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A Cold Winter Sun

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"I had sex with Collins."

She caught him off guard with this remark; he let out a surprised, "What?" and tumbled off the bed, hopelessly tangled in one of the bedsheets.

"Oh, god, Mark, are you okay?" She came around to the end of the bed while he was attempting to kick the sheet away from himself. Her left hand covered her mouth, and he knew she was trying not to laugh at him.

"You slept with Collins?" Mark gave up on trying to free himself, choosing instead to sit cross-legged against the bed. The movement caused the sheet to wrap tightly around his left knee, but he ignored the pain.

She sat on the edge of the bed and leaned forward, her hands resting on the bed between her slightly parted knees. "Yeah, I did."

"When? I mean, was it while you and I..."

She shook her head and pulled him up to sit on the edge of the bed. He tugged the sheet up with his free hand, and kept himself covered. "No, not back then. It was last year, a couple of weeks after Joanne and I broke up."

Mark did the math in his head. Joanne had stormed away for good after a final screaming match on Halloween night. Maureen had thrown Roger's green coffee mug down the stairs after her, and Roger hadn't spoken to Maureen for the next two days. "Collins didn't want to be alone for another holiday."

"Something like that, I guess. Listen, Mark, it really wasn't a big deal." She paused and waved her hand around aimlessly. The movement caused candle flames to waiver, and more shadows flickered across their faces. "Okay, maybe it was a big deal, but it wasn't...god, I don't know. I guess it just...was."

Maureen began to babble then, something about candy corn, nail polish, and her leather jacket, but Mark put a hand on her arm to quiet her. "It's okay, Maureen. I'm not pissed about it."

She looked at him with her head tipped sideways. "No?"

"No." Mark shook his head.

Her nose crinkled. "Um...why not?"

Mark picked at the edge of the sheet covering his lap. "Well, this is Collins we're talking about. He probably just wanted..." One last good fuck, he thinks, but can't bring himself to say it out loud. "...he probably just needed someone to comfort him. He was dying, after all."

Maureen nodded slowly. They had both been there in the end, just as they had with Roger, and Mimi shortly after. "Yeah, he was."

They both grew quiet. After a moment of fidgeting with the sheet corner, Maureen spoke up. "I got tested afterwards, you know. Twice. They both came back negative."

"I know." Mark nodded and managed a smile. They had all become well acquainted with the clinic on the other side of Union Square Park.

"It's just...I didn't want you to think that I-"

"Maureen. I know. Now, c'mon, let's get back into bed before we freeze."