It was the first anniversary of her husband’s death. Marie had made certain that she would be too busy to remember it.
It had started just after she’d gotten the call from the hospital; there had been an accident on the freeway; seven car pile-up; one fatality; her John. It was all so sudden, so random and unexpected. She had to get away from work, find a substitute teacher for her class at impossibly short notice, call John’s parents, their lawyer, make arrangements for the funeral, the reception, the burial, the reading of the will. Marie threw herself into everything that needed to be done, all the practicalities of death to keep herself from considering the reality of her bereavement. Once John was buried there were condolence cards to respond to, his things to dispose of, the two bedroom apartment, much too big for just her to live in, to move out of, a new apartment to hunt down, movers to hire, leases to go over, and a new school year ahead for which to plan.
There was always something.
Until the first anniversary, the day Marie was balancing her now single bank account and received a picture via text from one of the new, shallow friends she had made to fill the time. Her phone’s memory was too bloated to download the file. Marie sighed and flicked through the pictures on her phone, marking several for deletion. Then she came to the picture of their old apartment; John and hers.
Marie stared at the picture. She had forgotten all about it. Her parents had always told her to take pictures of vacated apartments before leaving for good; just in case the landlords got greedy and tried charging for something they shouldn’t.
The living room sat gutted in dim light. Marie could make out the indentations of the couch legs on the carpet by the far wall. The eggshell wall itself was dotted with thick white spackle filling in the holes from where their photographs, vacations to Tahiti, to Madrid, to London, had hung. Marie could make out the edge of the second, smaller bedroom, the door sitting just out of frame. It was the reason they had moved there in the first place, the room just beside the master bedroom, close enough that they would be sure to hear the baby cry at night.
Marie leaned back in her chair. Her phone dimmed, but the picture remained blazing in her mind, as bright and painful as looking into the sun. Her arm fell from the table and onto her stomach. She began to cry, the first tears she had shed since the phone call from the hospital.
There had always been something. But now there was nothing. Now everything was empty and bare, with only scars to mark the passage of time. There was nothing but silent, empty rooms.
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