Chilled wine slid from the golden bottle into her glass, more than a restaurant would call a pour but not enough to warm to room temperature before she was finished. Sipping on her way to the living room, she shrugged off her cardigan, letting it drop to the arm of the low couch as she sank into her favorite corner.
A well-worn paperback lay on the other side of the couch, and she flipped through it until she found a favorite passage, settling into the story of old friends. The din of her first grade classroom rolled from her shoulders into the silence of her apartment, the familiar words dancing in front of her eyes soothing her nerves more than the buttery sweetness of the wine.
Her eyes drifted closed for a moment, and she congratulated herself on skipping her semi-regular happy hour date with a few colleagues.
Jarringly, her neighbors’ dogs began to bark, and she felt knots returning to her shoulders.
Left alone behind the cellophane thin walls, they weren’t likely to stop their discordant symphony until they tired of their own noise, which seemed to take infinitely more time on the days Stella wished the most for silence.
A frown creased her forehead as she reached for the remote, flipping past Friday evening television to the music channels, needing something to balance the barking more than caring what seeped out of the speakers.
Resting her wine glass against the arm of the couch, she let the music fade into the background and tried to fall back into her book.
Ten, twenty minutes passed, and the dogs stopped barking. The music suddenly seemed too loud against the silence.
She reached for the remote again as the harmony finally reached her consciousness.
Forgetting the remote, she reached for her phone instead, pressing the familiar name and trying to breathe.
Her book fell open in her lap, wine gently trickling onto the pages, her mind on other words as she mentally pieced together glib opening lines.
He answered too quickly, his voice wary and unsure.
She searched for any vestige of hope in the “hello,” swallowing and reaching for something vaguely casual to say.
“I made a mistake,” tumbled out instead.
And the music filled the surprised silence between their breathing.