He looked up from the newspaper as she walked into the kitchen. "'Morning," he said softly.
She smiled gently, set down her briefcase on the counter next to his, and poured herself a cup of coffee, absently fingering the hem of her skirt as she sat down across from him. "Oh... I've got a loose thread," she said suddenly, taking the bit of thread between her fingers.
He leaned back in his chair, opened the junk drawer behind him, and fished out the scissors. "Cut it off before it drives you nuts," he said, handing them to her.
She looked at him in surprise. "I never said it would drive me nuts," she said. "I just noticed that I had a thread hanging, that's all."
He looked into her eyes. His twinkled with the usual hidden amusement. "Loose threads annoy me," he answered. "I figured you'd want to cut it off." He waggled the scissors at her. The handles jounced up and down in the air over his paper.
She stared fixedly at the scissors, taking a sip of coffee as her eyes followed their movements. "No," she said suddenly, setting down her cup a little more forcefully than she intended. "No, I don't think I'll cut it off."
The scissors stopped jouncing. He quirked one eyebrow. "Why not?"
She pursed her lips, remembering that she was wearing the lipstick that he liked best. "I don't know," she said. "I just... don't feel like cutting it off. Seems like it would throw off the balance or something, I guess." She had a sudden need to make her words sound less grave, and laughed to punctuate them, a soft sound in the morning.
With a dismissive shrug, he set the scissors down beside the paper, perfectly parallel, as he was prone to do things. Everything, she amended. Always the same. So perfectly orderly. Her gaze was drawn to the scissors over the rim of her coffee cup, and she had a sudden urge to reach out and flick them until they sat at a crazy angle. She smoothed her skirt, fingering the thread.
She had almost forgotten the conversation, drawn back into her coffee, when he spoke up again. "I just can't believe you would leave that damn thread hanging there all day. It makes you look less respectable."
She looked up at him in shock. "It's just a bit of string," she protested.
"Exactly. Just loose thread. So cut it off and get on with your life," he snapped.
She set down her coffee cup, unable to stop staring at him. "What is your hang-up?" she demanded. But somehow she wasn't surprised by all of this. Somewhere in her mind, she knew it had been a long time coming.
He glared at her. "I just can't understand why you're suddenly so attached to a straying thread. A skirt isn't made to have bits hanging off of it. You should fix these things when you catch them."
She narrowed her eyes. "Nobody's perfect." His glare was fierce; she could feel the fire burning in him, could feel the thread burning into the side of her leg in sweet defiance.
"We're all born the same," he said. "Everything that happens after that is our own doing. It breaks and can be fixed."
"Well, I like this thread," she said. "It makes this skirt different from the millions of other skirts out there." She stood up from the table. "It stays."
"That thread makes your skirt look shabby," he protested. "People will notice."
"Well, it beats the hell out of being like everyone else!" she bellowed. "Dare to be a little different for once! Get messy!"
"But... I just want you to be happy!" he pleaded. "You deserve to look good. What would people think otherwise?"
She had never felt more affronted in her life. "I don't care what they think," she said stiffly, her voice barely under control again. "They can think whatever they want. If you really want me to be happy, then just damn well remember this: quit snipping off all the loose threads, or before you know it you'll have no skirt left." She picked up her briefcase from the counter and left her mug on the shiny surface. "I'm going to be late for work," she muttered. Somewhere in her mind, she knew it had been a long time coming, and she found herself wishing it had gotten there sooner.
On the way out of the kitchen, she grabbed a tissue from the box and wiped the lipstick from her mouth.