Adelaide Literary Magazine


ADELAIDE Independent Bimonthly Literary Magazine / Revista Literária Independente Bimensal, New York / Lisboa, Online Edition  







By Heidi L. Popek




The kitchen is flooded with sunlight that stabs my eyes.  It takes a moment of slow blinking before I can look at Peter.   He’s slouched in a straight-backed chair, right foot on left knee, just the tip of his salt and pepper waves cresting the sports section.  I drop a kiss on his bristly jaw; my hand lingers on his warm shoulder.  “Morning,” I say.

The paper dips, revealing a face firmly set in deep thought.  “You’re up early, Rose.”

I slip into the opposite chair.  “I can’t sleep, my mind won’t shut off.”  

I have not slept the sleep of dreamers in weeks; insomnia began with the first letter.  The plain white envelope arrived in a hill of catalogs, assorted junk, and bills.  I’d almost missed it. 

Peter’s eyebrows slant in a frown.  He folds the newspaper and places it next to his empty cereal bowl.  “There’s only one way to sort this out, Rose.”

“You’ll meet him then.”  A glance at the stove’s digital display, only seven o’clock - the day stretches before us like a panoramic view - yet the simple statement leaves me end-of-the-day weary. 

“It’s the only way to know for sure.”

Shadows slant the walls; clouds eclipse the sunlight that had bathed the back of my neck like a lover’s caress. 

“You have so many projects due in the weeks ahead.  When will you even have time to meet him?”

“Three o’clock.” 

My eyes narrow.  “Today?”  

Peter shrugs.  “Why is today so surprising?”

“Why do you sound like my being surprised is not a reasonable reaction?” I snap.  “This is happening so fast.”

Peter dumps sugar and another splash of cream into his coffee and stirs a lazy figure eight pattern.  He sits back and meets my eyes over the rim of his mug.  Steam rises.  He blows a ripple across the hot liquid.  “You think it will be easier if I meet him next week, or next month?” 

“Nothing about this is easy, Peter.  I’m still in shock.”

Concern etches Peter’s face.  “I know it’s been hard on you.  You toss and turn all night.” 

The shadows lengthen as thunder rumbles in the distance.  A yellow finch darts between the branches of the soaring spruce adjacent the picture window.  We’d planted the sapling almost twenty-five years ago, a month after moving into a neighborhood where children rode bicycles to school, and backyards had swimming pools and swing sets. 

“Maybe he doesn’t want anything from us, just to meet you.” I say, but even to my own ears, this sounds weak.

Peter stays silent for so long, lost in his thoughts.  “So many wasted years.  What was she thinking?” 

My coffee mug clatters against a plate of sliced melon.  “You never told me much about Sandra.” 

Peter looks up, exasperated.  “That’s because there wasn’t much to tell, Rose.  We were only together a few months.  When we split up, I never heard from her again.  Not a word.  She was a blur from my past until I read her obituary two months ago.”

I push my hair behind my ears, close my eyes and take a deep breath.  “Maybe this is some sort of scam, Peter.  Have you even thought of that?  Maybe he did his homework, researched everything about us.”  I am the voice of reason, the one with the common sense.  Peter is an artist, a dreamer.  Our marriage is a balance of function and fancy.  “He probably knows we never had children.”

“Rose.”  It is a whisper.  Peter reaches across the table, laces our fingers.  “We’re going to be ok, no matter the outcome.”  His trademark grin, the one that usually meets his eyes, the one I fell for.  He sings a line from a song he’d written on our first anniversary, his voice soft and melodious:  “Baby, it’s you and me, that’s how it’s got to be.  You and me, that’s how it’ll always be.”

That bit of song always lifts my spirits, but now I stand and clear the table without a smile or a glance at Peter.  He simply believes the letters are true because he wants them to be true.  I fill the sink with warm suds, gently sponge the pale blue coffee mugs.

“Do you want to come with me today?”

A mug slips my grasp; soapy water splashes my shirt.  Did I want to go with him?  Did I need to protect Peter, to ask the necessary questions?  I rinse the plate and gently stack it in the dish drainer.  “I don’t think I can do that.  Not yet.”   

Peter’s chair scrapes the wood floor, a moment later his hands rest on my shoulders, his lips to my ear.  “I need you with me, Rose.” 

The niggling guilt of my own inadequacy rises to my throat.  “It would have helped to hear those words before you agreed to meet him, not as an afterthought.” 

Peter’s hands drop to his sides.  His words fall on my skin.  “I didn’t mean to exclude you, Rose.” At the picture window, he studies the dark clouds meeting the horizon.  “Storm’s coming in fast.”  He does not turn around.  “Why don’t you get some rest?”

I crawl into bed as the first cloudburst patterns the windowpane.  I dream of black towers that climb into silver clouds, and a tall bridge spanning a river that never ends.    

When I wake, dusk fills the sky, the time of half-light.  Peter sits on the edge of our bed.  He hasn’t bothered with the lamp.  He’d opened the window; the air smells fresh and clean. 

He picks up my hand and holds it to his lips.  “Did you get some sleep?”

I search his eyes. “Peter?”

Gently, he cups my cheek.  His breath smells of whiskey.  “I would have known him anywhere, Rose.  He looks just like me.” 

My mouth is dry.  I should have gone with him.  I swing my legs over the bed and sit next to Peter.  “I don’t even know what to say to you right now.” 

Peter pats my hand.  “I hope you don’t mind, Rose.  I’ve invited him to stay with us for a while.  Just until he gets on his feet.”



About the Author:


Heidi Popek resides in western New York and works at Daemen College. Her work has been published in print in Play of Mind and Affaire de Coeur; online at and, most recently, at











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