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Week number one: New Year’s Day. Week number two: Birthday.
Number? Right. Numb seemed more like it.
She’d closed the lid on her tears. The rest of the boxes sat unopened in the living room. He put the boys to bed, while she removed the last traces of eye-makeup and splashed her face. The water–chilled by sub-zero temperatures outside–took forever to warm, snaking its way up to the second-floor bathroom. She continued until it began to drip toward her elbows. She looked in the mirror. It was over. The nightmares had stopped.
Their heavy woolen blankets, nestled between sheets and comforter, could block out anything–even a vengeful winter wind. It was warm. He’d slipped in at least fifteen minutes before. Sleep came easily. She’d wondered if she would ever feel that lightness again–that delicious moment when wakefulness passes the baton to the filtering dreamworld of subconsciousness.
He’d asked his secretary to call. Strange. Why would her mom’s insurance agent want her to stop by his office? Whatever. She set out, tires crunching the winter snow, settling in for the two hour trip. When she stepped into his office, he offered a handshake, and with other held out an envelope. “Please, have a seat. Would you like some coffee?”
“Yes. Please. Definitely! It will feel good.” The brave sun was doing its best, but clear overnight skies had unmercifully allowed the previous day’s heat to escape.
Her hands felt steady. It was an act of will. With no particular attention paid to undoing the clasp, she slid out the single sheet of paper. The handwriting was familiar.
“I just wanted you to know,” it began, “in case I wouldn’t have had a chance to say good-bye, that you were a good daughter. I was proud of you, and I haven’t forgotten. Happy Birthday! I will see you again soon. Love, Mom.”
The buzzer on the radio-alarm brought her back. She drew in a deep breath as she heard a few cars crunching to a stop at the intersection below her window. She rolled onto her back, still clutching the sheet-blanket-comforter assemblage so she could draw in the dry, warmed air more easily.
Awareness–the envelope, reaching through the thin veil between life and death and plopping into her hands with an unassuming assurance–had sealed the trust. The nightmare was over, indeed.