It wouldn't have made a difference either way to Martha if he'd come home late or early. Some other time, some other month, yes. But not today.
Today she sat on the back deck in running shorts, balancing a glass of red wine on her knee and watching the white-winged doves bully the chickadees for birdseed. A book lay open on her thigh, the ribbon glued to the spine draped between the pages so the wind wouldn't blow away her spot. She'd read the same paragraph maybe five times, the doves and the chickadees prying her attention.
Though it was really the thoughts stuck between the words that kept distracting her. It didn't make a difference either way. But he had texted her he'd be late all the same.
It didn't make a difference because it hadn't made a difference for three weeks. He came home and she came home and they both sat at home, not talking, letting their eyes drift anywhere else but each other, though they thought of nothing else. She read books. He watched movies. She painted on the deck. He played guitar inside. They lived along each other, but they lived so far apart.
To think it would ever come to this. Martha shook her head as a white-winged dove plopped onto the ground to scoop up the fallen birdseed. When they spoke it was like shouting across canyons at each other. He only heard half of what she said. And all his words sounded strange and distorted. When had they gotten up on that canyon? At some point, they'd made the climb, but she couldn't remember when.
But still he texted her that he'd be late. And still she bothered to look.
Even though it didn't make a difference either way to her. It didn't.
Martha sighed and closed her book.
Across the yard, the birds stared at her from atop the fence posts. They were begging. The bird feeders had gone empty.
She couldn't remember exactly where the bag of birdseed was in the garage. She stood in the middle, staring at a dusty kayak when the door rattled open. Mark got out just as she'd located it behind the unused paid.
"I'm looking for the birdseed," she told him.
He drank from his big, green water bottle. "Do you need any help?"
No, she really didn't need any help. She was perfectly capable. But she told him yes, she could use the help. He nodded and they carried the heavy bag out to the deck together. The white-winged doves watched as they filled up the feeders, waiting to be fed again.