She was smearing globs of whipped sweet cream butter onto a raisin scone cut without fanfare into bite-sized pieces. A pair of crusty, acute triangular ends caked in crystallized sugars were all that remained.
They are his favorite; he has always had a thing for finales. Yet he didn’t intervene in hers.
It was ten of eight.
If the sun had been up with them, the coarse sweetness might’ve cast a glint into his eyes. And if it was, if it had, she might have seen that he was crying.
From his vantage point, the smooth virgin white wall cut a cinematic contrast to her film noir loose ends.
For him, she is a movie played on repeat, like Casablanca flickering onto the stucco wall of that Moroccan joint he ate at years ago. Bogart in black and white above his first chicken tangine.
Parker’s satchel of organic English breakfast sat still, still steeping for one-hundred-seconds longer on the kitchen island. Ninety-nine. Ninety-eight.
Hardback books, crinkly brown paper bags that had carried leftovers home the night before, a glass bowl of spare cookie parts, one black zip hoodie with the tags still attached, and his plate of apples, red grapes, baby swiss slivers and soft pretzel fragments like the sentences he couldn’t finish, cluttered what, just 36-hours earlier, was a pristine surface. Life has happened. They had no regrets.
He was right there, seeing all of his love but fixated on her mouth because, while he is obsessed with her body, it’s her smile that pulls him under. That lyric, the one he muffs repeatedly, was locked into a groove touched by the needle as he stood with palms down, heart still, body steadied by the cool marble slab.
Ethan was lost down her side street, a slice of city the sun isn’t able to map. He enjoyed the solitude and the chill that didn’t so much hang in the air but blanket it. He returned in time to watch her lick butter clean of the knife, taking a full three inches of stainless silver into her mouth. His navy blue gym shorts flinched, but he shrugged it off. Not now, man.
Only occasionally did Parker look up to notice and to hold his gaze from across their island. How sweet it was that she didn’t feel the need. Ethan stared; he was seeing what hadn’t happened yet.
In five and half years, after his daughters had backed out of the driveway, the same thirty foot faded grey stretch they’d once redecorated with chubby pastel chalk and dreamed lofty dreams of dwarf goats and Flemish bunnies, for the final time, with boxes of novels and vinyl records hungrily taped shut and mesh laundry bags not nearly deep enough for the piles of chunky sweaters and licensed character cartoon ankle socks shoved inside, Parker and Ethan try again, as they do every Sunday morning, to get back to their sides of that marbled kitchen island on the 22nd floor.
Scones are cut; butter spread; the kettle’s at 212°.
Each Sunday morning they fall, into each other; into windows that do not overlook city hall or the residue of midtown’s annual fall fest; into a bed left unmade; into the future.
Originally published in the debut issue of Stanchion in summer 2020. That issue is now sold out.