Milk.

Her daughter’s curly blonde hair in hand, mid-brush, Elena looked up at her bedroom door. Even after all these years, his matching green eyes and uniform still managed to send her stomach aflutter. He set a plump duffel bag by his boots.

All packed, I see. She continued to brush Natalia’s unruly hair in hopes of finally taming it. Like she’d tried for years with her husband.

Yes.

I’m still not sure why you have to go to California again, Joaquín. You went less than two months ago.

We aren’t discussing this. You know I have business to take care of.

And the girls? They start school next week. It’d be nice if their father took them for once.

They’ll be fine. I already told them I expect academic excellence.

That’s right. You did. That’ll get them through. Natalia wiggled beneath her.

Listen, I know you don’t believe me. I’m not fucking around. I have Army matters and I have my brothers there. I can’t be in two places at once. A pause. Need anything before I go?

She watched him, unflinchingly. No. We’re fine.

I should be back in a few weeks.

Do as you wish. Her pride was unbreakable.

He watched her for a moment, his thumb flicking his wedding band. He took a step towards her chair, and his mouth formed a small o. Something in her face must have made him reconsider, because in one swift motion he grabbed his bag and disappeared into the living room, out the front door, and boomboomboom down the stairs.

Go play with your sister. She lightly tapped Natalia’s bottom and the little girl bounced out of her lap and into the playroom. Now alone, Elena allowed her eyes to swell with tears. She clenched her jaw to keep the tears from falling loose.

Her slippers quietly scraped across the linoleum floor as she made her way to the refrigerator. She didn’t need clear vision to see what she did not have. A half jug of milk, a few crinkled water bottles, and an aging loaf of bread were lonely, cold companions in the fridge.

Elena held onto the refrigerator handle, for if she didn’t, the anger might consume and dissolve her. Sadness? No, that was long gone. In a moment of absolute clarity and resolution she decided that, though she would love him until her final breaths, she would take her girls and never look back.

And look back she didn’t. Not once.

3 thoughts on “Milk.

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