Her black tights of winter have been traded in for a breezy dress of spring, her furry boots replaced by open-toe sandals. I’m in the midst of a long inhale of my cigarette when I see Bethann walk off her front porch, and I patiently exhale as she walks over.
The girlish smile makes her seem younger than her years, which only makes me feel worse for being so much older to begin with. “Hi Clark,” she says shyly, “It’s a nice day today.”
“Certainly is,” is my carefully measured reply.
“Well, I was wondering if you wanted to, I don’t know, maybe go to the park or something.” She’s nervously fidgeting with the wedding ring on her finger. Bethann’s long divorced, but there the ring sits, a reminder of better days.
I’d think it strange if I didn’t do the same thing. Mine is a widower’s albatross, the ghost of my wife haunting me. I doubt Bethann holds out any more hope than I do of a reconciliation. Are we trying to hold on to former lives? Perhaps we’re trying to ward off future lives.
“Sure,” I say, drawling the word ‘round my tongue as if it’s an uncertainty.
She flashes that smile again, accompanied by an equally girlish giggle. “I could pack us a lunch if you’d like. Actually, I already packed one. For me, I mean, on account that I was planning on going anyhow. But I could…” I push a stray strand of her hair back into place to frame that beautifully imperfect face.
Bethann looks down and sheepishly says, “Okay.” A pause before she looks at me again. “Fine as in you don’t mind me making lunch or fine as in I don’t need to?”
I contemplate flicking the butt of my cigarette onto the ground and extinguishing it underneath my heel. But somehow I feel this would offend her. A smile creeps across my lips. “It’s fine.”
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