Perfume River

On this night, at his insistence, Robert and Darla go to their studies and work, he being all right, his father being eighty-eight, after all, his mother bearing up just fine. Darla appreciates the chance to massage her notes from the day. They act as if this were any other evening. But when they finally enter their bed, neither of them picks up a Kindle from a nightstand, and she forgoes her iPod as well. And as soon as they are arranged in their places—side by side with a forearm-length space between them in the king-size bed—as if on cue, they both stretch up and turn off their lamps and lie back.

The room is still but for a faint buzz from an LED electric clock, a relic of their first year in this house, preserved by Darla on her side of the bed.

After a time, she says, “The children.”

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