The Morning Routine - Charlotte Foote

            The fuzzy pink of early morning glowed a hazy blush through the bay window. It was Saturday, and Elsa May Edwards felt the light tingling on her brow as she sipped her morning coffee. This, she thought, was the most wonderful time of day. The world was waking all around her. The gentle ring of the neighbor’s wind chimes mingled with early morning birdsong, and the sun peeked cautiously over the edge of the horizon. There was something about the view on Saturdays that was especially different than ordinary weekdays. Everything moved with a sort of easy stupor, as if the wind and the trees and the cars that wound lazily down Winneker Lane knew that today was a day for resting. Elsa closed her eyes and let the breeze paint patterns across her eyelids.

            “You’ll catch your death sitting there every morning,” Howard grumbled, shuffling into the kitchen in his robe and slippers. Elsa straightened.

            “Oh dear, you’re up early! I could’ve sworn you were dead yourself,” she chirped, reaching for the paper. “I saved you the business section, darling,” she added with routine joviality. This warranted a tired grunt from Howard. He deftly flipped the pages, face blank.

            “The country’s going to shit,” he concluded, slumping into the chair across from his wife. “Coffee?”

            Elsa stood and made herself busy with filters and grounds, then sat and waited in silence as the coffee pot dripped and purred. She wracked her brain for something to say, something fresh and thought provoking that would coax her husband into conversation.

            “Tabitha Green stopped by yesterday on her way home from the grocery, and she says Freddie’s coming back from college next Monday! Isn’t that wonderful, dear?”

            “Quite a looker, that Tabitha Green,” Howard replied with a nod of approval. “And a sharp son, too.”

            Elsa caught her reflection in the light of the window pane, keenly aware of the soft wrinkles that creased her face. Her hair gleamed white in the sunlight. She suddenly wished that she had held her tongue.

            “Yes, very bright. I hear he’s to be a business major!”

            “Any young man who wants to make a dime should be a businessman. God knows if we’d had a son he’d follow in my footsteps,” Howard said with a pointed nonchalance.

            Elsa let the remark wash over her body and settle heavy at her feet. She often wondered if Howard would love her more if she’d been able to give him children.

            “Yes dear, I’m sure.”

            “And a damn good one, too,” he added for extra measure.

            “Yes dear.”

            Elsa stirred her coffee once, twice, then brought it to her lips. It tasted bitter. Howard busied himself with the remainder of the business section, bringing the conversation to a close. She watched his eyes move back and forth under the familiar pinch of his brow. He took no notice of her. The couple sat quiet for a few minutes until, with a groan of effort and joint pain, Howard stood and readjusted his robe.

            “Close the window, would you, Elsa? It lets in an awful draft, and the wind chimes clang like hell,” he said. He shuffled towards the door, leaving the dregs of his coffee on the table. “I can’t imagine why you leave it open every morning. The view isn’t going to change, you know.”