The Girl watched in a trance as their old coffee maker sputtered the last few cups into its well-loved pot. It had been a long night, and she was impatient to swallow the hot caffeine as soon as possible.
Her eyes sunk low with exhaustion, but her ears were awake, aware like a baby rabbit. She was waiting for the sounds of life to start behind the closed bedroom door, waiting to see what version of J she would be greeted with today.
The Girl wasn’t even sure which J she wanted to see. Angry, with a hangover exacerbating his temper, to match her bubbling fury. Ashamed, arm-loaded with apologies but fuzzy about the details of what he’d done wrong.
She poured her first cup of sweet relief, willing the dark roast to pacify the storm inside. The door creaked as J emerged, slowly. Apologetic, then.
“Can I get a cup of that?” He whispered, a tentative hand on her stiff hip. Gauging her anger through the temperature of her skin, the line of her neck. She knew J wanted her to forget, to let it go. The tenor of the day depended on her words.
The Girl handed him a cup of steaming black coffee. She always added three sugars, just like he liked it. She noticed this on their first date, and he made a lame joke about being sweet. The absence of this, this tiny act of love, said more than if she had just started a knock-down, drag-out fight.
“What happened to you?” Her back was to him, so J couldn’t even tell if she was angry or sad. Or scared. God, please don’t be afraid of me.
“I know, I took it too far. It was just a hard week…” J trailed off. They knew each other well, too well, for his weak excuses to pass as truths.
“You never drink like that, J. And this was the second time in two weeks I had to put you to bed and clean up the bathroom.” She finally looked at him, and it was worse than he expected. Not mad, not sad. Not scared. But disappointed.
“It won’t happen again.” He said that three days ago, but she would believe him this time, like she did last time.