“Where are you going?” she asked. She found him tiptoeing towards the door. It was eight in the evening. His favorite stew was boiling. It had been ages since she cooked it for him. The doctor told him to go easy on the food. It would have interfered with his medicine. The bubbling pot was the only sound aside from the evening news on television.
He straightened himself and smoothed the creases on his shirt. “Downstairs to the neighbors.”
She rested an arm on the wall. “Why?” she asked.
He puffed out his cheat in response. “I gotta check if our kitchen pipes are leaking. I don’t want any water ruining their living room ceiling.”
Now she folded her arms. “Did they say anything about a leak?”
He shook his head.
She leaned in closer. “Did you even hear anything weird from the kitchen?”
Another shake of the head.
With a sigh, she asked, “So why bother fixing what hasn’t happened?”
He pointed to her, saying, “You raised hell when we came one day and our house was flooded from a leak in the ceiling. Our neighbors upstairs wouldn’t talk to us for days after! I’m trying to prevent that from happening to us.”
She scoffed. “Those guys upstairs were lazy bums. Why do you have to bother the nice ones downstairs? And dinner’s almost ready!”
He stomped. The plywood floor groaned under his foot. He glared at her, his back hunched like a prowling predator. The intensity of it sent a shiver down her spine. She hadn’t seen him like that in years. On impulse she clapped a hand to her cheek. When she realized what she did, she shook her head. Her lip hadn’t twitched like that in so long, either.
When he saw her reaction, he exhaled deeply and straightened himself. “Sort. But I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m trying to prevent another fiasco like last time. I’m doing this for you, for us. Anything to keep things peaceful.”
She shuddered. “Peaceful,” she mumbled. “Fine, go then. Go ahead and spend an hour explaining why you decided to drop by when there’s no problem.”
“Do we have to wait when there’s a problem before we do anything?”
“You’re the problem!” she spat. “I married a problem when he couldn’t stop fixing things that didn’t need fixing.”
He stood, his face expressionless. A stone. But she saw his fingers tremble. His face flushed crimson and a vein bulged on his temple, near where thin, shining scars touched his eyebrow. Her lip twitched in response.
Heaving another sigh, he fished for something in his pocket and pulled out a tiny orange medicine bottle. He popped open the plastic cap with his thumb and downed a couple of the remaining pills in one smooth, practiced motion. Once done, he returned the bottle to his pocket.
It took a moment, but his fingers stopped twitching and his face returned to its normal color. Putting a hand on the doorknob, he pulled open the door.
“I’m sorry for you having to put up with me,” he said. “Don’t wait up for me.”
She slumped on the floor as his footsteps faded away in the distance. The pot on the stove fizzled as the broth overflowed. She couldn’t stop the tears from running down her cheeks either.
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