The exhaled smoke sits in the winter air, dancing circles with the thick snowflakes, the ember glowing heavy through the covering of December darkness. She lifts the cigarette to her trembling lips while staring off into the distance, her left thumb ripping at a hole in her glove as she bounces her knees to keep warm. Eyelids pressing shut, the last drag of the cigarette is drawn in and released slowly as she flicks the filter into the accumulating snow where it chokes out one more puff of smoke before extinguishing itself. She pushes open the front door slowly, sure to make as little noise as possible, kicking off her shoes dripping wet with slush and road salt, undressing as she walks to the bedroom. Crawling into bed, she runs her finger over the contour of his body, counting the seconds between his breaths as she presses her lips to his shoulder, his skin burning beneath her wind-chilled lips.
He stirs slightly, causing her to pause as if the blood is drained from her body
suddenly. Contorting eyes squint open as he pulls her bare hip toward his own,
kissing her collarbone gently: God, you’re freezing. She stays silent, shifting into place beside him, staring at the ceiling thinking she should have stayed outside just a few minutes longer, maybe then he would have been fully asleep. His hand on her thigh, she measures her heartbeat in an attempt to keep still as he presses his lips behind her ear, his breath like the first warm gust of wind after winter. She can feel his smile against her neck, his hand leaving her thigh and wrapping around to her stomach up, chest to her breasts; she sucks in her breath to prevent the natural rise and fall as he asks how work was, as he slips his hand back down her stomach to the front of her underwear. She closes her eyes, tries to remember to hate him, tries to remember to be angry, tries to remember but can’t.
They fall into each other complete opposites, her skin still cold against his, his weight heavy against her own, their silent whimpers sliding over each other’s bodies until they blend into one and leave behind their indifference. He kisses her forehead, brushing the wisps of hair from her eyes: I love you. As he turns away from her, she kisses his spine and tells him the same, meaning it fully but somehow still feeling hollow, empty like the space between his ribs, weightless like the marrow in his bones. Cheek against his back she lets the waves within his lungs lull her toward sleep as she watches the corners around her eyes ease into darkness, as she suppresses the tears gathering as they shut against her will. Swallowing the clouding thoughts, she replays his voice over and over in her memory, counting every time he has told her he loves her until she feels she can believe it, until she feels it can overpower all he’s done.
Through the crack between the curtains, she watches the snow fall endlessly, piling upon the bushes outside their bedroom window, the sun resting its tired head against the stillness of the morning. Blinking slowly to adjust to the coming sunlight, she traces circles over his back, the seventh set of a hundred complete as he yawns slowly beginning to wake: You didn’t sleep again? A routine of silence and sighs, her eyes following him as he walks out of the bedroom and back in again, picturing his hands upon someone else, imagining his lips against skin not her own, his words falling into the ears of a stranger: I’m just restless. She speaks almost inaudibly but he hears her from across the room, moving to the edge of the bed with his hands in her hair, his lips on her forehead, he doesn’t apologize yet she feels the remorse in his fingertips, tastes the tears on his lips as she pulls him back to her. A routine of forgive, don’t forget follows the silence, a cycle justifying actions she feels in her core, actions that sit heavy in her chest, that stick between her joints like the strawberry jam underneath her fingernails as she sets breakfast on the table.
Outside, the wind fights the flame as she lights a cigarette in the dawn’s calm, watching snow twist into tornados, settling lightly only to be picked up once more. Eyes closing to the glare of the slowly rising sun as he comes from behind her, arms wrapping around her waist, they stand in an understanding that need not be discussed. Innocent to anything other than familiarity, she smiles and wraps her fingers around his, biting her bottom lip as she chokes back the last fragment of emotion left within her worn down bones and takes the blame for nothing more than being there.

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