn't have looked if you had told me not to."
"I didn't mean you, I meant—just don't do that anymore, okay? It's usually pretty quiet around here anyway. The neighbors keep to themselves."
I felt questions inside me, but I couldn't get them out.
We had three outfit changes and some modifications to the makeup before we were finished. Then he took me upstairs, to a large tiled room with several showerheads.
"You get the place to yourself tonight," he said. "Beds are through that door. See you in the morning."
I showered and dried myself with one of the fluffy pink towels. The bedroom was very big, filled with rows of plain beds. We don't even get our own rooms! In that way we are not like real models. We don't have personal assistants. At home we are not spoiled or coddled. We're no different than the girls who work at the factory.
Seeing all those beds made me think of what I'd heard earlier: "As long as you are waking beside me, I will always have what I need." I didn't know how waking up beside the other models would give me what I need. Later I learned that the best bed in the house is Ben's, where you can get a very restful night's sleep if the conditions are right.
The next morning Ben came into the room and told me to sit tight. "You started a trend. They're all breaking off now."
I started a trend! I knew those words. I spent the rest of the morning kneeling on the bed closest to the window, watching my fellow models free themselves one by one. There were too many for Ben to do their portfolios right away like he did mine. He sent them up to the bedroom with me. They were all very quiet because he's instructed them not to speak. I wanted to ask them something, but I wasn't sure what.
Finally everyone was upstairs and Ben came in with a clipboard.
"Attention, everyone," he said. "I'm Ben. I'm in charge here. I made you. You're models. You know what that means. You're all set to have pretty good careers if you stay focused. That means you work on perfecting techniques, like posing and walking and doing your own makeup and hair. Spend a lot of time thinking about your outfits. There will be new magazines coming in the mail every day. Look at the pictures! They will tell you what trends are coming and going. That's all you have to do. I deal with designers and magazines. I will get jobs for you as long as you work hard and follow my instructions. You have to look good if you want to generate interest. The first step is the portfolio. We'll shoot one for each of you over the next few days. For now, everyone take a shower and then we'll eat dinner. The showers are through that door." He pointed and all the girls rushed into the shower room.
I stayed where I was—I had already showered that morning. I sat on my bed, thinking about Ben's speech. I kept hearing over and over, "You have to look good in order to generate interest." I wasn't sure if it was true. There was a whole crowd of people watching the girl in the Armani, and she did not look good at all. I was sure that Ben was to only person who could tell me why, but I didn't want to ask. It would just remind him that I broke off first and walked in the wrong direction.
I think I missed something by skipping that shower. They had walked in all quiet, but when they came out the girls were talking non-stop about everything Ben had said. Everyone was so excited about their portfolios, about looking at magazines and practicing their walks.
It's true that portfolios are important. Mine got me my first job: a print ad for Tylenol. I sat behind a table with a bottle of pills on it and looked relieved. I sold a lot of pills. As the months passed I got a lot of non-fashion print work. I was busy, but upset that I wasn't getting fashion work. All the other girls kind of sniggered at me when I got home. They worked less but for the big names. Ben started sneering at me too when I would walk in at the end of a workday with a big box of candy bars or cucumber-scented deodorant. Most days, I felt bad. I wanted to start having some different kinds of feelings, like crying in a happy way, like I'd seen next door.
I still thought about it. It was a connection between them—they wanted to be together. I only ever saw people at shoots once and then never again. I couldn't do it with them. I could try it with Ben, but I wasn't sure he wanted to cry in a happy way or make connections. And he's told me: he can't make connections. It's part of his brilliance. But if he doesn't know about how to do it, how would he know how to make it not possible for me?
There's a new set of girls growing, all redheads. When they were about waist-out Ben saw me lingering by the French doors and told me to get lost.
"I don't know what your problem is," he said. "It's like you want to cause trouble."
He was mad because I'd finally gotten a look-see for Calvin Klein's spring show. They'd been very enthusiastic based on my portfolio, but I blew it in the meeting. I don't know what I did wrong, but when I got home the "no thanks" message was already on the machine.
"Before you know it, you'll be doing auto shows," Ben said, and plopped down on an ottoman.
"I wish," I whispered.
"What was that?"
"I WISH!" I wanted to be around other people and Ben never allowed it beyond what was absolutely necessary for work. Occasionally we were allowed to go on dates, if it was with someone high profile and we would be photographed. Even then there was a two-date limit. Even for the ones who aren't models, the rules about talking to people were very strict. He'd told the people at the plastic factory that the girls are recovering speed addicts, here for halfway house rehab, to explain their skinniness and stupidity. Everyone at the factory avoided them.
At that moment the plastics girls came barreling in after a long shift, each carrying a bag.
"We brought plates!" one of them shouted. Sometimes they bring home extra products from the plant. We have a lot of plastic kitchenware.
"Go take showers!" Ben shouted. That's what he always says when he wants us out of his hair.
Ben scowled at me. "I got a call from Hilfiger's people. They want to see more of you in stripes playing with puppies. This could be big, if you don't mess it up."
"Oh, Ben!" I couldn't help it. I ran over to the ottoman and hugged him. He stiffened his shoulders and raised an eyebrow.
"We need to get on it ASAP. I got a couple yellow labs just for this and someone may be adopting them tomorrow."
I ran to the basement and skimmed the racks for American-looking stripes. I did my makeup fresh and light. I ran back to the kitchen and rubbed cold cuts on my forearms. By the time I got in front of the camera, the puppies were all over me and I was laughing hysterically, looking carefree. I knew Hilfiger would be it for me. I could meet some real people on these shoots. I could make some money and get my own place to live, and figure out what it was that I'd seen over the fence that day.
I smiled and smiled and smiled and when the call came I smiled even more. This was it. I was a Tommy model.
The runway show was horrible. People screaming left and right, girls fighting. Even though I get a lot of that at home, I wasn't prepared. Tommy personally attended to my accessories and makeup. Despite the stress, I looked fabulous. Tommy said he loved my light spattering of freckles and the light shine of my hair. I had finally found my match.
The flashbulbs were blinding on the runway. I was looking good, generating interest. I couldn't even see past the first row, but I knew the room was full and everyone was looking at me. If I couldn't connect with Ben, I would connect with someone else. I was getting closer.
Ben added an extra line to take all my calls. Ralph Lauren's people were calling, begging, every day. He would be placing ads in all the major mags for fall, and he wanted me: a fresh face to star in the campaign. About a month passed before Ralph's people finally offered enough cash to please Ben. I was going to Ralph's estate for a special shoot. I was going to be a star.
The day after we signed the contract with Ralph, Ben took me aside. The other girls were sitting at the big dining room table, waiting for lunchtime.
"We need to talk," he said. I nodded nervously. He'd been giving me all kinds of pointers and it was starting to be overwhelming. I was afraid he'd tell me one more thing to do and I'd forget. It was nice to be on his good side. Lately he'd been smiling at me, bringing me outfits, telling me I was really talented. It was so much better than the print-ad era, when he'd seemed embarrassed by me.
"So, I'm sure you've noticed that I usually let one of the models from a prior crop sleep in my room," he said.
"Yes," I replied.
"I think you're ready. To sleep in my room."
"Okay." My mind raced. Did his room look like ours? Would he talk in his sleep? Would he steal the warmest blankets off my bed? How would it be different from sleeping in a room full of girls? Would I wake up and feel like I had everything I needed? The other girls had always been very closed-lipped about it.
"Sleeping in my room is different."
"It's a privilege. You should be proud of yourself."
"Yes. I am." I smiled.
"But you're used to sleeping in a room full of girl models, and when a girl model sleeps with a guy scientist, like me, just the two of us, it's different. It's more…fun."
Fun? My lungs were paralyzed. My hands shook.
"It's more...physical. It's the before sleeping that's more fun." He gulped.
"We can talk, but mostly, it's physical. We'll be really close, like, I'll be inside you. It might feel weird to you at first, but believe me, it's fun. Okay? It's fun. I promise. So come to my room tonight." He patted me on the shoulder and rushed off.
"Okay," I said to his empty chair. "I'll be there."
I had no idea what he meant, but I couldn't wait for the evening because the sooner it came, the sooner it would be morning. And in the morning, I would wake up with everything I needed right next to me.
I usually sleep in no clothes, but I picked a blue nightgown off the wardrobe rack in the basement. It was long and flowing, but my body wasn't lost in it. I wanted this to be a photo-worthy moment.
As soon as it was dark out, I changed into my nightgown and walked past our bedroom door and all the way down the hall, to Ben's door. As I passed, the other models gawked at me from the edges of their twin beds. As soon as I was out of sight, the room exploded into chatter. I knocked quietly on the door.
Ben answered, wearing a red robe I'd never seen before. He always wears the same thing—khaki shorts and a polo shirt with Chuck Taylors. He says it's all about our outfits, not his. He has a couple nice suits he will wear if he's forced to do business in person.
"Hello," he said. It seemed to me that something was wrong. His eyes were off to the left as though he was looking at the wall. Ben is always looking at us. He made us for a lot of reasons and one that is he likes to look at us.
"Hi," I said, and leaned so that I was in his gaze. He almost jumped.
"Okay, so this is my room. The bed's there, obviously. That door goes to the bathroom. There's a spa tub and a big shower if you need it. The other door is to my clothes closet. There are magazine racks under the window so you have something to look at. There's a coffee maker and a little fridge with some snacks in the closet if you get hungry. I'll show you how to work the TV later."
"Okay." I noticed that all the curtains were closed and the bed had been turned down. "I don't need a shower or a snack."
"All right," he said. "I sleep on the left side. You get the right." He sat down on the bed and I walked around to my side. It was a very simple setup, white sheets, white comforter, but the fabrics were nicer than what I was used to. I slipped under the comforter and wiggled around a bit.
"I like this," I said.
"I like it, too," he said, and before I knew it he was hovering over me. "Don't be scared. I'll ease you into it."
I had kissed before, for photo shoots. I knew what it should be like. Ben kissed me for a moment, and then he moved his lips off of mine and onto my jawbone. He was eating my face. It was not the right way, and I couldn't imagine why he was doing it anyway. This was on-camera behavior. There was not a camera in sight.
"Are you—are you thinking of being a model?" I asked, turning my head so he'd be back on my lips.
"Of course not," he said.
"Why are you doing this, then? This isn't a shoot."
"I told you, it's fun. Be patient. It's fun once you're warmed up."
I held my breath and tried to feel warm. He had a hand on my stomach, which slid up and squeezed my breast through the silky fabric.
"Let's lose this nightgown," he said. I sat up and he lifted it over my head.
"Yes," he said, kneeling next to me. "I did a really good job of making you. You have a beautiful body." It was the kind of compliment I loved to get. He put his index finger on my collarbone and traced it down my sternum, then around my right breast. "A beautiful body." He straddled me and put his hands on either side of my waist. Then his mouth was on my breast and he was eating it like he did my face. It hurt.
"It's—it's—this is not a shoot for nursing bras!"
"Nope. It's better." He kept moving, leaving a long trail of his spit down my torso, and I felt a jolt between my legs. It was beyond my comprehension. I decided to stop asking questions. I didn't say another word. Finally he climbed off of me and pulled his t-shirt back on.
"See? I told you it was fun."
"Can I sleep now?" I asked.
"Yup, time for sleeping." He smiled at me and turned out the light.
When I woke up I didn't feel like I had everything I needed right next to me. I felt sore and the room looked ugly, like the colors were off.
I decided it was time to act. I could not tell anyone what I was planning, not that there was anyone to tell. I knew that if I wanted to be like the people next door, I would have to live in their world. I had to leave Ben's house. I would keep working, and when the time was right I would sneak into his private room. It's the room where he does all the business. He goes in every day, and when he comes out there are jobs for us. Cars come to pick us up. Packages come in the mail. It might be hard to figure out how it works, but I was sure that getting into that room was the first step in getting out of the house.
When I arrived at Ralph Lauren's house there were huge wardrobe and makeup tents set up. There was a rack for me, stuffed with white dresses. Everyone else's racks were regular clothes. I picked through them, wondering. All white? Why?
I tried every single one and we settled on a light chiffon with cap sleeves and a full skirt. They curled my hair and pulled back a few strands.
"Your bone structure is unreal!" the stylist said, and thrust a bunch of white roses into my hands. "They're ready for you."
When I got to the set it was almost exactly what I'd seen next door on the day I broke off of my root. Rows of chairs, full of people, and I was coupled with a guy in a suit. I walked the aisle, we stood at the front, we walked back down the aisle and held hands, while photographers shot us from every angle.
Then it turned into a party. We moved to the dance floor. Music blared. Our instructions were to cover the dance floor and look happy. It wasn't hard. It was fun. And I realized that maybe I didn't have to leave Ben's house to have these experiences. I just had to get the right jobs. Here I was in a couple, and there were lots of other people I could hold hands and dance with and make connections. I would gaze into their eyes, so excited, and they would gaze back, and for a moment I'd think, "We're doing it! We're making each other happy in every way!" But as the sun set, the photographer would stop periodically to check the meters and people would wander off to craft services to munch on carrots like nothing had happened at all.
The sun was almost gone and the shoot was going to end. I was on the dance floor, twirling with my man. His name was David. When we reached the edge of the dance floor, he would tip me back and catch me with one arm.
"Make this one count!" the photographer yelled. The sunset was orange and purple behind us. David dipped me back and gazed down.
"You are my beginning and end," I said. "I see myself and our future every time I look in your eyes."
David laughed. "That's good," he said.
"That's a wrap!" yelled the photographer. "Great job, everyone!"
"Nice work today," David said. "Maybe I'll see you around." And he walked off.
I stood in my white dress, stunned. I was sure that David was going to ask me on a date after everything we'd done together. I would have said yes to David, even though he's not famous. I would have found a way to break the rules and go on several dates with him.
That night I rode home in the limo, crying. I'd never cried before, except for when I did it on cue at a shoot for allergy pills. I couldn't help it. I'd been beautiful, on a beautiful estate in a beautiful gown, and none of the people were interested in me.
At home Ben was all questions, and I tried to answer them with the same enthusiasm I'd had before I left for the shoot. But he knew something was wrong. I slept in the big room with the other girls that night. I didn't even bother to ask who he'd invited into his room.
All week I hoped that David had felt the connection and would try to get in touch with me. Every time Ben came out of the closed room, I asked him, "Any calls about me?" There were a couple about booking shoots, but none about dates. And I realized that even if David did call to ask me on a date, Ben would probably not even tell me.
I could not hide how sad I was. I did not speak to Ben or the other girls. I moped and moped. Finally, Ben came out of his secret room and told me to meet him on the back porch in ten minutes.
I sat on the picnic table, picking at the hem of my skirt. There were girls inside, watching me through the sliding door. Ben pushed them aside. "Take a shower," he yelled, and opened the door. They vanished upstairs and he slid the door closed behind him.
"Why do you want to talk to me?"
"Your Lauren spread was a huge hit. He's calling me about spring and I don't know what to say. She refuses to work? She's fallen into a deep depression? I didn't make you to act like this. Opportunity is knocking and if you can't get it together, I'll have to tell him no. Turn down any more jobs and you'll have to work at the plastic factory."
I was tired, but I raised my head and looked him straight in the eye. "You would make me do that?"
"You can't just sit around the house all day. It sets a bad example for the others."
"What's this shoot?"
"I don't know, spring. I didn't get the particulars. It's Ralph Lauren. What more do you need to know?"
I thought of how miserable I had been since the last shoot, just wandering around the house, not even bothering to look at magazines. I missed being a model. If it didn't give me the connections I wanted, I still missed it. And I wouldn't be making any connections staying in the house all day. At least if I was working, there would be other people. I could try.
"Fine," I said. "I'll do it."
"Really do it? Like, stop scowling all the time, and be yourself again? Because if you go and don't perform, that will be it."
"I can do it," I said. "Tell them I'll be there."
I went to the shoot and it was just like the one before—I was dressed in Ralph Lauren, on a vast estate, filled with puppies and beautiful people. When the cameras were on us, we ran through the fields, laughing and touching. When the cameras were off, everyone retreated to their own corners, and I sat by the food table all alone.
Every shoot I've done since then has been the same, but I keep going. I try to make the connection, but when I make a little move after the cameras stop it's the same—a little laugh. "You're funny," they'll say. "See you around."
I went back to having nights in Ben's room, convinced that I could just close my eyes and think of sunshine. I imagined a reward in the end, if things went as planned. It was about my tenth night back when I decided it was time to set my plan in motion.
He was pulling his t-shirt back on. He reached over to the nightstand for his favorite magazine, Genetics Quarterly. It doesn't have many pictures.
"You going to stay up and look at magazines?" he asked. "I can dim the light a little if you want to sleep."
"I want to talk," I said. He raised an eyebrow. It wasn't encouraging. I sat up straight and looked into his eyes. "Ben, I know that as long as you are waking up beside me, I will always have what I need."
"Go on," he said, and chuckled a little.
"You are my beginning and end. I see myself and our future every time I look in your eyes. I have been waiting for you for years, and when I met you I knew that I was looking at the rest of my life." I stopped for a breath. He put down the genetics book.
"You make me laugh, and when you cry, I cry. I will do my best to make you happy in every way, and when you can't be happy, I will comfort you. We will be together in all that we do, and when we are apart I will carry you with me in my heart. From this moment, I am first and foremost your husband." I let out long breath and looked away from him—I was too nervous to see the look on his face. I ran my finger against the edge of the sheet. Now everything was in his hands. That's the point of the connection. You both have to do something.
"You can't be an actress," he said. "You don't even know what a husband is." He cackled and took a drink from the water glass on his nightstand.
I didn't know what he meant, but I knew that we weren't making the connection.
I've never stopped hoping for it. I try to smile when he smiles, and to stay out of the way when he's mad, and really rock all of my shoots so he'll be proud of me like he was when I got that first Tommy gig. After that night, I didn't want to sleep in his bed at all, but I made myself do it. Over time, I got used to it. There are moments when I'm reminded of the day I broke off my root: the bottoms of my feet were tender as I hobbled around the backyard. I didn't know a thing about print ads or Calvin Klein. It was all possibility. I could have gone anywhere, done anything.
I will feel myself close to Ben, his skin on my skin, and get a flash of that tenderness. The bottoms of my feet soften. I could melt. The whole world is possibility as Ben and I grow a soft cloud around us. I can see it reaching out of the room, out of the house, covering everything. Then Ben will roll off me and head straight for the shower. The softness disappears and I'm alone. Sometimes I leave. I walk back to my own bed, where the mattress is smaller, less fluffy. The sheets are rougher. I take a magazine out from under the bed. The two-page spread of me twirling around the dance floor is what gives me hope, even though David didn't feel the connection that day. I feel it again when I run my fingers over the pages. The sun was warm through my light white dress, and David touched the small of my back. We were the only ones. We danced in circles, and dipped, and smiled, and were everything to each other.