A door slammed shut hard. She was in the kitchen too.
He gave response to this by the heavy-handedness with which he thumped his mug on to the counter top. Such were the ongoing volleys. No words exchanged, only passive-aggressive, silent anger. The fight had gone on for weeks, and neither had memory of what had triggered it. They were just two soldiers, exchanging shots across no-man's-land after the rest of the ranks had given up and gone home. The conflict had lost all meaning.
He took his time with his preparation, his tongue moistening dry lips as he struggled to find the words to articulate his thoughts. She exhaled sharply, immediately eliminating any desire that he had to speak to her as he continued to labouriously drag out every minor action.
A foot began to tap on the cold stone floor, which only served to make him take longer, but aside from this he paid her no obvious attention.
Hands on hips, that was always her way. But he wasn't looking, and the visual cues were lost. The performance for his benefit was a waste of time and energy. She huffed again just before he finished preparing his drink and stepped out of the way. She made to reach for the kettle, but he grabbed it before her, removed it from its cradle and poured the already boiled water down the sink. Planting the kettle on a different counter as he barged past her on the way out.
She stared at the kettle in awe, disbelieving what he had just done, before she stepped forward into the spot which she had coveted. Both hands found place on the countertop and she sighed. Frustration gave way to confusion and despair. She absent-mindedly looked around the kitchen, trying to find an excuse to still be in there, to save face. Nothing came to her mind, and slowly, she admitted defeat and left the room on sluggish feet.
She took her time leaving the room, exercising caution in case a forgotten need called her back to the kitchen, but she knew that what she wanted – what she desperately needed – was no longer in that room.
Climbing the stairs to the first floor, she arrived on the soft carpet of the landing to see that the door to his room was wide open. He was seated at the foot of his bed, head cradled in his hands. She stood for a moment, looking at the scene worthy of a painting, and her anger washed away to pity.
Slowly, he lifted his head and noticed that she had been standing and watching his moment of quiet desolation. Eyes met glistening eyes, and for a split second, there was a spark between them. He stood from the bed and moved toward her, maintaining eye contact, and she smiled uncomfortably, walking slowly toward him, elation overcoming her.
Suddenly, instead of his shining eyes, she found herself face-to-face with a slammed door. The sound of a deadbolt echoed through the halls, a crash that felt like a physical impact as her stomach knotted. Struck dumb for a moment, she stared helplessly at the painted white door, waiting in hope that she would hear the bolt relieve, and everything would be OK.
But mountains crumbled, empires rose and fell in those endless seconds that she stared at the emptiness of the white door. Salvation and redemption were not forthcoming. Hesitantly, she turned regretfully on her heel and sloped off to her own room.
Disappearing behind the door as floodgates collapsed, she slammed it loudly enough that she could be sure he would hear it, and then she collapsed onto her own bed, buried her head in the pillows and let the tears pour from her face.
Some time later, she was roused from sleep by the sound of a tentative knock at her door. Lifting her head from the wet pillow, she realised that there was only one person who could be knocking at the door. Wiping away the streams from her cheeks, she dived enthusiastically to the door. Stopping herself just short, she placed both hands against it and pressed her ear to the wood. Squeezing shut her eyes, she pleaded silently and listened. The knock came again, gentle and diffident. She smiled to herself as the tears threatened to roll again. Taking a deep breath, she counted swiftly to three in her head, and then she went for it.
She shut the lock as loudly as she could.