The light in the park that afternoon was hazy, ethereal.
“… So Susan thinks the assessor will be over on Tuesday, and then we’ll know more,” Catherine chattered.
As they walked, hand in hand, his fingers fiddled with hers. They reached a fork in the soft clay path near an old woman knitting a red sweater. She looked a little like the woman who had lived on the corner when he was a kid. Luke took a deep breath, “Honey, I had that follow-up meeting today. It didn’t go well.”
Catherine stopped and faced him, “Oh, babe—why did you let me go on and on about Susan’s stupid plan? Are you okay?”
Luke couldn’t meet her eyes. “I’m okay, I guess. I don’t really understand how I went from being part of the leadership, making the important decisions to…” his voice broke and his eyes began to glisten “being the only one at fault when it all hits the fan. In some ways, it’s kind of a relief. I feel like there was nothing I could do avoid it, in the end. They made up their minds weeks ago. They’re letting me wrap up some things between now and the end of the month, and I’ll get severance. That plus our nest egg should carry us through for a little while, and maybe I can get some consulting work…”
She reached up and fingered the hair at the back of his collar. “Baby, it’ll be alright. We’ll figure it out.”
He looked hunched and tired when he walked through the door, and it wasn’t a good sign that he was home hours earlier than usual. Mentally, she braced herself.
“Honey, it looks like you need some air. The doctor has been saying you needed to be more active— let’s walk in the park.”
He agreed absently. His face was such an upsetting shade of grey. She knew he’d need her to fill up the space between them until he was ready to tell her what he had to say.
She grabbed his hand and started telling him the littlest details of her day. She knew he wouldn’t really listen, so she gabbed and chattered. She really couldn’t have even told you what she was saying. She looked at the old woman knitting on the bench as they approached. The memory of her late mother filled her chest with an ache. Would these waves of memories ever get easier to bear?
She felt him brace to tell her his news. She refocused on his face and made her expression neutral.
Lurlene brought her knitting to sit beneath the ancient maple. She could no longer hear the wind rustling the leaves, but she imagined it, as she felt the breeze. Her old house didn’t have air conditioning, and the shade and the breeze were a relief to her after her stuffy house.
The couple approached the bend before her. The man had the hunched shoulders of a man defeated. The woman clearly knew more than she let on, and was waiting for the man to tell her his tale in his own time.
The sweater was almost done. Her hands ached, and she put the needles in her lap and stretched her hands and groaned softly. But as they walked away, she started thinking. Maybe something for the holidays, next.