In the musty darkness of a roadside motel in some forgotten corner of Santa Ana, Harold and Sophia lost themselves in each other.
Their first hotel room felt like a lifetime ago. This was the second room this week. Another stolen moment in a summer of stolen moments. There had been a brief gap of several days after that day by the harbor, and Harold thought little of it. Laying low, disappointed, he thought. Who knows? Who cares? But when that first text message with Sophia’s name popped up on his phone, he piloted that boat of a Ford to the side of the road and dropped anchor somewhere in Irvine.
BORED IN BREA. WHAT YOU UP TO? her message read.
A little back and forth and an hour later, they were stealing kisses at a mall like a couple of teenagers cutting class. In the days to come, their text messages became love notes. Love notes evolved into voicemails. Voicemails slipped into hushed late-night calls. Long drives and short make-out sessions in parking lots and malls quickly abandoned for more hotel rooms and lunch at her favorite places. And when Sophia paid with cash, Harold never asked why.
“Why me?” he asked her one night in a church parking lot.
“Does it matter?” she said.
A phone rang in the musty darkness. Sophia rolled atop Harold, and answered it. And as he looked up at a woman speaking casually with her husband on the other end of a very inconsiderate call, Harold supposed nothing mattered at all.
“Goodbye, Oliver,” Sophia growled, hanging up and tossing her phone. It clattered on the floor, and she clawed at Harold’s chest and nibbled on his lip. “Where were we?”
“What?” she said, looking at Harold as if he were the stupidest man alive. “Yeah, I’m fine. Everything’s fine. Why?”
“He just called,” the stupidest man alive drooled.
“For fuck’s sake,” Sophia huffed. “You’re not going to start being a little bitch about this, are you?”
“No,” Harold lied. “It’s just–isn’t this even a little fuckin’ weird to you?”
“That’s funny,” she said, rolling off Harold. “I didn’t know that was your conscience inside me a minute ago. My bad.”
Harold sat in his mess, watched Sophia gather her clothes and disappear into the shower, and then sighed. “Goddammit.”