What else was left? What more could they take?
Still, she couldn’t let it go, not quite yet. She put down her newspaper and held up a spoonful of her breakfast as though she was providing proof in a trial and said, “The milk is warm, Steve. If the refrigerator was working properly, that wouldn’t happen.”
“Livvie,” he breathed out in an almost-sigh. There was so much in that one word and yet, none of it mattered.
“I’m serious. Warm milk is good when you can’t sleep, not so much in Cheerios.”
Steve concentrated his gaze on her and offered up his best placating expression. “I checked it this morning. It’s not broken. It’s just a little hiccup. It gives it character.” He said it with the fervor of the pulpit and the agenda of a flimflam man. Livvie didn’t really believe him – he was a graphic designer, not a handy man – but she found herself acquiescing anyway.
She picked up her paper and swallowed the spoonful of cereal a la gross milk. She used to enjoy these long silences between the two of them. It had felt almost romantic in a way, that they could be together doing their own things, and all was right with the world. Now it was stifling and all she could think about. Wrong, wrong, wrong…too quiet…wrong.
After her fifth attempt at reading the same line of an article on nuclear disarmament, she gave up and focused her attention on Steve. He was still handsome to look at, even with bedhead and the wheezing that passed for breathing from his battle with a cold, and a part of her wanted to reach out and touch him. But she didn’t. She watched him drawing in his notebook with one hand while he shoveled a bagel into his mouth with the other. His eyes were shut and she knew he was lost somewhere in his own head. Sometimes she wished she could visit the places that his imagination traveled to. Just the two of them, together, lost in between galaxies and dreams and specters only the mind could create. He would hold her tightly against his chest and she would rest her head on his shoulder just so as she wrapped her arms around his neck. Things would be the way they were; the way they were meant to be when there wasn't real life and trivial crap to get in the way.
Now it was all flourescent kitchen lights and conversations-that-turned-into-arguments about who was supposed to mail the bills and an apartment that was falling to pieces. They were battle worn and weary of one another. They knew each other in ways that proved how much they had loved (or was it loved? She didn't know any more) each other, but it provided each of them with years' worth of ammo and god, she hated him for it. She hated it almost as much as she loathed herself for never leaving, but who else was she if not Livvie of Steve-and-Livvie?
After what felt like minutes, but was probably nothing more than a few seconds, Steve opened his eyes and caught her staring at him. He dropped his pencil and wiped his hand over his face self-consciously. It created a momentary pang in her chest, seeing how far things had shifted. Long gone were the enamored gazes and the smiles and blushes that formed when noticed. If she was staring at Steve, it meant something wasn't quite right.
"It all started with the goddamn garbage disposal, I think," Livvie said.
"I told you I'd get around to replacing it soon," Steve replied, crossing his arms protectively over his chest.
She hadn't known she had said that out loud. She hadn't meant to. But she found herself quickly getting caught up in the moment. She rolled her eyes at mention of the inevitable soon.
Steve still knew her well. He shrugged and said, "I need to buy some parts."
Livvie leaned back in her chair. "It's fine."
"What does that mean?"
"The same thing that soon does, I suppose," she replied. She picked up her spoon and mindlessly pushed the cereal around in the bowl and let out a low huff of air. She shook her head, refusing to look at Steve, and tried to clear her brain of the junk bogging her down in hopes of achieving some sort of clarity. Trying and wishing would be her downfall.
How was it possible to love someone so much and wish they would fade away at the same time? And why couldn't she do anything to fix it or put them both out of their misery?
She glanced around the room and couldn't stop her eyes from landing back on the refrigerator, which was buzzing out an off-key tune. "We need a new refrigerator."
"I told you--"
"--it's broken. Maybe beyond repair."
"No, it's not."
"It's not working like it should and we can't live like this," she replied. She ran her hand over her face and added, "Why are we living like this?"
He stared at her and shrugged. She didn't know if she should kiss him or punch him, so she shoved out of her seat and stormed off. Nothing was going to change this way and something had to change.