The keys lay untouched on the table between Mark and Kathy. The table was from their first trip to Ikea as a couple, where they had jokingly bickered over the choice between the black Stornӓs and the birch Bjursta. They played rock paper scissors and Kathy had won. She chose the Bjursta, so that’s what had come home with them, balanced precariously on top of Mark’s blue Mini Cooper. The birch veneer reflected the bright white of the Sӧder chandelier that Mark had hung two weeks later, after Kathy had gotten fed up with waiting and placed the box it came in under the covers on his side of the bed.
“I don’t want you to leave,” Mark said. His hands were shaking so he crossed his arms to hide them. Kathy appeared calm.
“I just wanted to be honest,” Kathy said, spreading her hands palm side down on the table.
“I don’t care about what happened with Sam,” Mark said, he stared across the table at her, but she wouldn’t make eye contact.
“Are you in love with him?” He pressed, willing her to say no. She shrugged, then nodded, then shook her head slowly.
“No, I don’t think so. I think I was just looking for something. Something I’m not sure we have anymore.” Mark loved Kathy most for her unfailing honesty, even in this moment, where she was trying to end everything, he respected her openness. “We never had sex,” she offered helpfully.
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” Mark snapped, leaning back in his chair. “Jesus Kathy.”
“No, I guess not really,” she said passively. She finally looked into his eyes, and he felt a searing jolt of pain run through his forehead. Four years of memories ran in front of him; Kathy smiling up at him from his old flannel sheets their first time; jumping into the ocean together on an early May morning; the four hour drives to visit his mother; the pink cross on the white stick; and from five months ago, Kathy curled up on the couch, weeping, refusing to let him touch her. “It just feels like you’re not here anymore. Even when you’re with me,” she added. He didn’t respond.
“I’ll sleep in the guest room tonight,” Kathy said. “And tomorrow I’ll figure out something else.” Mark nodded numbly and stood up.
“I’m going to go out and get really drunk,” he said, pulling on his coat and picking up the keys.
Mark walked down the street to McDonough’s, the Irish pub run, incongruously, by a gay Argentine couple. He ordered four whisky sours in a row, and stared at the soccer match playing on the flat screen tv above the bar. Nahuel and Aldofo conferred quietly in the corner, watching Mark’s progress on his drinks. A little while later, Nahuel brought over a plate of nachos for him, on the house, he said, but Mark couldn’t eat.
At midnight, he stumbled out into the street, the bright lights from the street lamps blinding him after the dank darkness of the bar. He fumbled with his cell phone in his pocket, finally managing to pull it out, and called his brother. The phone rang seven times before the voicemail kicked on.
“You know what to do,” his brother’s deep voice boomed.
“Fuck you, Sam!” Mark yelled into the phone, then hung up and walked home. He turned onto his street, passing a couple making out against a chain link fence. Kathy had already gone to bed and turned off all the lights except for the light above the kitchen sink. Mark poured himself a glass of water and drank it slowly, feeling the cool liquid slide down his throat.
He went into his bedroom, and opened his closet door, reaching up to tug down a small brown leather box. He opened it and stared at the three items inside. It contained a pair of tiny blue Patriots booties; a folded miniature knit hat made by Kathy’s mother; and finally a grainy black and white photograph, where, like in a Magic Eye picture, if he stared hard enough he could see a pale gray hand. He held the box for a long time, and then walked back into the kitchen and dumped it and everything but the picture into the trash.
Mark tucked the picture beneath his pillow and then lay down in the dark on Kathy’s side of the bed, fully clothed. He couldn’t bring himself to bother to pull the covers up. His eyes closed but he couldn’t fall asleep. A little while later, he heard the bedroom door open, and Kathy crept in.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” she whispered as she slipped into the bed behind him, tucking her chin in behind his neck. He rolled over and pulled her to him, stripping off her pajamas quickly and efficiently, the practiced speed of familiarity behind each move. They came together and then held each other for the rest of the night, both not sure what would happen next.