A History of Conflict
Shelley Ontis

There, among books about The Civil and Spanish-American Wars, he slips his hand up her skirt. Smiling, she slides away, past thick, dusty tomes on the World Wars, but he follows and presses himself against her, momentum sliding her past Korea and shinier volumes on Vietnam and The Gulf. They gasp and giggle, her back against a wall of full shelves, one of his hands braced against a book on the Peloponnesian War, the other pressed against the spine of a thin volume about The Charge of the Light Brigade.

Last year, they'd made out in the "home" section. He'd been horrified to come face to face with Martha Stewart smiling at him from the spine of a cookbook—disapprovingly, he was sure—after he'd left a darkening bruise on the pale slope of Amy's neck.

The history section was better, symbolic after the last several months. She'd called it a mid-life crisis, but he only knew he felt old and wanted to recapture some of the spit and vinegar of his youth. It had been like a war at times, coming home to accusations and shouting, so much shouting. He wished she'd hit him sometimes because he was tired of the shouting.

He nibbles her ear, then notices the book just above her head is The Savage Wars of Peace, about the Ottoman Empire. He thinks it's a stupid name, though he can't really argue with it. He decides it's as good a sign as anything. The last several months were savage between them for a while, but they made peace and made it to another anniversary, one they'd both started to think they wouldn't see.

And we have an ottoman, he thinks, laughing against her shoulder.

After they part, she straightens his letter jacket, far too tight in the arms now with no hope of closing in front, probably ever again. He brushes down her faded skirt.

"Happy Anniversary," she says. "Can you believe it? Thirty years."

He kisses her, almost in disbelief that the first time they'd done this it had been in the teen section, and they'd ridden their bicycles to get there. He puts his arm around her shoulders and walks the way he used to, all cocky, spit and vinegar. He bobs his head to make the missing curl of bangs he was once so proud of, bangs that he'd outgrown before they'd even talked about marriage, bounce against his forehead. He escorts his best girl downstairs, smiles and nods at the staring librarian on the way out, and hopes the cease fire holds.

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