It was raining, a desultory, reluctant, angry rain forced unwillingly from the gray clouds overhead. It dribbled with the fiendish rhythm of a Chinese water torture. Drip. Drip. Drip.
Elyna’s windshield wipers squeaked until she turned them off. But the drops still came down to obscure her sight. From old habit, she pulled into the space that had been hers.
She’d first parked there a couple of times because the space had been open. When she’d moved in with Jack, a lifetime ago, it was seldom open again because her car was in it. After a while if it wasn’t available for her little Ford, she’d curse the visitor who’d stolen it and find some other, less convenient parking place. When that happened, she’d go out to check before bedtime to see if it was open. If it was, she’d repark her car where it would be happy.
“Cars just are, darlin’,” Jack would tell her with a grin as he escorted her out of the apartment to keep watch as she moved the Ford. “They aren’t happy or sad.”
Jack had been in love with her, though, and was patient with her little ways. He’d loved her and she’d loved him in that wholehearted eager fashion that only the young and innocent have—secure in the knowledge that there was nothing so terrible it could tear them apart. Having successfully overcome her Polish and his Irish parents’ objections to their match had only given her more confidence.
She was much less innocent now.
Much, much less innocent.
Parking in that old spot had been habit, but it sat in her belly like a meal too cold. This was a bad idea. She knew it, but she couldn’t give it up without trying to mend what she had . . . lost was the wrong word. Destroyed might have been a more apt one.
She rubbed her cold arms with colder hands, then turned off the motor. Without its warm hum, it was very quiet in the car.
She got out at last, locked the doors with the key fob, and left her car in the parking place that probably belonged to someone else now. Blinking back the aimless raindrops, she tromped through the slush from what must have been last week’s snow on the sidewalk.
Only then did she look at the gray stone apartment building ahead. Did they still call it an apartment building when all of the apartments were being sold as condominiums?
It wasn’t a particularly large building, three floors, six apartments, surrounded by a small front parklike area that had always managed to insert a little color in the summer without requiring maintenance or inviting anyone to linger. This evening, with winter still reigning despite the rain that fell instead of snow, there was no color to be had.
The cut granite edges of the steps were familiar and alien at the same time, worn in a way they hadn’t been when this had been their home—and that strangeness hurt.
Next to the door, blown into the corner of the building, lay a little Valentine’s Day card with a heart on it. The ink had run, fading out the BE MINE to a grayish semidecipherable mush. Only the name Jack scribed in black crayon was still clear. It was both irony and a sign, she thought, but she didn’t know if a child’s wet card was a good portent or not.
She looked up to the topmost windows with longing eyes and murmured, “Be mine, Jack?”
She rang the bell on the side of the door, a new plastic button surrounded by stainless steel, and a buzz released the door lock. The real estate agent must have beaten her here.
She wiped her tennis shoes off on the mat in front of the door and stepped into a small foyer. At first glance, she thought the room hadn’t changed at all. Then she realized that the names written in Sharpie below the numbers on the boxes were different from the names she had known, and the wooden handrail next to the stairs had been replaced with the same polished steel as the doorbell.
“Our place, Elyna, just think of it!” Jack’s voice rang in sudden memory, full of eagerness and life.