"I would have said something, but I knew it wouldn't matter."
He looked at her, studied her face slowly, trying to figure out whether he agreed or disagreed. He raised his coffee to his lips, staring over the edge at her, buying time he knew they didn't have.
"Why?" It was a simple word, punctuated in frustration by the cup clunking on the counter.
"Because... I..." she shrugged and even her shoulders frowned. He understood that she didn't know why.
"We can find a way..." he tried to figure out if his voice even realized he wasn't coming along for the ride.
"You don't know how."
"No. I suppose I really don't." He stood, his eyes still searching for some reason.
"Shall I get your coat?"
"I guess." He watched her go, knowing that he should follow, not sure of exactly why.
He glanced around the kitchen, where the tea cups lined the top of the cupboards. He counted slowly.
He didn't need to count, but it was what he did in times like this. He already knew there were seventeen... and a half. The broken one at the end was the last he'd given her.
She returned then, interrupting his count, holding his coat toward him limply. He couldn't read her expression. It seemed to be a mixture of resignation, frustration, and... sympathy? Did she really feel bad for this?
Shrugging into his jacket, he sighed.
"Can I have it?"
"Have what?" she asked and he gazed up behind her, waiting for her to turn around. "You want that?"
"Why? It's broken. I was going to throw it away."
"I know. I still want to fix it."
"Pieces are missing you know."
"What will you do with it?"
"I don't know, but I want to fix it somehow."
She nodded slowly and he knew that he wasn't the only one who had no idea what he was doing. Pulling a chair from the kitchen table, he climbed carefully up to the cupboard and reverently picked up the half of the cup that was there on the saucer. There were a few shards still there as well and he gathered them too.
"Do you have a paper bag?"
He looked down to see she was already holding one up to him. She always had known what he needed before he did. Packaging the pieces slowly, deliberately, and almost sacredly, he glanced yet again at the line along the shelves. Regardless what happened, he knew they would stay there. She wouldn't be able to part with them.
Neither of them said a word as he climbed back down carefully and returned the chair to its place at the table. It belonged, even if he didn't. There should always be five chairs at the table.
Turning at the door, he took one last look into her face. He felt he needed to say something.
"Make them butterscotch pancakes for breakfast. They deserve at least that much." It was hollow and they both knew it.
The door thudded softly and he shuffled through the leaves on the walk on his way to his car. The porch light went out as he slid behind the steering wheel and he realized he had nowhere to go.
He opened the bag and peered inside. Even if there were parts missing, she'd loved this once.
Even if she didn't think it mattered, he'd find a way to fix this.