The intense September sunlight burned through the kitchen window as its splintered rays sneaked past the partially opened blinds. A bowl of fiber cereal sat patiently on a round, wooden table. Beside it, a spoon held down a paper napkin and a small glass of orange juice stood guard above them. The setting next to it featured a hot, buttered bagel resting on a plate behind a tall glass of milk.
Amanda Rio called out a second time to her husband and daughter and told them that their breakfast was ready. She glanced up at the clock above the kitchen sink and saw that it was just past 7. If they didn’t hurry, Bobby would be late getting to the work site and Mary would surely miss her school bus. A rhythmic thudding of footsteps from the hallway ceased at the kitchen table as the twelve-year-old girl pulled out her chair and plopped down on it.
“Where’s your father?” asked Amanda, as she watched Mary wolf down part of her bagel. Mary swallowed and shrugged. Amanda turned toward the stairs just as a heavier set of footsteps pounded downward. She leaned back against the counter to let her husband pass and then she removed the gallon-size milk carton from the refrigerator. As Bobby settled in his chair next to his daughter, his wife poured the milk over his cereal.
After carefully pouring a cup of coffee, she sat down across from Mary. She listened to her daughter hum softly as Mary devoured her breakfast. Bobby was his normally quiet self. He shoveled the food into his mouth without looking up. Amanda still admired the dark, brutish appearance of her husband. He was tall, almost six-foot-four, with wide muscular shoulders deeply tanned from years of outdoor work. His short black hair was parted over his left ear and brushed to the right. Dark brown eyes sat perfectly over his short, thick nose. His chin firmly rounded out his serious face.
Mary was like a butterfly. Her movements were carefree and smooth. She was not easily upset and Amanda envied her for that. The little girl had her father’s eyes and a softer version of his nose. Her shoulder-length black hair was pony-tailed that morning, held together by a little red band. She started her frequent humming when she was two and she wasn’t able to break the habit. Amanda didn’t mind, but it bothered Mary’s teachers when she wasn’t careful enough to keep it down. Bobby thought she should see a specialist about it but he never forced the issue.
Amanda nervously sipped her coffee and waited for her husband to finish. He drank the milk from the cereal bowl, then guzzled the orange juice. He wiped his mouth with the napkin, crumpled it and tossed it into the trashcan. His wife put the spoon, bowl and glass into the dishwasher, while he brushed his teeth in the downstairs bathroom.
Mary put her plate and glass into the dishwasher as Amanda wiped the table clean. The little girl fluttered up the steps to brush her teeth in the upstairs bathroom. Amanda heard Bobby walking back toward her and she quickly pulled his lunch out of the refrigerator. She handed it to him and softly kissed him on the right cheek. He slid his arms around her, lifting her off the floor and slowly spinning her a half-turn. Gently letting her down, he kissed his wife passionately, enjoying their moment of solitude.