She stood in the driveway of their brick, ranch-style home waving as the U-Haul pulled away. Standing there, watching her past drive down the street, turn onto the highway, and become a set of taillights.
The air was thick. Humid. The kind of night that made mosquitos stick wherever they landed. The cicadas’ song the only crisp note on the heavy breeze. As she turned, walking up the drive, she took a moment to look at the house. There, in the front was the tree stump she’d turned into a fairy garden, with Norman the gnome protecting the intricate fairy houses she’d crafted from seashells. Reaching around the house and up to the front door was the rose garden she’d planted when they moved in seven years ago. It had started with two bushes, but as they’d been able to afford, the garden had grown. Now, thirty rose bushes were there. The roses were her pride and joy, but he never noticed them. She would spend hours working the soil, pruning the limbs, and tending the weeds, but he never noticed. Throughout the year she cut the blooms to arrange in a vase on the dinner table, a table they only used on holidays, but even inside they had gone unnoticed.
It’s difficult to leave something you put so much work into.
She put her shoulder against the front door and threw her weight into it. It always stuck inside the frame when it was humid. Walking into the nearly empty house should have hit her harder than it did. The pictures taken off the walls, the bookshelf empty of its possessions, and the large, wood entertainment center was devoid of the flat screen that usually occupied it. A rocking chair sat in the living room, mockingly inviting her to sit down and read the non-existent books, or watch the imaginary television. Instead she walked down the hall and into the bathroom. As she turned on the lights “I Love You” greeted her in the mirror in her own, lazy script. Cleaning the bathroom would be on the chore list tomorrow. She reached into the medicine cabinet for the bottle of Excedrin. She had grown weary of the day’s events, and a stress headache was beginning to set in. Better treat it now.
Leaving the bathroom she walked by the guest room, empty minus the debris cluttering the carpet. She would vacuum tomorrow. He had been staying in that room for months. The furniture imprints on the carpet would need to be steamed, and the curtains washed. Add it to the list for tomorrow. She closed the door and continued down the hall.
Her office, cluttered as ever. Filled with books, yarn, and supplies she needed throughout the week. The only thing missing from this room were the dog beds that used to occupy the space beneath her desk. It was empty without them here.
She worked diligently. Organizing bills, sorting through bank account information, reworking direct deposits, and dissolving old accounts. Closing out old credit lines and establishing new ones solely in her name. She would need to change her name too, but that would have to go on the list for tomorrow. She looked down at her bare hand. A solid reminder that something was missing. That she should be upset.
Her phone vibrated obnoxiously, flashing “Mom” boldly across the screen. She hit the reject button and turned the phone to Do Not Disturb. She’d put off telling her family as long as possible, but good news traveled fast and her phone had been ringing since she had mentioned to her aunt that she would be attending her uncle’s fiftieth birthday party alone. Her aunt had called her great-grandmother, who then called her grandmother, who then called her oldest sister, who then called her youngest sister, who it would appear had called her mom. Three phone calls into the Brady Bunch chain and she’d grown tired of telling the story. Everyone wanted answers she didn’t have.
The phone’s screen lit up. Two more missed calls from Mom. Thirty text messages. She powered the phone off. The messages would keep until tomorrow.
Turning the light off in her office she closed the door and meandered to the master bedroom. Her bedroom. Walking into the room she felt relieved. It was finally coming to an end. She straightened the covers and turned down the comforter. As she slid under the sheets she peered at the closet door that had been left ajar. She would spread her clothes out tomorrow. Move her coats from the attic. There would be plenty of room to keep her clothes available year round now, and she might even be able to fit a few of the shoe racks she had stowed under the bed in there now. She would rearrange it tomorrow. See how it all worked out.
Sinking into the covers she turned the bedside lamp off. The fan whirred overhead and the cicadas were still singing outside the bedroom window. She listened to the sounds and felt a wave of stress leave her. There was no fight about sleeping with the TV on tonight, or if the radio could be left on, or if the door should be open or closed.
It was dark. There was no TV or radio on, and the door was open because that’s how she had left it. Settled under the covers in the dark in her spot on her side of the bed, she faced the empty side. Scooting beneath the covers until her pillow was on the other side of the mattress, she decided to try sleeping on this side of the bed tonight. Perhaps this was her side of the bed, and she had only slept on the other side because that was her only option. She could spend time testing out each side tomorrow. For now, she was tired.
About the Author: Audrey Perry is the managing editor of RE:AL literary journal and a graduate student at Stephen F. Austin State University. Her recent publications include "Interview with Amelia Gray," "Life of Pines," "Knitting on Faith," "Faith and M&Ms," and "The Union of Nature and Man."