“Bye!” she called to her fifth floor neighbour with a bright smile as she stepped out of the elevator.
Two turns of the key and the front door opened smoothly under her touch. The warm apartment welcomed her home after a long day. Taking off her boots, she slipped on her fluffy slippers, sighing as her feet relaxed too. She dropped her keys into the key bowl; shrugged off her jacket, unwound the cashmere scarf from around her neck, and hung them both in the cloak closet. Padding into the kitchen, she dropped her bag onto the counter, got her big tea mug from the dishwasher—it was still warm to the touch— and dropped a tea bag into it — ginger-lemon. Filling the kettle with water, she set it to boil, then plopped down on one of the chairs.
‘A few more minutes,’ she told herself.
Just as the kettle started whistling, she heard the front door open, and close. Keys jingled, the closet creaked, shoes thudded one after the other onto the floor. Two quick knocks on the closet, then footsteps padding slowly down the hallway and into the bedroom. She poured the hot water into her mug, prepared a second cup with the remaining water and another tea bag — peppermint. Picking up both the cups, she made her way to the bedroom too.
He was sitting on the edge of the bed, body slumped and eyes closed. He heard her come in, keep the cups of tea on the bedside table; felt the bed dip as she sat down beside him. A sigh, then her cold nose was pressed tightly against the crook of his neck, her arms around him. He held on to her waist, pulled her into his lap and nuzzled her neck. They both sighed, finally home.
There was just one more thing left to do. Taking off their masks, they dropped them onto the table and picked up their teas. The masks would lie there, discarded, till they were needed again the next morning.