All I could see before my eyes was a cloud of regret.

As I finished paying bills, my wife cooked in the kitchen whilst on the phone. I remembered when love was a treasure to me, to her, to my children. Who was I? I never wanted to settle down, I wanted to do greater things, I wanted to change the world. I worked at a tech support office for the local phone company, I had to deal with idiots every day that didn't know that the red flashing light meant that they had messages, not that the phone was broken. The dark circles under my eyes were filling in, too many cups of coffee, too many late nights arguing with Charon or organizing the list of complaints to be handed to my manager in the morning. He wasn't going to read them. As I sat there, cigarette in hand, the candle flickered a calm dancing motion on the walls. I took another sip of scotch and took a drag from my cigarette. I really need to stop smoking. I was fortunate that my wife was on the phone, hell awaited me every time I was in her presence. The kids were so used to our arguments that they didn't seem affected by it, but deep down I knew it was slowly killing them on the inside. Nights of yelling, broken plates, broken hearts, the usual. I put out my cigarette and drained the remainder of my scotch, blew out the candle on my desk and walked out to the living room. Ah, TV- What a great distraction from life, what easier way to cope with your own depression than by watching other people get hurt and dying? There's nothing on, no bad news either. Damn. Dinner was smelling nice, Charon was a great cook, she got it from her mother. I quietly dragged myself into the kitchen to see what she was making. "Yeah, I just don't know about the money situation, we're running out and the kids need school supplies." She said into the piece of plastic on her shoulder as she cut onions. There was a woman named Margaret on the other side of that device. Chili, eh? Sounds good to me. I walked up beside her and opened the cabinet for a glass, startling her. "Hey hun, when are you taking the kids to get their school stuff? I need to know so I can take the money out of the bank." Did she say when am I taking the trash out for the cool stuff? What the hell does that mean, and what does it have to do with money? "Uh..." I said stupidly, "I'm sorry?" "God, you never listen." She said in the direction of the phone, was she talking to me or the phone? "Jeff sometimes I think you're going deaf. Hold on Margaret." Oh. She looked at me this time, "I was asking when you were going to take the kids for their schoo-" "Oh oh oh yeah yeah yeah, uh, well I was planning to take them tomorrow." No I wasn't. "Ok good cause they need their stuff before school starts next Thursday, I'll have the money before you get home from work." "Ok." I said aimlessly. I hated shopping, why couldn't she do it? She has so much more patience with this kind of thing than me. "So anyway Margaret, has Greg bought that new TV yet?" Charon was trying to make me feel bad for bringing in a subsequently lower income than Margaret's husband, she did it all the time. What is this, a competition? I grumbled over to the fridge and got the milk, it thudded on the inside, it stunk: it was sour. "Honey the milk is sour." I yelled over my shoulder while examining the milk-nowturned-yogurt filled container's expiration date.

"This expired a week ago, when was the last time you got groceries?" She was ignoring me, she does that frequently, but I can't blame her cause I tend to complain about retarded things a lot apparently. I settled for orange juice, as I sat down at the table I heard the sound of footsteps coming down the hall. It was our oldest, Victoria, age 15. Victoria recently got her driving permit and persisted that she drive everywhere we needed to go, it was good that she was practicing, bad thing was that she needed it. Lots of it. "Hey dad can I borrow the car this Saturday to meet Becca at her house?" She pleaded. "Honey you know that me or your mother has to be with you when you drive, I have to work late on Saturday and your mother has a doctor's appointment." I sighed. "Bud dad it's only a few blocks, no one is going to notice!" "If it's so close why don't you just walk?" I imposed, taking a sip of orange juice. "Dad my friends know I can drive now, I told Becca I was going to drive to her house, she's going to be disappointed." She moaned. "I don't care, you can't drive without a parent in the car, it's the law, you're going to have to walk. Tell Becca it was my fault, I don't care, just please don't argue with me right now." I said aggrivatedly. She rolled her eyes and growled, "Fine." She stormed out of the room, I started feeling guilty. Wait, why should I feel guilty? I need the overtime to keep a roof over our heads, who cares about letting down Becca? My wife said bye and hung up the phone, she picked up her freshly cut onions and tomatoes and added them to the stew on the burner. "Well Jeff, I just don't know what we're going to do, I'm going to have barely any money left after the doctor's appointment and I still need to get groceries." Oh, I guess my comment about the groceries was pointless then. "Well, I'm working overtime on Saturday and hopefully that will give us a little extra money." A light bulb turned on in my head, a strike of genius! "Hey, why don't we just take some money out of our savings for groceries?" "Honey you know that's for Victoria's college tuition, if we just took money out of the savings every time we bought something she would never get in to a good college" She said, annoyed for no apparent reason. "Well, would you rather gouge our savings a bit or starve?" Brilliant! Holy shit I'm going to have to call the newspapers on this one, I could just see the headline: "Jeff Gaines wins argument with wife, Des Moines baffled." "I'm going to call mom and ask if she can lend us some money, that way we won't 'starve'." She snarled. Damn. "But honey I don't want to look like I can't even support my own family." I cried. "Well Jeff," She started, pausing to reach into the cabinet for salt, "If you haven't noticed: You can't." She said coldly. Infact, it was so cold that my brain started to develop hypothermia. The light bulb had frozen and broken, there was no reply on my part. She turned her back to me and stirred the food around. Defeated, I drained my OJ and put the glass in the sink. "You know, we can't do this forever, we're going to have to do something." She said desperately. "I know honey, I'll just have to think about it." I said, ripping off a section of paper towel. Why the hell did I do that? To keep myself from looking stupid I played it off by wiping my mouth off on it. Though, even if I didn't I don't think she would have noticed anyway. "Well, dinner's ready, tell the kids." I walked to the beginning of the hallway, "Kids, dinner is ready, chili."

"Be there in a sec dad." They yelled in unison from behind closed doors. Dinner that night was awkward and quiet, as always. The chili was superb, I thanked Charon for dinner, kissed the kids goodnight and went to bed. I was the first one to bed. Damn I love the bed, it's so comforting and forgiving. I had to wake up at 5 A.M for work every day except Sunday, our day off, so the bed was a good friend to me. I sat there staring up at the ceiling, listening to my wife do the dishes, until I slowly drifted away into sleep.

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