The Gnomes They’ve Known

by T.L Sherwood 

Last year, the garden gnome would have pleased her. As Cassie pulled the Styrofoam away from the plaster form, she looked disappointed. Heather felt as stupidly thick as one of the men they had dated.

“He’s gorgeous.” Cassie half-smiled, taking Heather’s hand and drawing her close. “Just what I wanted.”

“I looked last year. None were right. I finally tracked this one down on eBay,” Heather explained.

Cassie kissed her cheek. “Exactly perfect.” She patted the gnome’s shoulder.

Heather watched her and asked, “But is it Mycroft?”

Cassie started to shake her head, then switched to nodding. “Yes. Yes. This is Mycroft. Mycroft the Second.”

Heather declined to point out that he may be the second garden gnome with that name, but technically, he was the third. If Cassie had forgotten the tabby she had when Heather met her, she didn’t want to remind her and strain the moment any more than it already was.

“And now dinner.”

“Dinner?” This brought genuine happiness to Cassie’s voice.

“Reservations at Depaulo’s.”

“Great.” The smile remained, but the cheeriness had already vanished.

In the car, Cassie mentioned that her agent had called about a part in a movie shooting in Buffalo that she’d be perfect for.

“At least this one is local,” Heather said, squeezing her hand.

“Yes. Well, parts of it. I mean, I may have to go to the studio for other scenes.”

“Who’s producing it?”

“Weinstein’s”

“Really?” Heather asked.

“What? It’s not that unusual.”

“No, I just thought they used Lawrence for that type.”

“What type?

“The hysterical wife, or widow, or whatever.”

“You think I’m hysterical.” Cassie crossed her arms against her chest.

“No! God! I said Lawrence was.”

“I’ll have you know she was up for an Oscar.”

“I do know that.”

“What? You don’t think she earned it?”

“How in the world did we get to here?” As confused as she’d ever been, Heather exhaled. Cassie turned her head and looked out the passenger side window. Heather pulled into a spot near the gift shop. To her dismay, a duplicate of the gnome she’d searched for was standing in the window.

“Huh.” Cassie said.

“You have got to be kidding me.”

“It’s fine. I know you’re not into shopping local.”

“I do shop local. You know I do. He wasn’t here when I was looking for him.”

Cassie shrugged, not believing her. Heather sighed, and considered walking in front of the truck speeding by on the other side of the street.

The hostess seated them upstairs. A waiter brought Cassie a glass of wine and a tonic with lime for Heather while they studied the menus.

“You won’t join me?” Cassie asked; Heather shook her head. “Not even a sip?”

Ignoring the idea, Heather asked, “Should we get the sampler?

Cassie took another sip of her wine. “Sure.”

They let the piano suffice for conversation. Cassie drank more than she usually did, though less than Heather used to. She was step challenged by the time they left. Heather held her at her waist while they walked down the stairs. Heather usually enjoyed the challenge of short, wide stairs, but tonight, they were annoying, not fun. Once Cassie was in the car and Heather had helped her with her seatbelt, Cassie noticed her purse was missing. Heather brushed off her shirt and inhaled before walking back into the restaurant. Upstairs, the purse was still slung over the back of Cassie’s chair. Heather didn’t know how they each had missed seeing it.

She picked it up and left. The door hadn’t shut when a cascade of glass fell on the street. An alarm sounded. Heather looked at her car. Cassie was leaning against it, staring at the maw of the gift shop window, shards of safety glass at her feet like a carpet of ice.

Heather hurried over to her and handed over the purse.

“Thanks.”

Heather looked at the tantalizing merchandise sitting there, easy to grab and take. A ceramic lamb’s head was severed. Boxes of something holding purple blown glass had fallen, the pieces in a haphazard mess. The gnome withstood the attack, remaining both unbroken and gallant.

“What happened?” Heather asked.

“What do you mean?” Cassie looked at her.

“Come on.” Heather opened the car door, got Cassie inside, and didn’t bother with the seatbelt. She signaled and pulled into traffic. No one was behind them–yet.

“You know there’s probably security cameras.” Heather spoke softly.

“They’re everywhere.” Cassie agreed.

“I hope that role pays enough to pay for the glass.”

“You don’t think I’ll get it.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“Didn’t have to.”

“I don’t want to fight tonight, Cass.”

Back at the house, Cassie poured a glass of wine from the box of table red they kept. Heather sat on the sofa and turned on the television. Cassie stood in front of it, sipping her wine and moving to music Heather couldn’t hear. It made her uncomfortable when Cassie started to gyrate, then unbutton her shirt.

Heather stood up to get a glass of water. Cassie surrounded her, chest pressed against her lover’s back, her arms holding Heather’s arms against her sides. “I love you. I love the gnome.”

Cassie let go enough so Heather could turn around. She put her arms around Cassie and kissed her. “Love you, too.”

“I hate my job.”

“I know.” Heather nodded.

“Everyone thinks acting is so easy.”

“I know.”

“I know you know.” Cassie leaned her head against Heather’s shoulder. “Come on, let’s go to bed.”

Upstairs, they made love then fell asleep sprawled against each other, content and sated. In the morning, Cassie was gone to her audition. She’d taped three daisies from the back yard to the hand of the gnome. Heather chose to believe it meant she remembered this Mycroft was the third they had known but not that Cassie was sorry for last night.

T. L. Sherwood recently finished her second novel. She is a fiction editor at r.kv.r.y. Quarterly Literary Journal. Among other places, her work has appeared in Rosebud, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, and Thema. Her blog, Creekside Reflections, can be found at: http://tlsherwood.wordpress.com/

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