In the garden we sit amidst a gliding breeze and tall, hissing trees. Her lithe fingers braid nimble brown reeds into a bracelet. She wedges a delicate red flower into the center, like a jewel, and ties the bracelet around his wrist. An airy, pleased chuckle escapes his chest and fills the air between the three of us. She responds with a breathy release of her own, and I’m engulfed in a familiar blend of musk and sweet vapor, the heady mist of good chemistry between two other people.
Here I know neither my place nor role, only that I have felt this discomfort before. I want the same woman my brother cares for. Though we share no blood and in less dramatic terms, this brother is more appropriately called “best friend”, the desire I have for her feels just as traitorous.
But what can I do? I have only felt this affection for one other woman in my life. That she was also the third in a trio, and a close friend’s eventual girlfriend, makes me wonder unkindly about myself; yet as I see this one now, her brown hair billowing in the wind and singing silent serenades for the years we’ve shared together, I know that this is different.
She turns and speaks over the ambiance of chirping birds, “Let’s make you a bracelet now.”
I stand and walk barefoot to the edge of tile, crossing into the grass, and pluck a flowered jewel for my bracelet. I also kneel to pick up fallen white flowers before returning to sit beside them under the gazebo. I hand her the one for my bracelet, and she gets straight to work. With the other white flowers, I gently place them in a pattern, one by one, in her hair.
“This one could be better than the last one,” she says absently, squinting down at the bangle. I wonder whether it bothers him that she is making me one. I wonder if it would bother me had I been given the first bracelet. I conclude that it wouldn’t.
The three of us love each other, albeit in different ways. That he and I both want her in our beds is the only hidden thorn in the meadow of our youth, which feels at the moment like an endless summer though it is currently December. I look at him, and then at her, and consider how someday we will remember days like this one, replay memories of our features when they were softer and untouched by wrinkles and decay.
If these two are meant to be, to have and to hold, then I will gladly abandon the thought of her and me. But until that is clear, I refuse to be passive . . . like I was the last time.
She finishes the bracelet with her eyes still focused but her mind somewhere else. She knots the bracelet closed around his wrist, right behind the first one, and smiles in satisfaction.