Your Sky All Hung With Jewels


J. Edward Tremlett

"So... where are you going, tonight, you handsome guy?" he asked himself, smiling at his reflection.

He was still sitting on the edge of the bed, adjusting his tie for the tenth time since he'd gotten dressed. He was just trying to get it perfect - something he'd never been good at, ever.

But he kept trying, anyway, because he didn't believe in giving up. Not now, not ever. Hell with that...

The flowers sat on the dresser, next to the wallet {full of cash}, car keys {red Jaguar} and a condom {for later tonight}. He'd gotten them one at a time, over the last few days - buying the flowers last - all in preparation for tonight, which had to be the last time.

For a while, anyway.


"Listen, Judith," Doctor Miller said, looking in his office mirror and practicing what he was going to say: "This isn't easy for me to say... but, well, I think I'm not doing you any good... the treatment isn't going anywhere..."

He sighed, hating these lies. It wasn't the treatment and he knew it. He was up against something he couldn't explain with her, but the treatment was sound. It had to work sooner or later.

It was her. And it was him, too. And if he wanted to be really honest, the problem was him and her, and his apparent feelings for her, even if they weren't his own...

But he couldn't say that - not if he wanted to keep his job. Not if he wanted to sound sane, for that matter. How the hell could he explain this - any of this - to anyone?

So he practiced lying to her, right up until the receptionist brought her in for her appointment. He practiced saying that they had to end their doctor-patient relationship. That she'd have to see someone else.

That this had to be the last time. Ever.


He was young - but not too young - and handsome in an earnest, polite sort of way. He had the sort of face and body that could have looked good grungy or cleaned up, but he preferred to dress nicely. And she liked it when he did, too, which made the choice that much easier.

Then he looked at the clock on the dresser again, which it made the third time in the last five minutes. He hated being so impatient, but... well, this was the last time for a while.

It had to be.

It was ten minutes to six, which meant that he could be leaving in exactly ten minutes. It would take him about another ten minutes to get to her door, which would give her all the time in the world to be ready. And then they had what time they had.

He sighed, hating having to be both impatient and punctual. But that was the only way this was going to work. Any sooner, and something might go wrong. But any later, and they lost precious moments.

He looked at the clock again. It was still ten minutes to six.

So he sighed and leaned back on the bed, folding his hands under his head and staring up at the ceiling. He thought of her and smiled, even if this was the last time, for a while.


"So when's the last time you think you smiled?" Dr. Miller asked Judith, who was sitting on the edge of his couch, idly rubbing her hands together.

{He shuddered at what a stupid question that was, but it was already out of his mouth.}

"They asked me that at work, too," she said, not looking up: "'Why don't you smile, Judy? We miss your smile.'"

"So why don't you?" He asked, pretending to write something in his notes. All he had there, for her, were aimless chicken-scratches: it'd been that way for a while, now.

"Because I don't fucking feel like it," she replied, looking up enough for him to see how hollow her eyes looked - how sunken: "Every goddamn day it's like... like I don't know anything, anymore. I keep forgetting who I am, and what I'm doing... Jesus, I feel like a clock someone keeps changing the time on."

"And you have been taking your medication?" he asked, knowing all the while what a bloody stupid and useless question that was.

"Nothing stops the spells, Doc," she said, shaking her head slowly and painfully: "Pills don't stop 'em. More sleep, less sleep, change of diet, exercise... I've tried everything you told me and nothing stops it."

He nodded, not wanting to add any verbal encouragement but not wanting to ignore her feelings, either - even if he was terrified.

"I just want it to fucking end, doc," she sighed, leaning over and putting her head in her hands: "Just fucking end it."

And he swallowed, wishing to God that he could.


When she came to the door of her nice, suburban house, she looked great. She always did, these days, but the black tube dress and simple silver hoops - her favorite - made her look just that much better.

And her smile could have lit up half the city.

He got there at about eleven past six. He'd have been there sooner, but he'd gotten stuck behind the ass of a dump truck the last few blocks. He pulled the Jag into the driveway, bounded out of the car and walked up to the door, flowers in hand.

"I think these are for you," he said when she opened the door and smiled at him.

"Oh, how beautiful," she said, taking them in her arms and hugging them before taking him into her embrace: "Have to be careful, though. We're slightly allergic."

"Oh, shit," he said, trying to make a joke out of it: "You don't think-"

"Just put 'em in the back seat," she winked, turning to close and lock the door: "No harm done."

"Well, I had plans for that back seat..." he said, smiling.

She laughed and playfully smacked him in the chest on her way to the car: "Not until you've fed me and taken me dancing, you goof."

"Hey, I got us a table at Spazino's, outside the county," he said: "Dining and dancing is all provided, here."

"And lots of champagne?"

"With Italian food?"

"After the Italian food," she said, letting him open her car door for her: "We've got a strong stomach."

"And beautiful lips," he replied, leaning in close enough to brush them with his own.

The next time they looked at a clock - the jag's - it was twenty-five past six.


"So the... erm, lost time's gotten worse?" Dr. Miller asked, looking up from his ersatz notes.

"A hell of a lot worse," Judith replied, rubbing the hollows under her eyes: "I was up all last night."

"How do you know?" he asked, a lump rising in his throat.

"Because I know it, even if I don't really remember a fucking thing. I can feel it, you know?"

He nodded, letting her go on at her own speed.

"It's like you're there, doing one thing, and thinking one thing, and then... you're somewhere else, doing something else, but the thoughts don't stop."

She took her hands from her eyes and looked at him: "Can you know what that's like? To just have time... space... everything around you just zap past you before you can even have time to finish a fucking thought in your own head?"

He looked at her, trying to smile reassuringly. But he couldn't for the mounting horror: he knew exactly what she was talking about.

And if his notes were right - and he knew they were - then he'd known for exactly the same amount of time that she had.


"He likes her," he said as they drove towards the restaurant.

"Yeah, I kind of got that impression," she replied, putting more lipstick on.

They were all alone on the country road, and they were going just under the speed limit. Echo and the Bunnymen were playing on the radio - one of their favorite songs - and the Sun was starting to go down on their left.

"Makes it easier, in some ways," he offered.

"I guess," she said, putting the lipstick away.

"Not very professional of him, though," he admitted.


"Probably should have called the whole thing off before now."

"She's not doing so well, though."


"'Yeah' what?"

"Yeah, I kind of got that impression," he said, looking at her and smiling. She smiled back, but it was tempered with the knowledge of what was happening around them.

This was the last time, for a while. It had to be.

So they'd just have to make tonight one for the books.


"And last night... man, I must have had a great time," Judith went on: "I know what champagne does to me, and I feel... well..."

"How could you have gotten the champagne?" Miller asked: "You were in your house the entire night?"

"Yeah, I was," she said: "At least, that's where I thought I was."

"Where... where else could you have been?"

"Somewhere else," she shrugged, not knowing the answer: "Restaurant, probably."

"What kind?"

"I had garlic breath this morning, so I'm betting Italian. I don't even like Italian, though."

"So how could you have...?" he asked, but did not finish.

She shrugged, and he sighed in silence, counting each unknown as a blessing.

The truth was that he had a very good idea where she'd been, and who'd been there with her at the time...


Spazino's was swanky and out of the way: the sort of place where the new rich went when they want to impress a date, but didn't feel like parking downtown.

The valets all expected a neat, pressed twenty along with the car key. He gave him two - along with a wink that said "feel free to leave rubber on the road" - and opened the door for his lady, admiring how well she fit into that dress.

She caught him peeking at the goods and tipped him a wink of her own.

* * *

They had: oysters with a delicate sauce of some kind; Caesar salads whipped up at their table; thick veal medallions in white wine; some kind of pasta that only Spazino's made, with a creamy cheese sauce; tiramisu.

"To die for?" she asked, putting a small forkful of the dessert into his mouth.

He just smiled as he chewed, ever so slowly. It was one of their little jokes.

There was champagne, as promised: an entire bottle of their favorite. They sipped it slowly from their flutes, letting each mouthful dissolve at its own speed.

And there was dancing - several hours of slow, close dancing by the house orchestra. All the time he had his hand flat against the small of her back, only occasionally dripping his pinky down over where her pantyline should have been.

Each time, as he became more and more aware that there was, indeed, no line to be found, he shuddered. And she held him just that much closer - her breath warming his ear.

Her hands about him were a promise that she would never, ever let go.


"Go on," he said after she spent a few moments trying to put the words out through her hands, and failed.

"I got laid," she announced, uneasy.


"I. Got. Laid." she enunciated: "There, I fucking said it. I got laid."

He blinked, but tried to keep his composure: "Are you... are you certain?"

"Of course I'm fucking certain! You think I don't know? You think a girl doesn't know... when..."

Her voice trailed off, and she put her hands up to her eyes. She sobbed once, then twice.

And Dr. Miller just sat there, watching her and feeling like a complete monster.


"He's got problems, doesn't he?" she said, holding his length in her hand and tenderly kissing the end of it. The starlit backseat was strewn with clothes, the remnants of the flowers and a torn condom wrapper.

"He shouldn't at his age," he said, clearly disappointed.

"So what is it?"

"I think..."


"It's just performance anxiety... I think."

She looked up at her lover from where she crouched, naked except for her earrings, and knew the truth. But she loved him more than anything, and said nothing.

"I think I have a cure, doctor," she replied, smiling. And before he could chide her for calling him that, she was administering it.

He leaned back, running his hands over her hair, her shoulders, her back. He watched through half-open eyes as she arched her back, letting him see the curves he'd been caressing earlier that night. And as she worked him, she wrapped her arms around him, rekindling the promise she'd made earlier.

And it was just as good as they'd prayed for, this last time for a while.


"I think Doctor Rainscott... Tom. Tom Rainscott," Miller said to her, writing a number down on a piece of paper and not daring to look her in the eye.

"Why?" Judith asked: "I don't... I don't understand this, doc."

"I think he can help you, better than I can," he replied: "The missing time... it's worse than what I'm used to. I'm hitting a brick wall and I think you need a fresh perspective."

"What I need is the fucking truth!" she shrieked, tossing the number at him: "Can you just tell me why?"

"Why... why what?" he stammered, looking up.

"Why is it you only make fucking hashmarks on your sheet when we talk?" she demanded, poking her finger into his face: "Why you get afraid when I say I remember things? Why you look relived when I don't? And now... now this?"

His jaw dropped.

"You know something, doc," she said: "You know something you aren't fucking saying. Tell me!"

He stammered and shook. What the hell could he say?

That he'd been blanking out at the exact same times she had, for as long as she had? That he'd been waking up with thoughts of her in his head?

That he'd woken up this morning knowing he'd had sex, but not remembering a thing, with the taste of champagne and Italian food still in his mouth...?

How could he tell her they'd been dating by remote control...?


They parked the car well off the roadside, and walked - hand in hand - through a field they knew quite well. At the end was a small hill that they could climb with ease, and look up at the stars.

"Do you ever wonder what happens when we leave them?" he asked after a while.

"I try not to," she lied.

"Yeah... me neither," he lied in return.

"I figure if we keep it short and sweet, there's less damage."

He didn't say anything, knowing it wasn't true.

"We could just stop, you know," he said, finally.


"Just stay there. Never do it again."

He looked over at her, and she at him. Then they both cracked up laughing.

"I love you," she said.

"And I love you," he replied. This was the truth from both of them, and they kissed on it.

Up in the sky, the stars were twinkling. He hummed a line from the song they'd heard earlier, and she honked his nose.

It was another one of their little jokes.

* * *

After they figured they'd delayed things for as long as they could, he drove her home.

He kissed her one, long last time, running his fingers through her hair. Then he let her go, and watched her walk away. She shook her butt at him one last time, looked over her shoulder and blew him a kiss.

It was a long drive back to the storage space they kept. He drove the jag in, locked the door and hid the key, knowing it would be the last time he saw it for a while.

After that, there was only the long bus ride back to town. All the while he looked out the window, knowing that she could be out there, now, looking down at him from somewhere he couldn't see just yet - her sky all hung with jewels...

It would be the last time for a while - it had to be. But there would be other times, someday soon.

And the thought made him smile again.


He hesitated once, then twice... and then knocked at her door.

It was a long time in opening, and he worried that she'd ducked out on him, or would have changed her mind. But the door did open, and there she was.

And her smile could have lit up half the city.

"I would have brought flowers, but..." he said, smiling and unsure of how to finish it. The sight of her smiling again was just too much.

"You remembered my medical chart," she said, still smiling.

"Yeah, I did."


"Is this... well, okay?" she asked, looking concerned: "I don't want to get you in any trouble or anything."

"It's a little questionable," he admitted: "Former patients..."


Silence, but now with a smile.

"But, hey, it's all gone, right?" he asked.

"Two months and nothing," she said, smiling all the more: "You?"

"Two months, no recurrences," he smiled.

"Exactly two?"


"Funny, huh?" she replied, kissing him on the cheek: "It's almost like we got set up, somehow."

"Stranger things have happened," he said {not even knowing the half of it} and took her hand. It felt warm and safe, like the first stars of the night.

"So... where are we going tonight, you handsome guy?" She asked.

And off in the distance, just out of sight, a red jaguar gunned its motor and drove away.