Life does not respect bargains
You know something is different today, but you can't tell what. It's certainly not the weather. Today it drizzles, as it did yesterday, as it will do tomorrow. The sun is dozing above a sheet of clouds, an event that makes sure no shadows exist. You sit at a small, round table made for two looking out and contentedly watching the drops fall. A breeze slithers through the house and makes you hunch your shoulders momentarily. The kitchen window is open. You consider closing it but decide you welcome the slight breeze, a nice balance to the generally warm house.
You hear the door open, the melody of rain becoming slightly louder, followed by a chill. The door is slammed, and the rain is silenced. Wet rain boots squeak against the floor before scraping on the rough rug near the entrance. You hear them slip closer until she enters the room. She shrugs off her raincoat, letting it drop to the floor, and then collapses wearily onto the couch. You cast her a glance as greeting, she responds likewise, and you continue gazing out the window. Everything appears normal, but you still have that feeling that something is different today.
She was not the most beautiful woman you had ever seen. She was not the most knowledgeable woman you had ever listened to. She was not the kindest woman you had ever met. She had nothing that was perfect; she could do nothing perfectly. She had no talents nor was she an expert on any subject. There were plenty of people much better than she in all ways. You knew that, and you never wished for it to be otherwise. She was mediocre in all areas, and you never fooled her into believing she wasn't. You didn't fool yourself either.
You hear her yawn and glance over to see her stand up. She stretches and scratches the back of her head, messing up her moist hair more than it already was. She picks up her coat, bunches it into a lopsided ball, and heads back towards the hall before disappearing from view. Moments later, you hear her trudging up the stairs. You imitate her yawn and return to your musings. Perhaps she is different today.
Your heart did not skip a beat when you first saw her. You probably did not even notice her the first time she walked by. You would never stutter when you talked to her. It was not as though she made you nervous. You did not feel the need to call her every night and wish her sweet dreams. Why bother? You never took her out on a candle-light dinner; you never whispered sweet nothings in her ear; you never bought her roses or chocolates or teddy bears. She did not even like those things and neither did you.
The sound of her boots on the stairs reach your ears again. She goes into the kitchen through the back, avoiding the room you sit in, and you hear the refrigerator open. The door falls closed almost immediately, too quickly for her to have taken anything out. You are slightly disappointed to learn she is closing the window. There is a moment of silence that clearly reads she is thinking what to do next. She has nothing to do in the kitchen right now. She knows it, you know it. As though sensing your thoughts, she begins shuffling through cabinets.
You were never in awe of her. But she was never in awe of you either. Just as you never stuttered, neither did she. Just as you never bought her gifts, neither did she. Just as you had seen better women, so had she seen better men. She was neither superior nor inferior to you. You admired her sometimes, many times you were indifferent, just as she was to you. You felt you deserved her, and she you. You were nothing great either, why should you ask for an intelligent, successful woman—a person who would make you feel inferior?
You hear the clanging of pots and finally she picks something out. The sound of water gushing into a metallic container indicate she has picked out the teakettle. She never drinks tea at this time. She shuffles through drawers until she finds the matchbox. It rattles and suddenly clacks onto the floor. She sighs and you hear her pick up the box. You don't need to hear her light the stove to know she has. Something is wrong; you know she knows you sensed it by now. But she understands you will let her tell you when she is ready.
You never had a fight with each other. You never felt resentful or annoyed towards her. You were annoyed by some of the things she did, just as you were annoyed by some of the things you did. You were never angry when she forgot your birthday—you forgot it yourself—, or that she did not speak to you all day, or that she declined a rare invitation to go out to town together. You did the same to her, and she was never mad either. You were comfortable with each other, never passionate, never nervous, never embarrassed, never ecstatic.
A while goes by during which the kitchen is completely silent. You feel a bit anxious and consider asking her what is wrong. Instead, you sit and wait. She will tell you when she is ready. The kettle whistles, and you hear her move again. Two cups chink together and water gurgles into them. You hear her fishing around in the almost-empty tea box. She always puts the tea bags in before she pores the water. A drawer slides open, silverware tinkles and splashes into the cups. She sets the cups on plates you never heard her take out.
You knew her and she knew you because neither of you ever faked. You never told pretty lies, you never acted what you didn't feel, you never kept faults or weaknesses hidden. You were honest, even blunt and tactless, in your actions towards her. You never lied to her, even to make her happy. She would have known you were lying anyway. She was nothing to be worshiped, so you never worshiped her. You were nothing to be worshiped either, and she never worshiped you. She knew that, and you knew that, and you were both just fine with that.
She pads into the room and hesitates for a second, hardly detectable, but then moves forward. She sets the cups down on the table before you and pulls out the empty chair. You pull one cup towards your side, push one cup towards hers, and watch as she sits down and gets comfortable. She thanks you silently and starts blowing on her tea. You imitate her while stirring your own. You want to look at her and find out what's wrong. You can read her, but you choose to respect her silence and instead divert your eyes around the room.
You had a little world together. You owned a nice house on a nice property, comfortably away from town. The house was large and sturdy but mostly devoid of furniture. You both had just what you needed, nothing more. You had no fights because you had no moments of passion. You had no downs because you had no ups. You had no tears because you had no laughs. You simply had smiles and frowns, and you were both fine with that. You never took each other for granted; the sacrifice of excitement is a meager price for insurance against depression.
"Despite everything, it's a nice day." She takes a tentative sip of her tea and makes a face when she finds it's still too hot.
"It's cleansing," you agree.
You lower your head to continue blowing on the cup, feeling the warmth encircle your face and condense there. She's right, it is a nice day. The sun may be hidden, but at least there are no shadows. Shadows can't exist without light. You sit together in a comfortable silence, watching the rain fall, no doubt the same thoughts flitting through both of your minds. She is ready to tell you.
You walked side-by-side on the street but never held hands. You sat side-by-side on the couch but never rested against each other. You sometimes ate together; you sometimes slept together; you sometimes went out together, and you felt perfectly comfortable. You could converse all night about a certain subject—one that didn't deal with your own feelings. It wasn't taboo, it was simply something neither of you did. You were not inspired to discuss your feelings and neither was she. Some days you would not even exchange good-mornings or good-nights; you didn't need to.
She looks at you and you feel the sadness she carries. It's not a sadness for herself, rather a sadness for you.
"I haven't felt well these last weeks."
"You never told me." She didn't have to.
"But I went to the doctor a few days ago..." she starts.
"...and today they told you what was wrong," you finish.
Your tone of voice indicates no more has to be said. Her expression agrees. She lowers her eyelids, and you can feel the tears behind them. She is ill. She is dying. A drop of salty water falls into your teacup.
You had no laughs because you had no tears. Your balance broken, you are free to laugh, to laugh a laughter cut short by Death.
Thanks for reading.
A/N: This took many days and headaches to "finish" (in quotes because writing is never finished until it's perfect, and nothing can ever be perfect... as shown in this story.). I tested many experiments here, most of which probably failed.