Perfect Strangers

A sudden noise. With practiced ease she silences the alarm, slipping out of sleep and stepping on to the cool, morning floor. The floorboards creak in weary protest as she crosses to the bathroom. The distant rustling of sheets signals his arising. He slips around her to the neighboring sink and pulls cold water over his eyes. 
Toothpaste, the same brand of they have shared for as long as either of them can remember, is exchanged, and their morning rituals continue. While she wipes away the heavy smudges of makeup from the night before, he slips his wedding ring back on. Neither one of them dares to allow the half formed thoughts fully develop. 
They share a shot of blue, stinging liquid to drown the stench of alcohol and lust from their breath. As he pulls his unruly curls down into submission, he silently recalls the fingers that danced through his hair. Those unbanded, unbridled fingers were not so different than the ones that worked quietly next to him, but different enough. She ties her tangled locks into a neat loop ending at the base of her neck, just low enough to cover the small, suggestive bruise. Still, the dark circle of skin stood out against her flesh, but in the dark it was almost hidden. Reaching to turn on the light, their hands meet but not their eyes. A different breed of thoughts arise, but these too are carefully ignored. With practiced silence, they go about their mornings.
His leather briefcase gleams dully as he shuffles reports into manila folders while she prepares a ham sandwich with American cheese, a red apple with the sticker removed, a bag of carrots washed and peeled, and an unsigned note reminding him to pick up the dry cleaning before 6 o’clock in a brown paper bag. Handing him the lunch, she receives a dry kiss to the cheek. 
Then she returns to the sink to start clearing the dishes piled high from the day before. She rolls up her sleeves, turns the water on, and waits for the sink to fill up. The water runs cold. With a turned back, he pretends not to notice as she stifles a hiccup and blinks to keep the tears from escaping into plain sight. He gathers his coat over an arm, carrying his briefcase and his lunch to the car. 
The sight of his own reflection in the car’s window gives him reason to pause. After a moment, he gets into the car and rests his hands on the wheel. Looking through the front window, he sees his wife in the kitchen. He watches her methodic actions, moving smoothly from one dish to the next, not allowing the night before, and the many nights like it, effect the morning. He starts the car, denies his misgivings, and pulls out into the street.


About the Author | Josey Hill is a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin. She studies Rhetoric and Writing with the hopes of entering the word of publishing. As a dog enthusiast, most of her writing is focused on researching and debating the names of her many future furry companions.