After knocking on her door, he walks back to the edge of the veranda to wait. His shoulder twitches. Tension begins to build on the left side of his face.
She doesn't ask him to sit down, but he knows it's all right. There are only two chairs, one on each side of the small, narrow table. The baby chair is in the corner. She has forgotten to wipe it clean; spills of baby food have dried on its tray. He thinks he can smell peaches.
"I'm late. I was away in Europe for three weeks..."
"Doesn't matter." She doesn't smile, but her voice is mild.
She fills him a cup with coffee, herself taking a mug. She knows he's not fond of mugs.
He leans toward the cup. "It's a dreary night. The snow...too heavy on the roofs."
She seals her mug with the palm of her hand — a strange habit. The warmth of the coffee is felt by her cheeks.
She never asks him if he wants to see the child — she knows he doesn't come for that. From the beginning, it was settled. Still, he likes to enquire politely about his health.
"He had impetigo...but he's better now."
"A virus?" It's been so long, he can't remember — he's a grandfather now.
"Yes — virus."
"But he's really better now, you say?"
"Yes, don't worry." She has a way of letting her gaze fall away from his eyes and attaching it to some object nearby. The dark eyes won't budge after that.
She never offers a second cup of coffee and he feels he has to go. He gets up and pushes his chair forward, aligning it carefully with the table. "It's time," he murmurs. "It's getting late."
"There's another storm — the radio said."
"It held for a while..."
She's attracted to the window, stands there staring into the blizzard. He runs his fingers over the front of his coat, and finding it still buttoned, lets his other hand dip into his pocket. He places the envelope beside his empty cup, pushing it under the saucer a bit.
"Some people won't get home tonight..." He has spoken a bit too loud. Startled, she holds her pulse tight before turning his way.
"She'll worry about you — your wife."
He circles his scarf around his neck. "Good night."
He tries to find his way to the subway. It isn't easy. The wind whistles in his ears... snow twirls all around him.
Delia De Santis
DELIA DE SANTIS, a Canadian who writes us from Brights Grove, Ontario, has actually been a part-time grocery and department store demonstrator; hence her pieces are drawn from experience.
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