Hey everyone. Here’s a short story that I’ve written. I’d love to get your feedback, whether its good or bad!
Let me know what you think…
He always added an extra scoop of the dark coffee grounds to the pot he was making in the morning. It was something she hated, but he never understood why, since she always added so much sugar that it tasted like hot Kool-Aide instead of the wake-me-up comfort that he found in it. He used to buy it from a can, but had found that buying the beans and grinding them up, made for a better cup. The aroma that was given off when the hot water started seeping into the filter always reminded him of his father. As a child, he could remember every morning, from his room, smelling the coffee his father had made. He would always be in the kitchen reading the morning paper; steam rising from his cup. Sometimes, though, he would catch him just sitting at the table, staring at the cup he was holding. He never thought to care about what was going through his father’s head at that time.
Now, a whole lot older, he knew.
He sat at the kitchen table and watched the steam rise from the Lenox French Perie cup. He missed having the “Poop Juice” mug he used to drink from. She had thrown it out when she bought the new, matching set of dishes.
Poop Juice. He always thought that was so funny.
He opened up his laptop and went to the email account again. He opened the email that read “Nursing Question.” He read the words, again, studying every sentence. Certain things caught his eye, such as miss you and love you. He knew that her email should come as a shock to him, but it didn’t. He knew something had been keeping her attention lately and he knew it wasn’t him. He didn’t know who William Hester was, but William Hester certainly knew about him.
“When do we tell them?” He wrote near the end of the email. He signed his name with “MD.”
He’s a doctor.
He took a sip from his cup and reached for his pack of cigarettes. She hated it when he smoked in the house. He didn’t smoke often, but he kept a pack hidden in the bottom of his sock drawer and every now and then, when she was at work, he’d step out on the back patio and light one up. The burn of the smoke filling his lungs made him cough initially, but the buzz he got from the grey cloud, made it worth it.
He lit the cigarette and took the first drag. The ember burned the cigarette paper down leaving an ash that fell onto the table. He wiped it away with his hand.
A Doctor, he thought to himself.
Mary worked the graveyard shift at the local hospital. She worked from 7 pm to 7 am on weekends and usually got home around 8 o’clock in the morning. He looked at the clock on the microwave. It read 7:50 am.
She should be pulling in the driveway any minute, now.
He took another puff from the cigarette and watched the rest of it burn down. He walked over to the kitchen sink and ran water over the still burning ember. When the cigarette was soaked, he opened the front door and flicked it into the yard–another thing she hated.
He watched out the front door as the sun began to slowly peek its head over the houses across the street. He watched as cars pulled out of their driveways for the morning commute to work. Husbands kissed their wives. Wives kissed their husbands. Children wearing backpacks went running down the sidewalk to catch the school bus at the corner.
The world was still turning and life was still going on. People were happy.
Or were they?
He took in the looks on his neighbor’s faces as they each started their day. He wondered if they all had secrets that they kept from each other.
He took a sip from the warm coffee cup that he had in his hand. The steam didn’t rise, anymore. It had faded away. It made him think, perhaps too deeply, about how coffee is like a relationship. It starts out steaming with passion, then turns warm, before finally becoming cold.
He stood there watching a dog squat down in his yard, dropping last night’s Alpo that he knew was not going to be picked up by his (or her) owner. The dog finished and kicked his feet behind him before taking off running back to whatever back door he came out of.
The steam rose from the pile left behind.
He was staring at the brown dog’s waste, when her car pulled into the driveway. She was talking on the phone as she put the car in park. The car rocked back a bit as she put it in park and let off the brake. She sat inside, relaxed back into her seat. It was hard to read her lips, but he could tell she was having a detailed conversation. She scanned the front windows as she held the phone to her ear, before catching him standing at the front door. A look of un-comfortableness came across her face as their eyes locked. Her lips barley moved as she broke off the stare from him. She hung up the phone as she exited the car and walked to the front door.
“Hey,” she said, “you’re up early.”
“Yeah, didn’t sleep that well,” he replied, holding the door open for her. She gave him a kiss on the cheek as she walked inside. He couldn’t help but think of a story in the bible he remembered about Jesus telling Judas something about betraying him with a kiss. He let the screen door shut behind him as he followed her halfway into the kitchen.
“How was work? He asked.
She sat her Tory Burch Britten Satchel on the kitchen table. He had bought it for her for her birthday a few weeks ago. She was specific about which purse she wanted. In a way, it helped him know what she wanted for a gift, but in another way, it bothered him. He had tried to branch out and get her something that he thought she’d like, but she had always returned them for something else, so he always just asked now.
“It was long,” she said taking off her badge and scrub top, which she folded and laid on the table with her purse. “The hospital was on diversion and every room was full. One guy died from an overdose and his wife was screaming bloody murder. The cops had to come and get another guy to calm down ‘cause he was threatening to kill his girlfriend in the lobby.”
He noticed how she seemed like everything was ok as she opened the refrigerator and took out the orange juice. “I’m exhausted,” she said as she poured a glass. “So why didn’t you sleep well?” She asked.
He looked for a sign that she already knew the answer, but he didn’t get one.
“Dunno,” he replied, “just tossed and turned all night.”
He watched her drink the orange juice as he took in the way she held the glass in one hand and rested her other on the counter top. Her hands were soft and pretty with a maroon nail polish that made them look strong and endearing. He longed for them to be wrapped around him or touching his face, but that was long ago.
Her hair was perfectly curled and if she had worked hard all night, it didn’t show. Her hair always looked like that, though. It was one of his favorite features about her. She had it long this time of year, but even when it was short, it was always sexy to him. He caught himself staring at her.
“What is it?” She asked. “Is something wrong?”
He wanted to tell her about the email and what he had read, but he couldn’t. He wanted her to tell him instead, so he waited. He sat down at the table and placed his hands around his now cool cup of coffee.
“I’ve been thinking,” he said, “maybe we should take a trip somewhere.” He leaned forward and rested his forearms on the table. “We should go to a beach or something.” He waited for her response, hoping he would see excitement in her eyes at the thought of taking a vacation to somewhere exotic, but it didn’t come. She placed the glass to her lips and drank some more juice. She seemed distant, but he tried again.
“I just think we need to get out of here awhile and get back to us, you know?” He realized he was halfway pleading, but he also knew this was a turning point. Since her mother passed away last year, she had been so stressed. Mrs. Mary was the only parent she had left alive and she didn’t have any brothers or sisters. Her mother’s passing came suddenly, too. Within a month’s time, she went from being diagnosed with stage four cancer, to lying motionless in the care of a hospice nurse. She had also gotten a new job as an emergency room nurse and over the course of a year, hadn’t been able to get a sleep pattern down or even deal with the loss of her mother. She worked nights and he worked days, so they became two strangers living in the same house. He knew that she was drifting away from him and he felt powerless to stop it.
“Mmmhhmm,” she mumbled through a reluctant smile, “sure. That sounds good.” She sat the glass on the table and he noticed she wasn’t looking at him. She looked at the floor as an awkward silence fell over the kitchen.
“What is it?” He asked, hoping she would come clean about the affair. Maybe she would break down and cry and tell him how much she loved him. Maybe, just maybe, she would show him the affection that had long gone unreturned.
But she didn’t.
“We need to talk,” she said, the words barely escaping her lips. She placed both hands on the counter and shrugged her shoulders as if she was searching for right words. She stared at the floor, afraid to face him.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about things lately,” she began, pausing as she stared at the floor, still afraid to make eye contact, “and I think we need to take a break for a while.” She raised her head and he saw the light reflecting off the tears that were welling up at the bottom of her eyes. A single tear fell down her cheek and fell onto her shirt. Something in the way she looked at him seemed to be pleading with him, but for what, he didn’t know. He knew there was someone else, but he wanted to overlook that right now. What good did it do to bring up another man if she wasn’t happy. It wouldn’t change anything, by telling her.
He tried to speak, but the words wouldn’t come. All he could think about was how cold the coffee had gotten and about how his father had sit at the table all those mornings. He wondered if his father had ever felt as lonely as he did right now.
“Ok,” he said. It was all he could muster up. He took a sip of the cold coffee and thought about the day that had gotten married. It was so perfect. The sun was so bright that day and the air was a nice, cool seventy-four degrees. She looked so beautiful that he found himself wondering how he had gotten so lucky. Looking at her know, she was still just as beautiful.
“I’m sorry for not being more for you,” he said. “All I ever wanted was to make you happy.” He looked back to her pretty face and saw that tears were now falling from both eyes. He got up from the table and walked over to her taking her hands in his. The touch from his hands caused her to start weeping. He pulled her to him and began running his hand up and down her back.
“I love you,” he whispered, “it’s going to be ok.” She placed her head on his shoulder and began sobbing. He continued rubbing her back as she wept. He wanted to beg her to stay, but the way she was crying made it clear that it was too late.
“I’m so sorry,” she cried, pulling back from his shoulder and looking at him face to face. She was so close that he wanted to kiss her, but knew that would just make it harder for her and, after all, he wanted her to be happy. He loved her that much. He tried his best to comfort her by faking a half-hearted smile.
“Hey, it’s ok,” he reassured her. “Sometimes people just change. I want you to be happy.” He knew that the words were the last thing she expected to hear. It was also, the last thing he thought he would say. Maybe he should have been mad and fought to keep her. Maybe raising his voice and telling her that he knew about the doctor was what he should’ve done. That would have been the easiest thing to do.
Which is why he chose not to do it.
“Listen, why don’t you go take a hot shower and get some sleep. I know you’re tired.” Gently, he wiped a few strands of hair from the front of her face and pinned it behind her ear. Her crying had slowed to a whimper as she wiped her eyes. She looked into his eyes and, for a minute, he hoped that she might change her mind.
“We can talk some more later, ok?” He said as he brushed her hair with his hand.
“Ok,” she replied, as she lowered her head and pulled her hands away from his. She walked to the bedroom. A few seconds later, he heard the shower start.
He stood frozen like a statue. He had just told the woman that he loved that it was ok to leave him. He tried to make sense of what had just happened, but all he felt was emptiness. The kitchen was so quiet. The faint sound of shower water repelling from her skin was the only sound.
He walked to the table and picked up his coffee cup.
He poured the coffee down the drain and poured a fresh cup, watching the steam rise from the cup, again. He felt a slight bit of relief, for some reason.
Returning to the table, he used the mouse and moved the pointer over to the trash can icon above the email.
He closed the screen, and with it, his marriage.
He thought back to his father sitting at the table in the morning, drinking his coffee. He wondered what he was thinking on some of those mornings. His father’s hands wrapped around a cup of coffee and how dry and calloused they always looked came to mind. His face always seemed tired, too.
It all made sense to him, now.
He wished his father was still around.