Toasted autumn air seeps through the bay window as they lie in the rubble of their relationship. The pan still steams through the puddle of cold water in the sink. He holds her and brushes the soaked strands from her puffy face. He lets her fall into him, feeling warmth in the nook of his arm. The smell of her perfume fills him, always sweet and reassuring. They feel normal being here, as if they exist to fall and climb together in endless waves of happiness and pain. She whimpers in his ear as heavy breaths finally subside enough to make way for noise. The plates crack beneath her leg as she moves further into his hold.
Kramer wanted to take a picture. She looked so peaceful and so at ease as she curled into a late afternoon nap. Her arms formed a little pillow under her soft blonde curls and her eyes fluttered with sweetened sleep. He felt like her protector. The world wouldn’t get to her here, Kramer promised, as he pulled the blanket over her defenseless shoulders.
She had thrown the burnt bacon at him, but what he said was the catalyst. He knew how to topple her down from her core with mere words, to detonate a bomb that would explode their relationship into unsalvageable territory. He often played with lesser levels of spark as petty fights waged on, but today he let one hurtful sentence drift out from his arsenal in a weak and defenseless moment. Now all that’s left is two shells of people lying on the floor in cracked porcelain, pulled like Frisbees from the poorly painted cupboard.
She searched every store hoping to find the perfect gift to prove she knew him better than anyone. Kramer always told her that his father was his best friend, but this time she would beat him, she would seal her place as number one. She went into the jewelry store to pick up the engraved watch. “Skinny Love” had been carved into the smooth metal.
She looks so small and helpless, like she does after every fight. Her legs pull into her chest; her face falls childlike and as pure as discovering the Santa Claus fallacy. He watches her peel from his side carefully and begin to clear the mess, plucking porcelain from the carpet. Even in the midst of the end she can’t stand the clutter.
It was raining and they dipped into the red, foul smelling phone booth. It was a tight squeeze and their bodies pressed together as the rain puttered down on the firm little structure. He kissed her as passionately as he could, needing her approval more than anyone else’s. When he pulled back to see if the kiss had landed, she smiled and told him to check his left nostril, the base was loaded. He touched his nose to her head as she laughed and pushed him way. With her small hands pressed to his chest, Kramer caved in recognition that this was the physical moment that he fell in love with her.
“I thought you wanted to exist as us. Just us. Just our endless ray of grilled cheese and scotch topped with lemon rinds,” she says softly as she scrubs the wall with the rough side of the worn down sponge.
He couldn’t make it new again.
Annabella picked out the perfect blue dress that showed just the right amount of cleavage. She painted her face far more carefully than she ever usually allotted time for. Her tongue popped out to the side, as always in deep concentration, steadying her hand for the eyeliner to graze her skin. She fastened her grandmother’s pearls to her neck and let the little spheres fall along her clavicle. She caught him studying her from the corner of the mirror. Looking nervous, he took a drag from his cigarette and went back out on the porch. Kramer always looked at her that way, a puzzle without pieces that he couldn’t make whole, mocking and robbing him of his manhood.
He grabs her into a hug, pulling her from the sponge soaked wall. Hot tears begin to pool on Kramer’s shoulder as he fights the urge to let go any of his own. Her hands pull at the crest of his shoulders and her face dives into Kramer’s neck. The twisted knots of his gut tell him not to release her.
As he walked down Park Lane he was in a fit of nervous knots. It took him months to find the perfect one. Annabella walked a few paces behind, muttering indifferent complaints about arriving too early for their reservation. He pulled her aside and into the phone booth, forced to fight back the urge to laugh as her shocked face scrunched the freckles of her nose together. His knee could barely make a bend in the tight space as he pulled the velvet box from the inside seam of his blazer. She would have preferred the in-the-champagne approach, especially if it meant him loosening his tightly wound purse strings for a bottle of Veuve.
He lets the door slam behind him. A door that is moodier than most and doesn’t allow anyone to make an exit without the whole row of flats knowing about it. The bang echoes through his bones leaving nothing but a spineless skeleton rattling against his thoughts. He steps outside from the building in desperate need of hindsight, but the sharp breaths do nothing to help him harvest through the rubble.
She yelled at him for keeping the window open overnight again. The full-length mirror stood fogged with the cold as they bundled together under the duvet. He laughed at the incredible amount of anger she had mustered. Kramer grabbed her fist and brought it to his lips to tell her what a ridiculous little creature she was being. The tension in her brows released and rippled into a laugh. She wrapped herself into him and whispered that like and love are mutually exclusive.
He returns to a spotless flat, down to the bacon stained wall. He doesn’t even have to look to know she is gone, he can feel it. Warmth has given way to emptiness, love to recovery. He pours himself a glass of scotch only to find a little silver ring clinking its way to the top.
Samantha Kelly is from New York City, but now lives and works in London. She graduated from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism is 2012 and is now pursing a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Westminster.