It was the way he’d said, “Of course, Sweetie”—heavy on “course,” long on “ie”—that made her wonder. The way, too, that he pressed her hand between both of his as he said it, the way he locked eyes with her and smiled.
             A faint scar, the length of an eyelash, curled up from the right corner of his upper lip, a capital C for… Cute? Clever? Charismatic? 
             She smiled back, then pulled her hand free, wiped the sweat on her jeans, and left for work.
             When had he ever taken her hand like that, like somebody’s mother, like an old aunt? And that intense look into her eyes—it was like he’d studied a how-to on appearing to speak with sincerity.
             Calculated? Confident?
             She would have been fine if he’d said no, I don’t love you. Maybe she would have preferred it.
             All day she wondered. She heard, Of COURSE, Sweeeeteeee, over and over, even as she logged receipts, managed to sell a few fish tanks. You should see that in three to five business days. Enjoy.
             Canny? Cunning? Cavalier?
             Sweeeeteeee. Crafted? Coded?
             No surprise when she got back and he wasn’t there. And it wasn’t just him, missing, but the him-infrastructure. His toothbrush, his slippers, his tea mug. Beer.
             That’s what you get for asking. Well, no. That’s what you get for living with somebody you have to ask.
             Or. Wait.
             Maybe she had imagined the whole thing, and all this time... Conjured??
             Crazy Confused Confounded. ColdClammyCrushedCrateredCapsized.
             Yeah, of course the “C” was meant for her all along.
             Closed Castle. Crypt.

Claire Guyton is a Maine writer, editor, and writing coach, whose work has appeared in bosque (the magazine), Crazyhorse, Hunger Mountain, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Mid-American Review, River Styx, Sliver of Stone Magazine, Summer Stories (Shanti Arts Publishing, 2013), and elsewhere. She is a former Maine Arts Commission Literary Fellow, and earned her MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts.