Breakfast is done. They sit face to face. He sets his fork down. She clears her throat to ask him what his plans are for the day.
He breaks the silence first. His phone is already up to his ear, and he gives a cheerful hello with a smile as an emphasis he’s happy to have seen the incoming call flash across the screen.
She knows who he is talking to. First phone call of the day, most days.
Months ago, she asked him why he silenced the ringtone, though she knew why because he didn’t want her to notice who and how many times calls came through. He answered who calls when isn’t important to him, which at the time, she thought it a strange thing to say, but knew it wasn’t true because he constantly checked his phone about now, then around noon, then after five o’clock. It’s not his schedule, he works around for the best time to call, it’s the time that is best for whom he is talking to.
Just friends. She knows this. He will remind her that she is friends with her too. Friends for a long time, though he didn’t become close, and she didn’t feel estranged until after the divorce. She repeats to herself, “Just friends,” as she picks up her breakfast plate and reaches for his, which he pushes her way as he turns his back to her and laughs into the phone.
The forks rattle on the plate as she walks to the sink. Her pulse pounds in her temples. She lets the plates go instead of placing them down to rinse to drown out his voice, if only for an instant, of his happy “no problem” response into the phone as he gets up from the table and walks to the large dining room window.
She leaves the hot water running full throttle in the sink. She throws a dishtowel over her shoulder and watches the steam rise to fog the window erasing her reflection. She swallows as she disappears. Swallows again and tells herself she needs to get help. She is losing her mind. Friends, she writes on the windowpane.
Into the phone, he says, “Wow, there is the most beautiful bird in my front yard, a Flicker, I think.”
She looks at him at the window. The way he stands with his elbow leaning against the sill, the one holding the phone to his ear and the other hand on his thigh with his foot up on the seat of a chair. Some cowboy, she thinks, turns off the water and wipes the word away with the dishtowel.
She wants to go to the window to see the bird, but instead, she opens the dishwasher and puts the dishes in. Don’t, she tells herself, he isn’t talking to you. She drops the forks one by one into the machine’s silverware basket listening to each clink against another. Friends, she thinks, enjoy talking and listening to each other.
She turns the almost empty dishwasher to hear it chime its happy song.