Little Diego was asleep at last—Maria hoped his cough wouldn’t wake him. She collapsed into her favourite chair.

Alberto handed her a glass of wine, then slipped his hand over her shoulder as he bent to kiss her head, sparse lengths of grey among the inky black.

She twisted slightly and tilted her head, exposing the curve of her neck. These were old moves for them, almost instinctive now.

As his lips brushed the skin below her ear and he whispered the words he’d first whispered twenty years before the tension trapped in the coiling of a day of domestic challenges began releasing. Maria reached behind to grasp his neck.

The hand on her shoulder slipped below her bra-strap and beneath the edge of the cup onto the soft flesh. His fingers struck a new modulation, a hardness unfamiliar to him in these moments but all too recognisable beneath the skin of the women he attended at the hospital. He drew breath, mouthed darling, saw the fondness in her eyes.

Nothing could be done tonight. Tomorrow morning he’d mention it to her. He’d call Carl—make sure his friend could see her.

There was a cough, then a cry from down the hall. Maria shook herself free of the chair and Alberto and went to settle Diego again.


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