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Photo by Wang Ward

Morning came too quickly for both of them. He had to meet with his boss to discuss the agenda for the all-company meeting taking place that afternoon, and she didn’t say what was causing her to hurry. Her lunch was already sitting out on the counter with the brown paper curled forward like a grade-schooler’s lunch.

All it needs is her name written on it with permanent marker.

When she wasn’t looking, he scrawled it across the side opposite the fold, and then he busied himself with pouring cereal. He hoped she would notice the decoration when she picked it up and headed out the door, but she forgot the bag altogether. He ran down the stairs after her to give it to her.

“Have fun at school, dear!” he said, handing her the bag with her name facing her.

She blushed her thanks.

“You are the biggest nerd. I’ve got to go!”

Before opening her car door, she surprised him with a light kiss on the mouth. Then, she threw her stuff and herself into the vehicle and drove away. He watched until she turned from their driveway, and then he walked in to get his things because he was going to be late.

He was shocked, but he told himself that the kiss meant nothing. It was just routine, a goodbye given upon departure perfunctorily, not passionately. 

What did it mean when what had been practice had stopped for seven months and had been resurrected just now? Had that fast, parting kiss been their habit, he would have resented it today. It would have been evidence of boredom or artificial affirmation of commitment. But they hadn’t kissed like that, let alone faced each other, before leaving for work within the past seven months. He shuddered at the unpredictability of their ground.

Five miles from the parking garage, he began to cry, exploding into deep, spastic sobs. It was almost like hyperventilating, but he wasn’t nervous. He was shocked: she had kissed him.

A few minutes alone in the car would allow him to blast the A/C before stepping out and running into a coworker and looking disheveled. He pulled down the driver’s side mirror to check himself. He looked fine, and he was disappointed.

Just then, Chelsea pulled into the spot next to his, expecting to see a grin returned. She got half of one, because today he would tell her it was over.

 

This is the third installment of “The Fault,” a short story about infidelity, and what happens when you break yourself. Check out the beginning and second scene for reference.