Every morning for ten years you stand on the front porch, smiling and waving as Tom pulls out of the driveway. Neighbors drive past and wave. You smile and wave. This morning is no exception.
You pause a moment to take in the splendid morning. The forecast called for rain, but the sun is warm on your face and the sweet smell of honeysuckle fills the air. The weatherman got it wrong again. You feel so lucky to be alive. There’s a bounce to your step as you turn to go back inside the house.
Tom has left the coffeepot empty as usual. You always make him a full thermos to take to the office; the coffee at work is too bitter. He reminds you of his hour-long commute and his stressful job. Most mornings it irritates you because he didn’t leave you a cup, but this morning it doesn’t bother you. Tom puts himself first. But you live with it. This morning you sent him off with homemade sugar cookies. His favorite snack for his drive home. Make another pot of coffee and relax. There’s plenty of time to get the house clean before Tom comes home.
Time has gone by so fast. Not just the past couple of hours, but the past ten years. You remember the first day you met Tom. You had stepped in a crack in the sidewalk, broke the heel of your best shoes, and scattered your entire purse. Embarrassed, you tried to act composed, but you felt like a clumsy fool. Tom had smiled and helped you gather yourself. He insisted on buying you a cup of coffee to help you relax. You accepted and here you are ten years later.
Every marriage has its rough patches. You made a vow, till death do you part. Tom was the portrait of a perfect husband—to everyone but you. You had aspirations of advancing your career, starting a family, and having a happily ever after ending. He never wanted children. And no wife of his would work outside the home. Here you sit, waiting on the clothes to finish drying and the dishwasher to stop. You still have a chance for the happily ever after ending.
You don’t have time to sit and reflect on the past. Tom doesn’t appreciate a messy house or a late dinner. You need to get dressed and tidy up the bathroom. Put on the pink dress—the one Tom likes, but you hate. The bruise on your side is not as painful today, and the color is fading. It’s turned a pale yellow, almost unnoticeable. The flowers Tom sent are also fading. They sit on the dresser in the bedroom. Time to throw them out.
Did you forget to put Tom’s beer in the refrigerator? He likes his beer cold when he gets home from work. Better start the pot roast, you want it to be tender and juicy for dinner. Tom doesn’t like dry pot roast. You know what happened when the chicken was too dry last week. Oh, put the vegetables in at the right time. You don’t want them to overcook.
You sing along with the radio while setting the table. It aggravates Tom when you sing with the radio; he calls you tone deaf. Singing makes you happy, so you sing. You hear a car pull into the driveway. It’s not time for Tom to be home. The doorbell rings. You turn off the radio and answer the door. It’s your neighbor Frank, the state trooper, that lives down the block.
“Sarah, I hate to tell you, Tom has been in an accident.” Frank’s voice is somber.
“Oh, God! Is he all right? Did he get hurt?” The words spill out of your mouth. You feel a burning lump creep up in your throat. You swallow hard, trying not to vomit.
“I’m sorry Sarah, Tom didn’t make it. He’s dead,” Frank says.
“No, no, that can’t be right. He’s on his way home.” Your knees feel weak. You can taste the salty tears. The funny thing about tears, they all look and taste the same. Tears of relief, joy, pain, and grief—all the same.
“Tom ran off the road a short time after he left work. They think he had a seizure,” Frank took a breath. “He was dead when the ambulance got there.”
“This can’t be real.” You cry harder, covering your face with the tail of your apron.
“Do you want me to call Linda to come over and stay with you tonight?” Frank asked. Linda was Frank’s wife. She was the first to welcome you and Tom to the neighborhood.
“If we can help, just let us know,” Frank whispers.
“Thank you, but I’ll be okay tonight,” you say brushing your hair back from your face. “Where did they take him? I need to arrange for his memorial service.”
“You can call the coroner’s office in the morning. They can help you with the details.” Frank steps off the porch to leave. He pauses. “Try to rest.”
“I will. I just need to be alone right now.” You turn and go inside.
You collapse on the sofa. You clutch your hands to keep them from trembling. Take a deep breath. You have things to do. Go clean your face and change out of that hideous pink dress.
The pot roast turned out exceptionally moist tonight. The vegetables cooked to perfection. Tom would have approved. You clear the dishes and leave them in the sink. No one to please, but yourself. You clean up the laundry room before going to sleep. Fold the towels and put the rat poison back in the cupboard. You wonder if Tom enjoyed his favorite cookies on his way home.
It doesn’t seem like a week since Tom died. You had him cremated. Tom would have wanted to be on display, not stuck in an ordinary urn. You step out of the black limo. You’re wearing the black dress, the one Tom hated. You pause and breathe in the sweet, damp air. The forecast had called for clear skies. Wrong again, weatherman. You glance at your watch, you are ten minutes late. Fashionably late to Tom’s memorial service. Perfect. Tom hated it when you were late. You shrug and enter the chapel.