Dylan

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.

He smiled again and stroked her crazyhair down a little. "I'm not feeling like it's such a merry occasion, to be honest."

She raised her head and made sideways eye contact. "Why not? It's a momentous occasion! A time to be jubilant in your newfound oldhood!"

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."

"What?"

"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.

She nodded and propped her chin up on her hand. "I'm sorry."

"I'm not. I'm sorry for those poor people."

"Yeah, I guess that's true. Small world, isn't it?"

He had always known that he would read about Eric in the paper one day. He grabbed Marie's hand and squeezed it, then folded the paper in half and pushed it away. "I love you."

"I love you too, Dylan."

He kissed her neck and took in her smell, mind racing.

She stroked his hair, said nothing.