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Downshifting

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Mollie isn't sure what she's seen.

A whisper, maybe. The turquoise hush of evening. Two velvet black silhouettes in the back garden. Shoulder to shoulder, like old war buddies. And they are, of a type. Both born racers, both crazy about tinkering with cars until they come out blackened. Both could tell you stories about crashes, flips, explosions narrowly escaped. 

Is it Shelby who leans in, or Ken?

She doesn't know, but watches. The kiss hovers like a moth in the air, delicate. And it is not the kiss of brothers or friends. That should be a queer thing, shouldn't it? But it's mesmerizing as the road itself, winding by at hundreds of miles per hour. Alarms should be ringing. Mollie feels some brittleness, it's true, but as they see Shelby to the door she feels mostly curious. 

She waits until they go to bed, to understand what she saw and what questions she will ask. 

"Was it a nice kiss?"

There's steel in her voice, but also silk. She wants to know. 

"Huh?" her husband says.

"Was it a nice kiss you and Shelby shared?"

He holds up his hands: surrender.

"Were you going to lie about it?" she asks.

Ken slumps.

"Why? It's not like he's the one you're coming home to. He can't have your son. Christ, Shelby can barely keep track of his own wives."

"It's not like that," Ken says eventually. "Not like his wives. It's more like coming home for him. Like you and me."

"You mean you and him?"

"Yeah. It's like home. The garage and working on the cars. The track. The tests. The races."

Now she feels burning fear.

"You aren't going to leave us," she hisses. 

"Of course not," he says. "I shouldn't have kissed him --"

"Oh, so you kissed him --"

"Kissed him back ."

She quiets, though it's seething.

"We love each other," Ken says.

Mollie shrinks to a pebble the size of her thumbnail. 

"And I love you," Ken says.

Does this make it better or worse?

She scowls at him.

"You can't love two people at once," she says.

"I don't know. I just know I come home to you, and I come home to Shel. In different ways."

She thinks about this as she lies down in bed. Rolls it over in her mind. 

"Well," Mollie says, "what do we do?"

He takes her hand. His is large and calloused, with engine grease and oil seeping between the cracks and under the fingernails.

"Life's bloody short," Ken says. "Why worry about it? Let's just go on as we have for now."

She strokes his thumb and sighs. Like downshifting; a palpable relief.

Besides, it's Shelby. She thinks: maybe I love him a little too, simply for the way he loves Ken. 

Mollie nods and kisses Ken's knuckles.

"All right then," she says.