Harmon pulled into the parking lot of the northeastern shopping center, its glassy, odd-angling facade shimmering with the solis like molten crystal. He squinted against the glare, put on his sunglasses, checked his wrist watch, exited the vehicle and headed for the pet food store. It loomed a story above every other building, its name, Erma’s Pet Emporium, stood out against the whitewashed and rain-stained walls, glowering from behind illuminated red plastic like the palled embers of an otherworldly fire.
Lyla was finishing her shift when Harmon strode up to her.
“How’ve you been, Bluebird?”
“Why haven’t you called?”
“Harmon, I’ve gotta close up here… can we talk later.”
“You’re making a very serious face.”
“I just need some time alone.”
“By ‘alone’ do you actually mean ‘alone,’ or just ‘away from me?'”
“Harmon, its not like that. Its hard to explain.”
She closed up the register and waved to her manager who waved back and then made for the exit, purse over her shoulder.
“Why I wish you would at least try.”
“I just need some time…”
Lyla paused in the middle of the parking lot and looked down at her shoes, unable to muster a cogent answer. Only one lone car moved against the stillness of that barren field. The wind twined her hair about her supple features like liquid night as her eyes narrowed with sadness and her hands went tight about her purse string.
“I can’t be with you anymore, Harmon.”
“Big difference between can’t and won’t.”
“You don’t understand.”
“You’re right about that. Suppose you won’t explain. Though, one thing I do understand is fidelity.”
“I don’t want to have these awful talks anymore.”
“When you didn’t return my calls I assumed as much. Though I never thought of our conversations as ‘awful.'”
“That’s not what I meant and you know it. I meant… conversations about being together.”
“Do you love me?”
Her wide eyes betrayed considerable surprise. Shortly, they disclosed tears.
“I don’t know.”
Harmon nodded to himself, a confirmation of a long held suspicion. He turned and looked towards the setting sun and spoke flatly.
“I remember when you first told me you loved me. More clearly do I remember when you told me you always would. You know what that makes you?”
Lyla straightened, a new resolve hardening her round and delicate face.
“I’ve got to go.”
“Course you do.”
“You really don’t care, do you?”
“Of course I care.”
Harmon turned full around, hands in his pockets and his eyes dire and incandescent with the stellar sphere’s light.
“Just not about loyalty.”
He could see that it was the last straw for her. She sniffed and wiped her eyes, opened the door of her rental and back out of the lot.
“That’s alright,” Harmon declared to the sky as Lyla’s car melded with the midday rush, “She’ll come to care. I’ll make certain of that.”