At first, he found it cute that she wanted to share everything with him, including re-chewing his gum, but he grew concerned that she could not get close enough. It was true. Sally just could not seem to ever be close enough. She longed to constantly get closer, to squeeze him tighter, for him to make love to her, deeper, and deeper. It seemed that the only way she could get any closer to him, would be to crawl inside of him.

He was unaware how long he and Sally had been sharing gum. In fact, chewing gum played no minor role in their love story, though he had no clue about the sticky beginning, which happened long before they’d even met — well, officially that is. 

Sally worked at the local store where he came in regularly to buy chewing gum. It was his new addiction after quitting smoking. He was very particular about which brand, it had to be CinnaDent and its sweet, sickly, yet tasty e-aftertaste of fake cinnamon. Sally always kept a special stock of CinnaDent on the top shelf above the counter, just for him.

It was special gum, because she had licked every single stick ever so slightly. She’d also perfected a special technique for closing the packet without as if it had never been opened. Thank goodness for childhood origami classes. This little harmless deed was her way of mixing her saliva with his. She knew by some standards what she had done, was gross, but she thought it romantic. It was the ever so faint promise of all the kisses to come. It was her gateway to speeding up the intimacy with her true love.

You only did that kind of thing if you were hit by the big love, Sally thought. Her mama and aunts always said, “when you find a good man, you have to cling onto him”. Well that’s just what she was doing with the gum. She was marking him as hers. Sally hoped that on some level her saliva would prime him into noticing her, that the more her saliva mixed with his, it was more likely he would transfix on her.

Whenever he came into the store, Sally would furtively glance at him. After hours, she watched the security footage. She’d even saved a couple of frames for her personal use. She printed the frames of him in miniature size and put them inside an ornamental pearl and golden-plated amulet she inherited from her great aunt Marble and carried on a golden chain around her neck. Sally’s great aunt Marble had kept photos of herself and her fiancé in the hidden compartment. But Sally saved both spots for him only. She preferred to keep two pictures of him, because she didn’t want to jinx their chances of becoming engaged, by being presumptuous. To Sally, adding a photo of herself seemed like it would perhaps tip the whole thing in her disfavour. Sally went to great lengths to try to convince herself that her love for him was selfless, that it didn’t matter if he loved her back. But deep down she knew that wasn’t true. She really did need him to love her back. That’s why she licked the gum.

Lacing the gum with her saliva was not her only attempt at drawing him closer. Sally also emptied a jar of multi-coloured butterflies into his garden, at night of course; she didn’t want to get caught. She’d done it because she remembered that one of her hippy aunts had insisted that in some culture sending out a pack of colourful butterflies sealed a love-spell. Sally really hoped it would work. She came from a long line of superior stalker stock, who had all lived happily ever after with their chosen ones. So, she listened eagerly when her aunts and mama talked of the various ways in which they’d met their true love.

Sally believes it was the butterflies that prompted him to be in the store, during that exact moment when she’d sprained her ankle, coming down from the ladder where she stocked his CinnaDent gum.

He was further back in the store, by the dairy products, when he heard a loud thump, and what sounded like a dolphin squeal. He rushed towards the noise. Nobody else was in the store. And there she was, the girl who sold him gum, lying on the floor looking up at him. He looked down at her with a smile, and asked her if it hurt anywhere. She pointed to her right ankle.

“I am a doctor, but not that kind of doctor,” which made Sally laugh. He laughed too. He’d never found a smooth way to use that line in an appropriate setting, and truth be told, he wasn’t altogether sure this was an appropriate setting. But she’d laughed and for that he was pleased. Sally responded with, “I have two art degrees”. In fact, not only was she funny, but she also was quite striking, with hazel eyes, full lips, and high cheek bones. Why had he never noticed before?

“Um, can you help me up, off the floor?” she rasped. How could he have missed that he’d been buying gum from Janis Joplin for two years? He was overworked. This damn PhD had already cost him his marriage and now, it would seem, his everyday senses.

“Of course!” he exclaimed, “Sorry.”  He reached out his hand. It was the perfect sized hand, thought Sally, not too small or delicate to make hers look like giant hands, and not too big to make hers look like a miniature doll hand. He pulled her up and said, “lean on me if you want to. You should probably not step on that yet.”

The perfect gentleman thought Sally, just as she’d imagined he’d be. Is it finally happening? Her lips formed the word, “thanks,” and Sally leaned in, discretely inhaling the scent of him. He smelled just as she had imagined, a soapy, sensibly clean kind of smell.

“Maybe you should see a doctor, I am err happy to take you there, unless you’d rather that someone else take you there, a boyfriend or err girlfriend, perhaps?” he added, stirring her out of her daydream yet sending her deeper into her true love fantasy. He suddenly flushed, thinking: Oh my God, am I flirting with her right now? I guess I am.

Sally knew that this was a moment that needed decisive action, her whole future depended on this. She batted her eyelashes frantically, because she was so excited, and said: “I’d be very happy if you were the one who took me to the doc’s, doc”, adding a wink for punctuation. And, Sally knew she’d never been happier in her entire life, despite the shooting pain. She knew this was it. True love was finally coming her way.

Life turned peachy. Sally knew this was going to be her happily ever after. Ever since the day she’d sprained her ankle they’d been inseparable. It was like a dream come true. They’d spend most of their days and nights staring into each other’s eyes, caressing each other, and making love. It was delightful. Even when they were making dinner together, they’d discovered that they needed to triple the recipe’s preparation time, because they spent two thirds of the time in the kitchen smooching or holding each other tight. At times, Sally would stick her finger into his mouth and pull out his CinnaDent gum, divide it in two, and pop one half back into his mouth and chew the other, so they literally shared the same gum now. It felt so right. Other times, Sally would french kiss him when she saw that he was chewing gum, seizing another romantic moment, forever binding them, and their saliva, together.

They dated intensely for about a year before they moved in together. It was a seamless transition; Sally was never in his way but she always seemed to know what he wanted or needed. She’d always know if he was thirsty, hungry, horny, hot, cold, stressed, happy, sad, tired, or excited. It was if his needs were her seventh sense. He’d never experienced anything like it before.  On one level, this new little pink bubble of a life felt like a happy dream — too good to be true. On another, he sensed a kernel of gloom. He kept wondering if their bubble might burst soon.  Sally, for her part, just wanted more of him. She couldn’t get enough of his sensibly clean scent. Every night, he didn’t know how it was possible, but he swore that she managed to inch closer and closer, squeezing him a tad tighter every night. Each night he felt he lost a tiny bit of himself until one day, he was no more.

Mona Abdel-Fadil

Mona Abdel-Fadil is an Egyptian-Norwegian academic, writer, and performer. She is the author of the satirical essay, "A Superiour Guide to Performing An Academic Self" (2020) and performs comedy improv on a regular basis. Mona is currently working on her first collection of short stories. For more info, visit: