She giggles at something he says. Her head drops and a lock of hair falls to caress her cheek. She pushes it back, blushing. It’s obvious she likes him.
His eyes crinkle as they catch the pink dusting her cheeks. He likes her laugh, the way her head dips as she hides her smile. He thinks, I’ll be the one tucking that lock of hair back next time.
She tugs her beige cardigan snugly across her shoulders from where they had slid back onto her arms. The rounded collar of her ivory shirt, fastened with a thin black silk ribbon, reminds him of a piano. His fingers itch.
He taps a light rhythm on the table, his teeth catching his lips gently as he watches her. His mouth tugs upwards as he catches her staring. She swallows hard. Her eyes watch as his tongue sweeps across his lips, and she mirrors the action. She shivers.
“Cold?” He says in a low baritone that carries easily across the booth. He pulls his leather jacket off quickly and flings it out towards her, settling it over her small frame before she can respond.
“Thanks,” she half-whispers.
Theirs is a language of silence – of soft touches and gentle embraces, long stares and wordless gestures.
He reaches a hand to grasp hers on the table. It doesn’t have to be like this, it says.
Her fingers twine themselves around his. Yes, it does.
His lip quivers, and before she knows it there are tears in his eyes. She untangles their hands.
Her palm finds its way to his cheek, to the stubble lining the square jawline. He leans into her touch. Will you come back?
Her thumb strokes his closed eyelids. Yes.
She screams. I DON’T UNDERSTAND. I NEED YOU. WHAT HAPPENED?
He doesn’t hear anything. He’s too busy yelling about how BORED he is and how WORK IS KILLING ME. I NEED TIME ALONE.
Her fingers tremble with fear and anger and frustration. How dare you. You think you’re the only one with work and problems and not enough time?
Her fingers splay and sweep the counter. She grabs. A crystal glass narrowly misses his head, shattering against the cream wall. His eyes widen and his chest heaves.
Please don’t do this.
The book puts a crack in the wooden shelf. We put that shelf up together, he thinks as desperation clamps around his throat.
DON’T CALL ME THAT.
The trees outside their twenty-first storey windows rustle, and the draft makes her shiver. His eyes catch the minute action and he softens. Grabs the throw from the sofa and says sit down. Let’s talk. Please. He stretches open an arm, a vulnerable invitation. His eyes plead. His body is worn and battered. The scruff on his chin says give me a break.
Her armour’s hardened, calloused, dented – so broken and so tired. Her knees give way when she reaches the couch and she sighs I’m sorrys and we need to talk about this.
They don’t sleep.
Her eyes are drooping, dark circles mirroring his. She smiles anyway.
He looks up at her silence. Returns her smile and goes back to buttering the bread.
Routine is comforting.