“The Last Thing I Stole” by Joanna McMillen

The first thing I stole was a taste. I swiped the little, yellow cookie from the highest tier of the silver tray and absconded away to the pantry.

The voice screamed, Not yours!

Lemon decadence crisped against my teeth as my mouth met a middle soft and sweet. Macaroon, how have I lived never tasting you?

The second thing I stole was a walk. My breath caught in my chest when I slipped on the boots from the box that read, from Paris. The zipper sang up my calf.  Zzzzzz.

The voice called, Not yours.

I strolled through her dressing room. I’m not just a maid when I’m wearing these.  I shake my head and put them back.

The third thing I stole was a glimpse. I found the necklace under a cushion. It sparkled and shone. 

Not yours, the voice said.

The chain felt cold on my neck and the green gemstone glittered in her mirror from the hollow spot between my breasts.  Maybe, I don’t put it back. Maybe, I go home.

My key, in the door of my building, squeals as I wrench it. No mail. One flight. Two flights. Three flights of stairs and I open the door to my studio apartment.  The cat meows.  The radiator knocks. There was a time when I loved it here. I never knew how poor I was until I saw how rich I wasn’t. I touch my prize.

I strip. Even naked, I’m beautiful wearing it. I shower. I put on makeup so that I’ll look different, lace panties so I’ll know they’re there even if no one gets to see them, a short skirt so I’ll feel the wind on my legs, and heels so I’ll hear them crack against the pavement. I’m out the door.

The bridges of the city greets me. The street lights are bright but the neon martini glass shaped sign flickers. I wait and then fight for a seat at the bar.  A cold, wet bottle moistens the tips of my fingers. I take a sip. Disappointing. Empty wine bottles, banging together through their translucent, blue recycling bags, ring in my ears. I remember reading the labels as I drug the bags outside to the trash.  Merlot. Not yours.

Chardonnay.  Not yours. Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir.  Not yours, not yours, not yours. 

Hey,” someone says. I turn. It’s him. Next to me at the bar, it’s Him. He’s never looked like this.  I’ve washed his clothes, cleaned his toilet, listened to her complain about him but, to me, he’s never looked like this. His green eyes fall to the necklace. I gasp and cover it with my hands. I’m in trouble. He smiles and brings his finger up to his puckered lips. He won’t tell her. He touches my hand, kisses my neck, touches my knee, and touches me. I look into his face, grab his oddly perfect and thick, dark hair.

Not yours, the voice whispers.

I say back, but he could be. Maybe, the last thing I’ll steal is you.

But…I didn’t. I don’t. I lay the cushion down, put the necklace on her dresser, and I really go home.

I strip. I shower. I put on lotion so I will feel smooth, soft pants so I’ll feel free, and socks so I can slide across the slick wooden floor.  The tea kettle whistles. I pour and I steep. I wrap my cold fingers around the hot porcelain cup and sink into a chair. The cat jumps in my lap and purrs. I open my worn journal, touch pen tip to page, and smile. Mine, I say. Mine.

The last thing I steal is me.