The clouds staunched another breaking dawn that found Charlie staring through his kitchen window, his finger absently circling the rim of the hard plastic bottle he had grabbed from the counter.
This had been his ritual for the 17 sunrises since Charlie and Maggie had returned to the house. Some of the leaves filtering his view had withered and curled on their branches; others crept into their fated yellows, oranges or chimney reds. The air steamed silver that grew vaguely more tarnished silver in each passing day's struggle with the sunlight's braising. Otherwise, little had changed.
When the newness of morning had but all been steeped away, Charlie turned. He took his usual circuitous route through the hallway shadows to Maggie's bedside.
She lay under layers of blankets. He had given up trying to wake her these past few mornings. In fact, he had spent the past several days avoiding contact with her at all. It had been Maggie's last idea. She had told him, quietly, that she had nothing more to say.
Charlie returned to the kitchen. As he was about to place the bottle back onto its rubber coated spindle in the rack by the sink, a flash cut through what had become his vision. Charlie froze. Like a gust of wind reviving a bonfire ember, the climbing sun had momentary set something on the counter ablaze. When Charlie's eyes finally focused, only a cold luminescence remained around the set of keys crisscrossed on the countertop.
He stepped up. Bending at the waist, he let his fingers fall over the imitation brass handle of the cabinet drawer. He slid it open, but didn't wait to see where the clear contoured baby bottle landed among the debris.
The car door opened near silently and he didn't think to close it. He felt the car shiver slightly when his wrist turned over. Charlie pumped the gas pedal once and held for several seconds.
He rested his head on his chest.
Moments passed before Charlie opened his eyes again. In the dimness of the dome light, Charlie saw sparkling on the carpet of the driver's well.
He reached and felt the grit of sand along the ridges of his fingertips.
For the first time in 18 days, Charlie wept.