I listen as her breathing deepens, sleep taking its hold despite her 5 year-old arguments against being tired. Propping myself up on my elbow, my eyes trace her black eyelashes against her round expressionless cheeks. I push a strand of hair off her eyebrow as I look down at my daughter, using the barest of …
She takes a sip and cringes.
Coffee is cold. She debates pouring a fresh cup, knowing she wastes at least 3/4 of the coffee she brews every morning. With a sigh, she stands to pour herself more, if only for routine comfort.
Hearing sounds of movement upstairs, she glances at the clock. The nighttime symphony of crickets was replaced hours ago with a chorus of waking birds. Now even the birds are hushed as the day heats up outside. Moving towards the fridge, she looks towards the family room windows, just to make sure she remembered to close up the house. An almost empty fridge offers up and takes back the milk from her hand, and she drags her willpower as she moves around the kitchen.
He coughs. She pauses.
The coughing subsides, replaced by her hand clinking the spoon against her mug’s edge. The fridge clunks as ice is pushed into the door bin, and she takes a sip. Lukewarm. She grimaces and disposes of the mug, the ceramic against porcelain echo going unnoticed as a plane flies overhead.
Her eyes pull towards the microwave clock again. She sighs. The vacuum of time sucks at her as the house settles back into the quiet hum of appliances. He is shuffling upstairs, starting his wheezing decent onto the main floor.
She looks at the breakfast waiting for him on the tv tray. Also cold. His days are starting later, and time is moving slower. She tries to coax minutes into moving by wiping the counter for a third time while his slippered feet scrape the hallway towards her. She turns as he steps into the kitchen, her expressionless face open to his weary one.
“Good morning,” she says, careful to not let him hear concern, though her eyes search his face and body for clues.
“Arhmf.” His response is part cough and part grumble as his cloudy eyes search the spotless counters.
“Next to your recliner.”
“Thanks,” he huffs, turning into the family room, “and my tea?”
“Same. Do you want me to heat them for you?”
He sits down, the leather creaking under his shifting weight. Another coughing fit causes her muscles to tense, preparing her to move in a heartbeat. The hacking halts, followed by shuddering breaths and throat clearing. She leans against the counter, waiting. His breathing returns to normal, and she relaxes.
He falls asleep, and the silence deepens. Her eyes drift towards the window over the sink, watching trees move with muted wind. She pulls oxygen deep into her lungs, turning to look at the digital clock before letting the air murmur past her lips. The stillness of a tomb pushes at her eardrums.
She picks up the kitchen rag, wiping at the counter.