After the child left, there was quiet. Unnatural but not yet uncomfortable. It had always been lively before, one child filling up all the empty cracks and crevices like glue.
Each day, he walks in from work, shouts a hello, opens the refrigerator. She is there, buttoning her heavy coat. I won't be long, she tells him. She imagines replacing the old wooden door with a revolving one. The old door still has remnants of the glue that held them close. The pencil marks measure the child's growth. The first mark shows the tiny toddler, standing before her first birthday. Hold still, honey, she says, as she feels her soft bird hair underneath the pencil. The last mark, made sometime in her teens, a quick line slightly crooked. She had to stand on tiptoe to draw it.
The house is quiet except for the TV. The dishwasher hums after a quiet dinner. He tells her it's good. She scrapes hers down the garbage disposal. It's cold and dark at seven o'clock. The branches of the giant tree outside the kitchen window scratch against the glass. She hears him calling out the answers to the Jeopardy contestants. He repeats the answers twice. The second time louder than the first. Who is Augustus Caesar? Who is Augustus Caesar?
They can't hear you! she used to tell him. It was a joke between them. Now she closes the door to the den and tries to lose herself in her work. She is writing another chapter. She knows where she is taking her characters, but she worries if she is taking them in the right direction.
In the morning, he is gone by the time she makes coffee. He has left her favorite donut on the counter next to the coffee pot. He has taken last night's garbage out. Silent acts of love. Silent acts of habit. Some of both, she thinks. This evening, he will walk in, they will greet each other and she will walk out. It's the dance they do now that there is no glue.