Yomiel wakes up early, early enough that the sun is just slipping through the blinds at an angle that cuts across his chin, maybe a little too early because he's been planning this day for weeks and he doesn't want anything to go wrong. He slips out of bed quiet as he can — she's still asleep, on her side facing the window, and he is for a moment tempted to let his fingers curl into the shallow curve of her waist — just sliding off the side and leaving the sheets and quilts crumpled behind him. They fall down her shoulder and he pulls them slowly back up. It's too early for her to be out of the blankets.
He pulls on some pajamas (too short, so the pants show the ankles; she always told him that's what he gets for being so tall) and socks and moves in a cautious, quiet way to the kitchen. Through it, to the driveway out front, stepping light on the sun-soaked driveway to fetch the newspaper. Something to read while the coffee brewed.
He creeps back in as though any squeak of the floor might wake her, even though they never got the wood flooring like she wanted. It's only been a minute; she's still sound asleep, dreaming that same dream she has so often about brightly-colored birds on a white picket fence. Yomiel drops the paper on the table and moves to the fridge.
French toast. Even he can do that. He pulls from the fridge eggs and milk, searches in the cabinets for vanilla and sugar (she was always the one who baked, if ever, so it takes him longer to find those than it did for him to get the paper), keeps a new loaf of bread nearby. She likes it with homemade bread, so it's doubly warm and soft, tasting just a little sweeter between the extra sugar and her smile. Mountains of powdered sugar that'd get all down their fronts, so they never got properly dressed before breakfast if she announced as she cracked open her eyes that she was making french toast. But he'll be lucky if he manages to do this without setting the house on fire, he thinks, mixing the ingredients into a smooth liquid with a color like milky chocolate. Maybe too much vanilla. She'll like it just the same.
He finds a pan and clicks the stove on, listening for the satisfying swoosh of flame. He remembers she taught him all this way back when, even though he was still deliriously tired that morning and her words melted into a bell tone that spun circles around his head. She hadn't been kidding when she'd said there'd be a test, though, so he had to frantically search for a recipe the midnight before she insisted he cook for her. He had earned an A for effort.
He dips two slices of bread into the egg mixture — and in doing so completely fails to keep his fingers clean — and lays them on the pan to listen to them sizzle. It takes a couple minutes the first side, she'd told him, so he grabs the paper, drags a — picks up a chair and sets it carefully by the stove, and waits.
The front page is some shocking feel-good story about a local lawman who's climbing the ranks of the police force like a ladder with a fire at the bottom. Strongly ethical, the paper says, and stylishly elegant. Cabanela is a man with an eye on the city, the paper says, and the city should keep an eye on him.
Yomiel looks at the picture included and blinks at the gaudy jacket and scarf the guy is wearing. Inspector Cabanela is frozen in a pose like he's at a dance party, not a police station, one leg popped and hands on his hips. Yomiel stares at the picture and at Cabanela's thin wrists and smiling face, stares at the angle of his knees and elbows, stares at the picture, stares at it stares until he has to crush the paper in his fist until his knuckles are white just to rip his eyes away from the picture and he throws the pan aside and thrusts the ball of paper into the fire and it goes up and the fire licks at the cupboards overhead until they catch too and then the walls and then the whole house and he stands in the middle of the blaze with his skin searing and the whole place falls down around him and he closes the newspaper, then folds it so her favorite section is on top and sets it gently near her place at the table.
The first slices of bread are burnt but it's fine. They're just the first two slices. There's plenty more.
He finishes cooking without hassle. It's nearly nine, and he thinks he'll let her sleep in. She'll probably lecture him later about wasted daylight and that he should have gotten her up at eight, but today is about her, after all. The extra hour will certainly be forgiven.
Yomiel sets the table in a hesitant way so the ceramic of the plates doesn't clink too much against the table. Two plates, two glasses, two forks, two knives, two napkins; coffee for him, milk and Nesquik for her; the plate full of the best french toast he's ever made; the newspaper. He even shifts the chairs minutely so they're perfectly angled around the little table. If she doesn't know he loves her after this, she's blind, deaf, and her taste buds are broken.
The newspaper catches his eye again. He catches the date. Sometimes days meld together when he's here with her, and he'll see the date on the paper or tv and realize he's lost a week. The date. It's ringing bells in the very back of his head, but he can't —
Oh, he thinks. That's right; it's the six month anniversary of her death. He straightens the paper near her plate and goes to wake her up.
He sits her at her spot and smiles. She doesn't look nearly as attractive with the rope hooked under her chin so that her head stays upright; he'll need to find a better solution. Together they don't eat.
They haven't eaten for six months.