It's not you, she'd planned to say. It was true. He'd been wonderful to her. But marriage and a baby in quick succession had changed things, changed her, in ways she hadn't anticipated.
"I can't stay," she blurted.
His eyes searched hers for several seconds. Her cheeks burned, but--desperate to appear resolute--she returned his stare.
"You're leaving us?"
She nodded slowly. "I have to."
"I ... I don't wanna lose you," he said rather dispassionately. "But I can't say I'm surprised."
His nonchalance stung. You're not going to fight for me? Beg me not to go?
And then it sunk in. He melted into his chair, his face contorted.
"What am I gonna do without you?"
Did his voice crack? She resisted the urge to squeeze his hand.
She'd seen him cry before--a month ago, after his mother died. On his first day back following bereavement leave, they'd gone to lunch. He broke down over steak and bleu cheese salad. They sat in the car while he tried to pull himself together. Her heart ached for him. He was good-enough looking, yet she wasn't attracted to him, not even when she was single. But that day, in a confusion of grief and sympathy, they kissed.
Working one-on-one was torturously awkward now. She felt exposed in department meetings, as if anyone could just look at them and know. At home she rarely mentioned work, fearful her husband would somehow sense her guilt. She'd been thinking about staying home with her daughter for a while. The kiss sealed the deal.
"Well," he conceded. "Would you please write up a formal letter of resignation for your file?"
"Yes, sir," she smiled somberly.
trifecta weekly challenge: The entry must be 33-333 words and include the word "appear" (defined as to have an outward aspect: seem). Mine is 333 words.