Two sugars, no milk, no cream. Two sugars, no milk. Just two sugars. He repeated the instructions over and over again in his head, as if he’d forget them. The water he had just poured sat boiling in a thin iron kettle on the stove. He leaned against the marble counter opposite the still water and watched it, losing himself in superfluous thought, pointless mind-chatter. As the fire licked at the darkened bottom of the kettle he could swear he began hearing his daughters upstairs. The sounds were soft and faded: their soft talking and giggling from the room above the kitchen, their footsteps tracing lines across their shared bedroom. He sighed softly and let his heart warm while he ran his finger over the ring of his mug on the countertop beside him.

When he had finished preparing his drink, he made his way out of the clean, airy kitchen and into the living room. As he passed the steps to the second floor he glanced upwards towards the dark, unlit landing. Finally settling back into his favorite loveseat, he set his mug on the glass end table beside him and picked up a thin newspaper. Unfolding it, he skimmed the headlines and glanced over the pictures. A certain story caught his eye and he sighed deeply. The headline was small and rested near the bottom of a page with no pictures. The date read the 23rd of July, 2002. With a sudden solemn attitude, he reread the small summary of the tragedy he knew so well.

“15 year old Samantha Curtshall and 16 year old Rebecca Curtshall found dead in home Friday night.”

Reading about his beautiful, lively daughters and the short summary of their lives before the break in, he recalled how they smiled in the morning. How their laughter could be heard through the walls and how they stayed up until all hours of the night. He could hear them, laughing upstairs, he could hear them every day of his life. But no matter how clear he thought he could hear their gorgeous voices, their room was always empty when he passed it. He had long stopped hearing the shower go on and off in the morning. Nobody left the milk out anymore, or left the lights on at night.

With that thought in mind, no more than an hour later, he folded up the old newspaper and returned to the clean white and black kitchen. He washed his mug quietly and replaced it on the counter. After finishing the well-practiced routine, he shuffled up those darkened steps and into his bedroom. As he undressed, he marked another black X on his calendar: August 9th, 2009. As he got into bed, he heard a door open down the hall.

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