The Ritual is Over

In the morning, depending on who woke first, they’d go down to the kitchen and make tea or coffee and return to the bedroom with a replete tray. Matt liked coffee. Siri liked tea. Both liked peaches, figs, toast.
Siri opened the back door and let the cat out as she waited for the water to boil. The cat was Matt’s, a Siamese Red Sealpoint. A present from an ex. Apparently a parting gift. Siri cared neither for the cat or the giver of such a gift.
This morning Siri had her coffee in the garden. She took her book with her. Matt had worked into the night on something or other. She never asked. She’d let him sleep a while longer. Her lawyer lover. International law. It didn’t interest her. Getting pregnant and becoming a mum were higher up the wish list. How many times had she heard soon? Matt always wore a condom.
Siri was a reader. She had been ever since she was a small child. Her mother had encouraged her. Tucked up in bed they read stories to each.
Matt used to read. When they first met he’d read her bedtime stories in that dark warm timbre and seductive accent. But more recently his time was taken up with document upon document.
Only a brief drop in temperature signalled that he had come to bed at an absurd hour.
Stealthily she moved upon the stairs. Avoiding the second from top which creaked. On a small set of bedside drawers she rested the tray. Knowing that the aroma of the coffee would, as it always did, ease him from his slumbers.
Quietly she collected a bra and panties from her side of the chest of drawers and crept out the room to go shower. She knew by the time she had finished washing he would be sitting up in bed; mug of coffee poised on his chest, radio tuned to a light classical music station, eyes staring out the window, the focal point well in the distance, a smile upon his face. And she.
She would walk across his line of vision to find a dress from the wardrobe and know that his eyes would have averted. Sometimes it would go further. Mostly she sensed his longing.
But this morning he was still asleep. She turned on the radio. Picked up the mug of coffee and held it beneath his nose. He did not stir. Siri froze. Overtaken now by the realisation that the ritual was over. Matt would no longer consume her in his gaze. She fell to her knees and buried her face in the duvet to strangle the anguish of her sudden loss.

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