PAN Y LECHE (Bread and Milk) by Rose Contreras

They had retreated to opposite sides of the big house at the worst of
their fighting, and now it appeared they would be at opposite poles
forever. She was afraid to face him, afraid of more angry words, more of
the same hurt. She was even more terrified still of what would happen if
she didn’t do something to breach the distance between them. The
knowledge that their marriage was ending had not been instantaneous, but
instead was a feverish heat that had increased with every passing day of
their standoff. At last it had reached the critical point necessary to
melt away her pride. This feverish heat now settled deep in the pit of
her stomach, causing her to feel like doubling over, not in pain, but
with anxiety.

She didn’t bother with finding her slippers now. She took the short
staircase that led directly to the kitchen, afraid that the worst
deadline of her life had passed her by. The kitchen was so clean. They
never used it anymore. Further dread filled her when she realized that
she couldn’t even remember the last time she had been to the grocery
store. There was no real food in the pantry. She felt trapped by her own
failing, as though she had crossed a finish line in a race that had long
ago ended. She let herself down into the corner booth in the kitchen
that she had argued so valiantly for. She felt no victory as she sank
into the plush upholstery. Her head lowered slowly into the recess of
her arms and she began to cry. She cried for a long time, never lifting
her head from her arms on the table, mourning what was surely lost, and
angry that she had so readily given it up.

The back door opened abruptly and she jerked toward it in alarm. He
walked in carrying a plastic sack, the night sky diminishing as he
closed the door behind him. He walked across the long kitchen and met
her at the table. She stood and faced him, and their eyes locked, even
as he laid down the plastic sack.

“You need to blow your nose.” He reached for the paper towels and
handed her one. She turned her face away momentarily, a little ashamed
of her appearance. She took a deep breath and composed herself as best
she could.  Holding her breath, she turned back to look at him, and he
handed her the plastic sack. She looked into the sack, beginning to cry
again, but beginning to smile and to breathe again too.

She threw her arms around him and kissed him, laughing and crying,
clutching the bag in her hands like a lifeline, feeling his arms
encircling her in return.

“Hey, you’re squashing the bread!” he yelled, laughing and squeezing
her as hard as he could. He pulled away long enough to take the bag of
bread and milk from her hands and lay them on the table.

Rose Contreras lives in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband and two
kids.  Her favorite online hangouts are her Crimespace page
(http://crimespace.ning.com/profile/racontreras) and her MySpace page
(http://www.myspace.com/chachalinda6984).

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