'Break' by Carrie Etter
Lisa entered the break room, a bottle of Diet Coke in one hand and her homemade sandwich, wrapped in tinfoil, in the other. Three teenage girls she hadn’t seen before sat together at one of the two tables, and they stopped talking and stared as she took a seat, facing them, at the other table. There was a copy of the day’s newspaper, and Lisa leaned over as though to read it.
“Aren’t you the one who…?” one girl asked loudly.
Lisa looked up. The girl’s face was thick with make-up: foundation a touch fake-tan orange, blue eyes thickly lined, glossy pink lips. Did I ever look like that? What is she, seventeen, eighteen?
Lisa waited, raising her brows. Another girl, skinny, less made up, said, “Your husband’s in prison, isn’t he? For murder.”
She had given up telling people that technically she and Nick were still separated, but the word murder…. “Manslaughter,” she said. “It was an accident.”
Orange Face sneered. “If it was an accident, then why’s he in prison?”
Lisa paused to keep her composure, to speak levelly, persuasively. “Because someone died. If you make a mistake, and someone dies, that’s manslaughter.”
“So you’re still with him?” the third asked, her voice softer than the others’.
“Yeah,” she said, twisting open the Diet Coke. “I’m still with him.” She didn’t blink. She wasn’t going to be the first to look away.
One by one the girls turned to each other and began cleaning up their plastic cups and food wrappers. As the last, quietest one left, Lisa heard her say, “Gotta be hard.”
The door swished shut behind her, and Lisa felt a sob coming up from her belly, squeezed her eyes shut, and started counting.