On The Market
The house is nearly empty. The man sleeps on an air mattress in their former master bedroom, the walls now devoid of photos and the kitschy “Love Lives Here” sign that used to float above the bed. All that remains are odds and ends they don’t know how to split up: the blender they got as a wedding gift, a box of monogrammed bath towels, miscellaneous kitchen tools, the dog.
She is late.
He waits for their sounds: her car door thudding closed, the childrens’ voices as they struggle to reach the door handle, the baby’s cry.
The key turns in the lock and they all appear in the foyer. Their daughter, eldest of the three, is hugging her mother’s leg, a pout on her puffy face. He waves to her and she scowls.
The dog whines and he pushes it away with his foot.
“All gone!” his son says, teetering around the dining room, holding a crinkled paper wrapper in one hand. There is chocolate all over his mouth, even a smear of it on his forehead. The man knows she took them to their favorite cupcake shop down the street, the one with the checkerboard floor and soft rock music seeping softly from the speakers.
“Let’s get this over with,” she says, a small sadness in her voice he does not detect. The baby is strapped to her chest, always, like a talisman. She pets his soft head, the thick brown hair he inherited from his father.
The man stands in the doorway and watches his son trip over the loose cord of the blender on the floor. His mother rushes to him; the baby bounces with every step, still asleep. Kiss it, the boy whines, pointing to the flushed pink splotch on his knee, and she does.
“You can have this box,” she says, pointing at the towels with her foot.
The man looks over at his daughter, who has made her way to the kitchen. She is giggling as the dog licks buttercream frosting off her face. Her little hand is submerged in the water bowl, but she is oblivious.