Cecile Dixon – The Key

The silence hung in the air as dense as smoke. Neither of them had spoken a word in over an hour. With a deep sigh he turned to the girl and looked at her for a long moment before speaking. “We need to get out of here for a while. Let’s go get some coffee.” She nodded in agreement and pulled her worn shoes onto her feet. When they both were appropriately shod she opened the apartment door and a gust of cold air welcomed her. Shivering she said, “winter’s here again.” Turning in the hallway she removed a green army field jacket from the closet. As she slid her arms into the sleeves she inhaled the scent of the fabric deeply, nothing left, only the smell of last years coat that needed cleaning. Outside the cold air made a mockery of the bright sunshine, which seemed to promise warm temperatures. Eyes squinted against the sun, the couple walked slowly up the street. Once inside the diner they sat, warming their hands with cups of coffee, each seemingly lost within their heads. Reaching for the sugar packets at the same time their hands brushed against each other’s. The act of touching seemed to bring them to the present. For a few seconds they each studied the face that looked at them across the table. He was first to break the silence. “We can’t go on like this. It’s not good. In the beginning I thought by sharing our grief we could work through things together.” He paused before continuing. “But instead of working through it, it has become what we are, the sad people, wrapped up in the past. Not able to move toward the future.” “I’m sorry, I didn’t want things to be like this.” Her voice was barely audible. She looked at the murky coffee in the cup, as if it held some answer. “Look I’m going to make this as easy as possible, you finish your coffee and I’ll pack a bag and go to my sister’s. We can discuss everything else some other time.” For the first time that day his voice was strong and animated. She watched as he paid the check and walked from the diner. She felt if she should say something, call out to him, but there was nothing to say. It had already been said, many times. Instead she gave him time, time to make his escape. She sat there sipping on the now cold coffee, refusing the waitress’ offer to warm it. She kept her face turned to the window, not seeing the traffic or the people.

When the sun was almost gone from the sky, she decided he had been given enough time to pack a bag. She stood and once again she slid her arms into the field jacket. Suddenly the oversized jacket made her feel small and alone. When she walked from the diner’s door she placed her hands into the pockets for warmth. Her right hand came into contact with something cold and hard. Pulling the object from her pocket she saw that it was a key. Large, brass colored, it was the kind that opened doors. She stood in the cold fading sunlight starring at the key, a single tear slid down her cheek.

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