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Memory Foam

"I'm leaving." Derek had already filled his old college knapsack with the odds and ends he wished to keep. A few shirts, paperback books, his thermos for the gym. A string of five black and white pictures printed from a photo booth in New Orleans. Everything else could stay.
Peter was in the kitchen making dinner. "Where are you heading, sweetheart? Supper will be ready in an hour."
"I'm going to my place but that's not what I meant. I'm leaving_ this_ us." Derek stammered. "I'm leaving us." Peter nearly cut himself in surprise. He stopped chopping and looked up. Neither of them blinked. "I'm breaking up with you."
"No, no, no. We talked. I thought we were good." Peter left the kitchen and stood between Derek and the door.
"Nothing changed, Pete. I gave you some time but you barely made an effort." Derek tried to sidestep but Peter continued to block the way. He put his arms up to hinder Derek without touching him. He kept repeating the word stop until Derek sighed and waited.
Derek stood tall without making eye contact. He knew Peter could talk him down if given half a chance. It had happened before.
"I really am trying," Peter pleaded. "You said I'm not making the effort, but look! I'm cooking your favorite." Peter motioned to the kitchen.
"Chicken marsala was his favorite, Peter, not mine." Derek said. "God, an entire trip to the market and you can't bother to remember that I hate mushrooms?"
Peter's face sank at his mistake. "All right," he admitted waving his hands to postpone Derek, "I screwed up. But I am trying. Points for trying?"
"It's not the dinner, Pete." Derek looked Peter in the eyes. "It's the bed."
"My bed? Not this again."
"Get rid of it today and I'll stay."
"You're being unreasonable! Do you have any idea how much those mattresses cost?"
Derek did know. Piezoelastic king sets sold for over $15,000. The synthetic polymer material is designed to change shape when an electric current is applied. Just plug it in and all sorts of shapes can be made on the surface. Arthur bought it to spoil Peter years ago. Derek couldn't afford to replace it in kind so he offered to buy a traditional mattress instead. Peter declined.
"You can keep everything else he bought. The plasma screen. The stand mixer. Your drone. I don't care. But I'm done sleeping in that shrine you keep to him."
"I need a bed. What if my next boyfriend wants me to get rid of your mattress?"
"Your next boyfriend?"
"You know what I meant."
"An innerspring is entirely different."
"I've already erased its memory! You were there. I did it in front of you the last time you brought this up!" Peter said. "Factory settings. Nothing Arthur and I tried is in there anymore! It's not a shrine, it's just a bed."
Derek remembered his resolve, remembered why he was doing this. He decided to give Peter one last chance. "Pete, please. Throw it out. Start fresh with me."
Peter went silent. He slumped into a chair and ran his fingers through his hair. After a pause he responded. "No. I'm not redecorating my house for you. We don't even live together and you want me to toss the most expensive piece of furniture I own. For what? A cheap replacement? You're just jealous of what Arthur has and what he gave me."
"Are you finished with your tantrum?" Derek asked.
"You can leave."
Derek walked unimpeded to the door. Hand on the knob he turned and said, "You know I was going to eat the marsala with a smile, right? But then I went to your room and saw you left the bed on." Derek closed the door behind him.
Peter couldn't believe he had been so careless. Yet when he checked the bedroom there it was. Lying on the mattress was the form of a man waiting for him. The piezoelastic fibers were contorting to create the perfect facsimile of Arthur, down to the appendix scar. With a gentle hum of electricity the chest of the man-shape rose and fell to even mimic his breathing. Derek had seen it all. This wasn't just another spat to talk through. "I'm never going to see him again." Peter crawled under the covers, rested his head against the pillow-soft fake Arthur, and cried himself to sleep.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, March 11th, 2020
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