Amicable

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Amicable
She had never shouted the wrong name during sex (not once!) although that was predicated on the fact that she was never so swept away (not once).

They brushed their teeth together, but they peed with the door firmly shut. They saved each other the last cup of coffee in the pot, which always grew cold and had to be dumped. They alternated weeks of taking out the garbage. Neither ever forgot. People said they were perfectly matched. People said they worked well as a team.

“Darling,” he said, one morning, “I’m leaving you for the dental hygienist.”

“The tall one, or the red-head?”

“The one whose elbows are knives and whose breasts resemble Easter eggs.”

That was not the actual conversation. They said the usual mundanities, rife with accusation and snotty with tears. It was very trying for both of them. Standing at the edge of one of life’s many abysses, she could see the stunning amount of work ahead. She said, “I can’t bear it. I simply can’t.”

He shrugged and walked out the door, taking the car keys with him. She was left alone in the kitchen, holding a cup of coffee that was by now quite cold. What a bother, she thought. This was all very poorly scripted. The plot was tired, the characters lacking.

There was no way around it. The assets would be coolly divided, exactly in half. The house would be sold. Friends and acquaintances would be notified. Her mother would cry, requiring hand holding and soothing noises. Various legal matters would need attention.

People would say, at least you can part friends. People would say, at least there aren’t any children. People would say, my, how amicable you are. The better, she thought, to hide our sharply filed teeth.

Beneath it all was the original sin. There had been a child. Or, not quite. A held breath of an almost-child. Then one Saturday, with a few heavy gushes of blood, there wasn’t anymore, simple as that.

It was the kind of thing, people said, that would bring you together or drive you apart. She had never wondered which of the two would happen to them.

She stood still with her cold coffee in the kitchen. She should fill her car with the teal lamp that had been her grandmother’s, a box of books, a few cozy wrap sweaters, and drive away. Drive into the center of a desert, any desert. Find an abandoned house and lie amongst the rustling scorpions until she died.

The sun paced across the floor as she sat at the counter. When it began to get dark, she listened for his car in the drive. He was right on time. He’d brought Chinese food. She took out plates and forks and spoons, he set the table. They sat together to eat, they said nothing. When he was done, he went into the other room and turned on the television. She stared at the grains of rice, scattered across the table, the drips of sauce congealing, the fortune cookies still in their wrappers.

She couldn’t imagine opening a fortune cookie again. She stood and started to clean the mess. “Leave it,” he called from the other room, over the noise of a laugh-tracked sitcom.

She sat down next to him, and together they did not watch television, the space between them widening. They were balancing on ice floes, drifting apart. He turned to her, and she thought he might wave, but all he did was yawn.


Photo by @MARCEAU_PHOTEAU used under CC0.

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About Author

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Sarah Starr Murphy is a writer and teacher in rural Connecticut. She’s an editor for The Forge Literary Magazine. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Baltimore Review, Opossum, Pithead Chapel, and several others. She taught English in Baltimore and New Haven and is always inspired by middle schoolers.

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