better to be safe

27 Feb

Read Part 1
Read Part 2

He poured a cup of coffee and pushed it across the table for me. He sat down with his and stared.

“Pete,” I said, calmly, apologetically patronizing. I ran my finger over the rim of my mug, and Peter continued to stare. He usually hated when I did that, but he didn’t flinch. He was afraid of germs, of bacteria from our hands killing us through our mouths. He was afraid of radiation from the microwave. When heating food, he’d stand a good ten feet away until the third beep signaling its time was up. Better to be safe, he’d say. He was afraid of becoming Jeff who was happy and kind and passionate, who had big dreams, and left his family in pursuit of them.

“I don’t actually hate you, Pete.”

He nodded, because he knew. He sipped his coffee, waiting for more.

“And I never wanted you dead,” I said. “You know that, too.”

He looked at me for the first time all day. His eyes, somehow, almost smiling. Peter wasn’t happy. That had been clear for a while. He made sure to stay consistently low, always most deserving, in the room, of praise or pity, either suiting him just fine. Two days ago, he accepted a part-time job at Abby’s school when the counselor went into labor seven weeks early. “They were in a bind,” he said. “What was I supposed to do?” I drank my coffee and smiled back at Peter, content now that I seemed fine, that his family was under the roof of the home he’d provided through his successes at the firm. Upstairs, Abby’s bedroom door opened. Little feet bounded toward us, and stopped just short of an inch from mine. She brought my ear to her mouth and whispered, “Daddy loves you.”


One Response to “better to be safe”

  1. Jaskeris March 10, 2015 at 7:38 am #


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