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There was a birthday cake, a white frosted one, with his name on it, set tauntingly in the middle of the round kitchen table. A little rectangle plastic cake container obscured the lettering on top but it probably said something pithy and bordering on mean.
He raised his coffee to her as she walked quietly into the room, her curly dark hair ringing her head in a halo of frizz. He smiled despite himself, despite his foul mood and the early hour. So beautiful in her blue bathrobe.
She sat down next to him, in the chair without arms, and set the news paper down on the table between them, folded to the entertainment section. Her head leaned gently on his shoulder, and from above it looked like her eyes were closed. Maybe they were. "Happy birthday," she whispered, turning her head to gently bite his shoulder.
She elbowed him soft in the ribs and he rolled his eyes, turning the paper back to the front page. "I never thought I'd make it to thirty, to be honest." She laughed, but he was serious. "I thought I'd- huh."
"I knew that kid." He pointed to an article on the front page, his eyes skimming the text. "Weird, I-" He felt a sense of horror, that familiar face, and shame, a lot of things, things he hadn't felt in a long time.
"That's weird." She read the article for the second time that morning. Typical, sadly typical, workplace violence again. Someone shooting seven coworkers dead, then a bullet to his own temple. "How did you know him?"
"We were friends, in high school." Memories of pain, of rage, of a terrible year that culminated in a terrible morning when he walked away from his friend and straight to the police precinct across the park from his high school. Eric went to jail. He got probation, and accolades for stopping the murders he had helped plan. Marie had no idea. It would be better that no one did, really.
"I'm not. I'm sorry for those poor people."