She liked ketchup on her eggs and a vase full of hand-picked lilacs resting in the center of the table. With legs crossed and arms pointing her hands to a V, she would sit on the wooden-carved chair and drink her coffee two-handed, peacefully. Sometimes from her seat, she would gaze through the glass door at the swans gliding across the pond and he would watch as her face glowed and her eyes lightened in the sun’s beams.
Every morning he prepared the coffee. He would flip the switch of the machine from OFF to ON, place two cups beside a KitchenAid toaster on the marble countertop and listen to the murr of the caffeine brewing as he leaned forward with his arms on the counter keeping him upright by supporting his weight. She would appear from the hallway some ten minutes later, and tip toe behind him until her arms were close enough to wrap around his waist and squeeze him gently. He closed his eyes and felt her warmth against his.
A furry carpet shaped like a Labrador Retriever brushed up against his calves rerouting his mind back to the present. Seating itself in front of the glass door, it panted with its tongue hanging out of its mouth searching outside for a friend. Mason followed the blonde creature, curious of his intentions and hoping to distract himself from his thoughts. He watched as two hummingbirds danced together flying in a circular motion, their bodies mimicking each other’s movements. Mason looked down at his feet and caught two soft-brown eyes looking back at his.
“Time for breakfast, Max,” he groaned to the dog, still half asleep. He forgot to make the coffee when he woke up.
Retracing his steps back to the counter, he reached his right arm out to open the cream-colored cabinets, holding tight to the faux metal knob. Inside of the cabinet lay three mugs, five or so apple cider Keurig k-cups, and a single coffee filter. Mason hadn’t emptied the dishwasher since it beeped last Tuesday to let him know his dishes were clean. Now he’d have to restock his scarce supply. He stretched his arm and slinked the handles of two ceramic mugs onto his thumb and pointer finger, then slowly placed them beside the KitchenAid. Staring at his naked feet on the cool wooden floor, he listened to a familiar faint murr. Although he couldn’t quite place his finger on it, something felt out of place.
Steam rose out of the mugs as coffee poured in. Mason’s cheeks blushed as he felt the heat kiss his face. He returned the pot back to its cradle and carried the cups with him as he journeyed to the kitchen table hiding sneakily in the corner of the room. Mason sat down placing one mug in front of him and the other by the seat across from him.
He sipped the burning substance, tasting nothing but the heat on his lips and a frustrating feeling of fatigue. Sitting so quietly yet seeming so loud, confusion filled his mind as the other mug glared at him.
Mason bit his bruised lip nervously as the picture in his mind came into focus.
Oh yeah, you’re gone, he thought to himself.
* * *
Tree branches swayed slowly as the wind blew through the air, leaving behind a slight chill that would give a person goosebumps, but not make them cold enough to ask for a jacket. Light poked through the crevasses between the clouds like it was cracking a white shell open to reveal a yolk of a sun. Sounds of children screaming with joy and babies crying in strollers echoed off of the oak trees and yet it did not take away from the park’s serenity. Unprotected from the shade of the sturdy evergreens, a young woman sat on a blanket with her legs folded beneath her. Her hair was in a ponytail, the loose strands tucked behind her ears. White polka dots were sprinkled on the red sundress she wore that stopped right before her knees. A gentleman was lying down beside her, his arms resting on his chest and his legs crossed in front of him. For two hours, they sat there together in the sun’s bliss, watching the clouds move by.
Suddenly, a dark haze engulfed the sun and the beautiful blue sky was painted over by a gloomy hue of grey. Without a pause for air, rain poured down on the park. Families ran to cars and overhangs to keep dry, while the pair looked at one another with exhilaration as they became drenched in the storm. A moment later, the girl pushed herself onto her feet, stepped off the blanket, and slipped on the mud, falling to the ground. Abruptly, the young man got to his feet to see if she was alright, but he was reassured when he heard her laughter ringing among the sound of rainfall. In an attempt to help her up, he lost his balance and found himself laying on his back with her next to him laughing hysterically. Instead of trying to get up and clean themselves off, they just stayed there, smiling and joking, soaked and covered in mud.
It was love.
“I know you miss her,” Mason told Max, looking into his big, sappy eyes. “I miss her, too,” his voice almost cracking.
“Do you remember when you two first met and you jumped on her and almost knocked her onto the floor? She didn’t want to make a big deal about it in front of me so she smiled and knelt on the floor next to you and gave you a big hug. And I just stared at you because you were looking over her shoulder at me so happy like you were giving me your approval,” Mason chuckled.
He paused for a while, then sighed, “She’s not coming back. She has a different life than we do and both of us knew it wouldn’t work. I wish it would’ve more than anything, but we can’t stay moping like this forever. It’s time to move on, Max. And it’s gonna be hard and sad, but we have each other, right?” He reached down under the table and scratched the fur between the dog’s ears. Max slouched under the chair, resting his head directly beneath Mason’s seat, making him out of Mason’s reach. Why do I even bother? He’s just a dog, he thought.
Mason got up from his seat, grabbed the two coffee mugs from the table and placed them both in the sink, pouring the coffee out of the one he didn’t need. Then, he walked over to the glass door and peered outside at a small family of ducks swimming about in the pond. The babies followed their mother, squawking at each other every other second. Occasionally the mama duck would turn her head back to see the commotion, but the babies would just stare at her in silence, afraid to get in trouble.
Towards the back of the pond, near the tall grass, was a beautiful white swan. It was alone, but calm and it enjoyed its peace. It plunged its neck into the water below attempting to catch breakfast and when its head bobbed upright again it looked almost completely dry. It swam in circles around the small space, content with its privacy from the neighbors.
In awe, Mason stood behind the sliding glass door, his eyes switching back and forth between the baby ducks and the mother, the swan in the corner, and the sunbeams reflecting off of the water’s crystal clear surface. It couldn’t be a more peaceful place.
Mason’s shoulders dropped and his breath slowed. A subtle reassurance came over him that made him realize: maybe not today or tomorrow, or anytime soon. But I’ll be alright someday. I’ll be alright.