Her voice was full of promise, and he could hear that smile — the one she saved just for him — curving around the words. He felt a thrill of excitement shiver down his spine. In that moment, he would have promised her anything. He swallowed, hard, and told himself to be strong.
“I … can’t,” he said. He regretted the words the moment they left his mouth, as if saying them made them real and opened up a chasm of loss and longing between them. He forced himself to rush on, before he lost his nerve, “This project is overdue already. I promised the client I would have something by tomorrow.”
She was quiet. Was she sad? Disappointed? He couldn’t tell. He heard her breathing on the other end of the line. He imagined her sitting next to him, fitting perfectly into the curve of his body and her breath warm and ticklish against his neck.
“I’m making soup,” she said.
He glanced at his office window. It was already dark, and frost rimmed the glass at the corners of the frame. Down below, he saw cars on the street, their taillights winking red as they marched off into the night. He felt jealous of those people. Hated them, even, because they all got to go home.
“Well, it’s okay. I’ll see you whenever you get here,” she said, breaking into his thoughts.
And then she was gone. He held the phone in his hand for a moment, staring at the handset and listening to the dial tone as he tried to figure out what had just happened. And why it made him feel so sad and lost. He replaced the phone with a sigh and thought about her. He pictured her standing in their little kitchen, peering into a pot on the stove. Her hair would be pulled back into a messy ponytail, and she would be humming under her breath. She always sang as she cooked. He thought about the smells wafting through the house and out the front door to greet him as he entered. He imagined coming up behind her, putting his arms around her, and laying a line of kisses along her exposed neck, nibbling at her collarbone as she laughed and playfully pretended to swat him away. And he knew …
Tomorrow would have to take care of itself.