Bread Alone, by Jan Rider Newman

Elaine heard the hall floor creak. Marcus appeared in the doorway and watched her open a bag of flour. He had showered and put on clean shorts and a polo.

           “It’ll take half the night to make bread,” he said.

           “Read to me while I knead.” She thumbed a lock of black hair off his forehead and let her palm linger on his cheek.

           “Too hot. I’m going to Joe Pettijean’s to play chess.”

           Elaine drew her hand back and curled her fingers. “Joe Pettijean?”

           “Moved in across the street. I told you.”

           “Yes, I remember.” Elaine shrugged. “I’ll take out crackers and slice some cheddar.”

           “Like a good little Cheesehead wife?”

           “Then I’ll just go empty handed.”

           “Go?” The frown line deepened across Marcus’s forehead. “Chess and beer? You’ll be yawning in ten minutes. Bake your bread. It’ll make a good midnight snack.”

           He kissed her forehead before strolling across the hall and out. Elaine followed as far as the front door and watched him settle on Pettijean’s porch. A bucket of brown bottles and the black and white chess pieces gleamed. She didn’t get a good look at Joe Pettijean, but Marcus had said he was fortyish, a bit older than they. He said something, and Marcus laughed, a laugh that made Elaine think of fish slipping the net.

           She backed away into the kitchen.

           Abandoning the idea of a baguette, Elaine baked quick bread and set the hot loaf on a plate on her side of the bed. After switching off all the lamps, she left the house and backed her car from the garage.

           At the end of the driveway, Elaine’s headlights caught Marcus. He halted on Pettijean’s front walk. Behind him the porch was empty now.

           Marcus raised his hand. She turned in the direction of the highway and wondered where he thought she was going.

Jan has published short stories, nonfiction, and poetry in a juried Vision/Verse competition, the New Orleans Review, the Denver Quarterly, Louisiana Literature, Oasis Journal, and in two anthologies published by the Gulf Coast Writers’ Association. She earned an MFA in creative writing after studying with Robert Olen Butler. She is a webmaster for the Bayou Writers’ Group and a member of She Writes. Jan has written book reviews for The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog, LitStack, and The New Book Review blog.