And now, before your very eyes, I combine description and dialogue into an integrated, short term whole. Voila!

“She took three steps today.”

Larry looked up from his cereal bowl. “Hmm?”

“Three steps. By herself, Melissa took three steps before she fell. You should have seen her.”

“Yeah,” said Larry, taking another spoonful of bran flakes. “Sorry I missed it. Did she cry?”

“What do you mean?”

“What I said. Cry. Did she cry when she fell?”

“Oh. No. No she just tried standing back up, but I put her in her bed instead. I could tell she was getting sleepy.”

Gwen picked up a used napkin from the table, crumpled it, then took it to the kitchen to throw away. She walked back toward the dining room, but paused, watching Larry eat his cereal, his back hunched over, slurping occasionally. He’d cut his hair short, recently, but it was still beautiful. It always had been, black, curly, like wet waves on an oily beach.

She sat across from him, again, and pecked at her eggs.

“Larry?”

“Hmm?”

“Do you think you could take Melissa to the park on Wednesday? Instead of me doing it?”

Larry looked at her. Not angry, not curious, just . . . empty. “Why?”

Gwen tried to mirror that apathy. She knew it worked great for him in the courtroom, and especially when making deals with the other attorneys. But it bothered her to see it at home. She felt like a witness. Had been feeling that, more and more.

“I’d like to get my hair done, maybe a manicure.”

“Can’t you take her with you?”

“Not if I want to keep the stylist from cutting off an ear.” She tried to make it sound funny, but he didn’t laugh.

“Okay,” he said, “What time?”

She shrugged her shoulders. “Would 3 be okay? That’s when I usually go, and I know Maureen has a time open She always takes a few extra minutes with me, and doesn’t charge for it, so–”

“How long until you get back?”

She tried to look at his eyes. When had she stopped being able to? “Here!” she used to tell people, handing them a picture, “Look at my husband’s pretty grey eyes!” The other women were always envious.

“Five?”

He sighed, just a little, just enough for her to hear it, then went back to eating.

“Fine.”

“Thanks.” Gwen ate another bite of toast, then stood. “I’m not really hungry. Sorry. Just leave your bowl and I’ll clean up. I know you have a big day.”

“Okay. Thanks. It’s a tough case. Bastards are giving me lots of shit.”

“Sorry.”

“It’s not your fault,” he said, not nastily, just . . . just out of habit, she realized suddenly, glancing at him on her way to the kitchen.

She knew, then. As she scraped her plate into the garbage disposal, she hoped the feeling would go away, but it didn’t. When she said his name in her mind, “Larry”, it was a face. A face, not an emotion.

In the next room, Melissa was waking up. Gwen turned on the cold water, flipped the switch to grind the food, waited for that change in pitch signaling the pipe running clear, then left her husband to take care of her daughter.