It was a habit that she still couldn’t break. The start to her day was a simple affair. Get up, shower and go for a brisk walk around the block after breakfast. She walked regardless of the weather, and her dog, Molly, knew the routine down pat. Molly would be waiting, her eyes swivelling from her lead to the back door, knowing that it was time for an outing.

There were still days when Julie turned to look over her shoulder, to the place where he liked to sit of a morning. Her lips formed the usual phrase – ‘Won’t be long, try not to miss us!’ But now there was just the empty chair.

She’d cancelled the newspaper subscription after a month or so. It had been a kind of comfort at first to unwrap the paper and place it with care on the table, as if Steve had slept in and was just taking his time to come to the kitchen. It had been a long-standing joke that she liked to leave it for him with the headlines blazing on top, but he’d immediately turn to the sports pages, regardless of what was happening in the world.

The morning walk usually brightened her outlook. It gave her time to think about the day ahead, what chores needed to be done and to plan any outings. Steve used to say that it energised her so much that he needed time alone to prepare for her return. It was true. She had burbled with energy upon arrival, full of ideas or snatches of conversations that she’d had with neighbours along the way.

Julie would make coffee for herself – Steve had a pot of tea each morning as he read the news – and she’d cook a crumpet. Just one. She liked it to be soaking with butter and a drizzle of honey. She would slice it in half and share it with Steve. He’d give her one of his slow smiles and pass over the crossword page. Julie would sip her coffee and savour the crumpet as her mind busied itself with the cryptic clues. The kitchen would be quiet with the soft hum of the fridge and ABC Classic FM playing in the background.

Now if she closed her eyes, she could hear the soft rustle of the newspaper as Steve turned the pages, occasionally letting out a sound of amusement or displeasure, depending on how his team was performing. She could smell the subtle scent of his aftershave, see his hands as they turned the pages. Molly still curled up at the foot of his chair even though it was empty. There were some habits which were hard to let go.

This was a writing group prompt inspired by the image of a cup of coffee and a crumpet. I like visual prompts, and it was interesting to see where the group went with this one. It encouraged more personal writing, bringing us close to home.

[Photo: cup of coffee and crumpet]