This one just would not work in a shorter form. Hooray for breaking the rules.
She never washes the dishes he makes. They sit, crusted and dry, until enough of them pile up that he finally breaks down and does them. She wonders sometimes, when she is down to a single bowl and a fork which she washes after each use, gazing unseeing at the piles, where all the dishes have gone.
There is some awkwardness in the restroom, if they both try to use it at once. They squeeze in as best they can, neither noticing the other. The sink is uncomplicated; he rarely washes his hands afterward.
She walks the dog. He feeds the cat. If either animal has noticed that they can no longer get ear scritches from one of the people, they have not said as much. They have their own loyalties.
They lock each other out, if one arrives home or leaves while the other is outside. They blame old age or faulty locks for the errors. Once he had to walk to the gas station in his fuzzy slippers and bathrobe to call a locksmith.
Both of them make payments on the house. No one from the bank has bothered to tell them. Each complains about having to shoulder the burden alone.
It is probably for the best that they never had children.
Same space, same time. The offset is smaller than that, and larger. He sits in his chair, she at the table in the kitchen. Both drinking coffee. The television and radio shouting each other down. “How lonely it is,” they think to themselves, not speaking, never speaking aloud. “How lonely.”
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The Best of Clarkesworld 2012+
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