You're a Stranger Now Unto Me
by buongiornodaisy

Six o'clock in the morning. He jumps out of bed as she stretches out a hand to silence the alarm clock, thinking about the flight she doesn't want to catch. But she's got fans in Europe who are paying a lot of money to see her. That's enough to get her on her feet.

He walks back into the bedroom as she's sorting through clothes, ignoring her in favor of the drawer and the closet from which he removes a tie, a shirt, pants and a jacket. He doesn't notice her standing up and walking away, doesn't notice her hesitation before walking out the doorway.

The bedroom is filled with the aroma of coffee as she re-enters from the bathroom. He's downstairs, she knows, reading the newspaper before he leaves. He always leaves early, always returns late, these days later than usual. She had recently accused him of being a workaholic, to which he had responded with a shrug. He needn't have stated she was just as wrapped up in her work, if not more than he. At least he returned home every night.

(obscenely late and smelling like fine wine and faint perfume)

He doesn't look up from the paper as she enters the kitchen with her hair tied back in a tight bun, intended to make her look in public what she is at home: invisible, a ghost that causes him the slightest of shivers whenever she gets too close. If he steps away from the chill he can pretend that he's all right, that he's in a world where the only things that matter are work and the paper and the damn phone calls that send him dashing out of the kitchen and drifting back in a cloud. She doesn't ask because she knows he'll say nothing. She wonders instead how their marriage came to be full of silence and indifference. Was it her fame? His ambitions? Was it—

(the late hours, the fine wine, the faint perfume, the phone calls)

She watches him close the paper, finish his coffee, rise from the table and cross to the closet, where he retrieves his coat before walking out the door without saying goodbye. She sees him reach for his phone and answer it with a bright smile, the kind she hasn't seen him make since they were first married. He vanishes behind the windshield, engaged in a conversation she desperately wants to hear. But it's too late to run out and stop him, too late to drag him into the kind of argument they now settled with a shrug, a rustle of newspaper, a sip of coffee, late hours and overseas trips and not a word spoken beyond the perfunctory "good morning"s and "how are you"s that might as well have been asked to the wind.

It's six-fifty in the morning. She has a flight to catch soon. She knows that when she reaches her destination, he will be laying in the arms of another woman.