The Ritual

Every Friday it’s like clockwork.

She pours a coffee and reads the news, or watches it – though the second is a deviation from the written version. She waits until the coffee has cooled for three minutes, drains it and repeats.

The early-on jitters have all but stopped now, she is so used to the bitter eye-wateringly strong brew. It’s a parallel that is blindingly obvious; it mirrors the way things were with him, early on. She remembers the accelerated heartbeat, the nervously shaky hands, the way cradling a hot drink gave her something to do.

Now, she only has the coffee for company. It’s the only part of her ritual that remains intact – even the coffee has not survived the change. She stopped embellishing it once it was just her, because he always added something to his drink.

The machine drips a fresh serving and she scalds her lip on the edge of the cup. Blames herself for being too eager to remember.

If the weather remains cold enough, she’ll take her drink out to the balcony, breathe in cold crisp air.

(don’t you feel more alive? he asked her once, and laughed when she said she felt more cold)

Out here, she watches the fog dissipate from the horizon, tries to imagine all the shapes that might be seen through the layers of fog and air pollution. Once upon a time, they would sit here together and drink, make up stories about all the people they couldn’t see and tell tales about the ones they could see. She doesn’t do that now, because she’s on her own and her imagine isn’t the same without him to bat around ideas.

It’s clockwork, a finely tuned machine that she never allows to falter. Every week she carries out the old ritual, faithful and loving. Every week she burns her lip on a fresh cup, reads the news and tells herself a story about passersby.

It never brings him back.

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