By Michele Freeman

Mavis cooked eggs, bacon, and biscuits that Monday morning. Figured she didn’t need to worry about fat grams anymore. Yesterday, she had fastidiously cleaned the small apartment. As she washed her breakfast dishes, she checked off a mental list: clothes folded, papers filed, furniture dusted. Had she forgotten anything?

“Done,” she said, smiling. She dried the dishes and placed them in the cabinet above the sink. She took a long, hot bubble bath, enjoying the absolute decadence of using so much water. Edward, God rest his soul, had been such a fussbucket about the bills. “Mavis,” he’d say, waving the stack of envelopes, “do you know how many hours I work to pay for them fancy baths you take?” And she’d say, “Yes.” Then she’d run a bath and invite him to join her. Afterwards, he’d say, “You know, them fancy baths ain’t so bad.”

Edward was a gruff, blue-collar man, but he’d loved her. He couldn’t give her children, but he’d given her joy. And when he died last year, a cold emptiness swallowed her whole. Thirty-two blessed years with the same man. God should have just ripped her in two instead. That’s what happened anyway—she felt like half a person. Shaking away her morbid thoughts, Mavis drained the water and used a paper towel to wipe the sink dry.

Mavis curled her hair and put on makeup. She hummed with the oldies station as she slipped on a freshly-pressed blue dress. She wiggled into a pair of white hose and found her nice white heels, the ones she usually saved for church. Walking into the bathroom, Mavis checked her appearance. She touched the blue dress sleeve and smiled. Edward loved blue. He’d say, “Your blue eyes make the sky jealous.”

She paused at the dresser, picking up the framed picture of Edward. He looked so handsome, so tough. So alive. Her heart squeezed. She missed him. “I love you,” she whispered to her husband.

She placed the photo on the dresser. Humming, she crossed the living room. Two windows allowed sunlight into the dark space. One held an air conditioning unit that sputtered with the effort to stave off summer heat. The other, she sometimes opened to allow in the fresh air. The window squealed in protest as she pushed it up. Edward was always squirting WD-40 on squeaky things because he knew she disliked those little annoying noises.

She liked living on the eighth floor, she decided, as she scooted onto the window ledge, careful not to snag her hose. Mavis watched the cars zip back and forth on the busy street. The emptiness that had claimed her for so long drained away. Peace filled her. She laughed. Oh, she’d known it was the right thing to do.

Mavis opened her arms and leaned forward, welcoming the sweet rush of joy that greeted her.

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