Stranger at the Table

He sits at a table, a steaming cup of coffee at his wrist, the newspaper flipped to the business section. It’s easy to imagine he’s checking the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ, and he looks so serious, so fraught with concern, I almost call out to him. But then again, what do I know about stock exchanges?

I stand at the counter, mixing up a batch of pancake batter. I add some vanilla, not bothering to measure it out; I memorized the recipe years ago, and the motions are second-nature. As I pour the batter, I glance over at him, hoping the alluring scent will tempt him. But I know it won’t; it never does. It’s always a cup of coffee and the business section. No eggs. No sausage or bacon. Just coffee, and the paper for company.

His face is familiar—brown eyes nearly hidden beneath drawn brows, sharp cheekbones, and the very slightest of underbites. His fingers tap impatiently against the wood, waiting for the coffee to cool. After a moment, he raises the cup to his lips.

“Shit!” He mutters the curse, but I hear it, because I expect it. He always takes that first sip too soon and ends up with a scalded tongue. The corner of my mouth quirks, and I shake my head. He never learns.

I finish flipping pancakes and pop them on readied plates, then gather butter, jelly, and syrup. As I pass by and begin setting the breakfast plates down, I wait, hoping against hope he’ll acknowledge me. He just flips the next page of the newspaper and takes another sip from his cup.

I should leave him alone, I know, but I can’t help it—I break the silence.

“Anything interesting?”

He glances up, brows raised, surprised by my sudden presence. Then, with a shake of his head, his face clears, all emotion erased like chalk from a blackboard. He folds the paper and stands.

“Nope. Same old, same old.”

“Oh.” I nod, as if I understand what he means by that. The sound of footsteps clattering down the hall draws my attention. By the time I look back, he’s grabbed his keys and is headed for the door. Now—desperate—I do call out.

“Have a good day! I love you!”

He doesn’t respond and barely bothers to glance over his shoulder. Tears prick my eyes, and I swallow, trying to force my heart back into my chest. As our three children race into the kitchen and devour their food, I watch my husband of twenty years walk out the door.

 

~~Briana Robertson, Author, Stitched Smile Publications

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Briana Robertson is an emerging speculative fiction author, working primarily within the genres of horror and fantasy. Her love of authors such as Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, Patrick Rothfuss, and J.K. Rowling has developed her own need to put pen to paper. Her short stories have been published in several anthologies, and broadcast on online podcasts. Her debut novel is in the works, set to release in 2017. She currently lives in the Midwest, with her husband, three daughters, and their Maine Coon, Bagheera. Be sure to visit her website, as well as follow her on FacebookTwitterInstagramWordPress, and Pinterest.

 

 

 

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