An Ordinary Sanctuary


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2. Passing Thoughts

 

 Dinner was subdued that night. Karen wandered the house in a trance for most of the afternoon, trying and failing not to think, before she started on dinner. It was way over the top. There were two salads, and a bruschetta, and pork loin and two kinds of cakes already prepared. She was in such a trance she didn't notice Ashley coming home.

 

“Oh. That was today.”

 

Karen looked over her shoulder, said nothing, and went back to slicing vegetables.

 

“Expecting company?” Ashley tried again.

 

Karen just shrugged.

 

“When's he coming home?”

 

Chop. Chop.

 

Ashley rolled her eyes and retreated to the stairs. She was halfway up there when she heard a couple sniffs, and she paused, but then she kept going. She wasn't in the mood to deal with it.

 

The house itself hadn't changed much over the last ten years, but every memory it told was a double-edged sword. There was an easy chair in the loft where Dad used to read Thomas the Train, and where she would catch Dad snoring softly after midnight. There was a picture of them all out at the cabin, where she first rode a canoe and first tucked him in.

 

There was a baseball glove in the corner of her room, where she first played catch, first waved to him in the stands, first scanned the empty stands and tried not to cry.

 

Ashley locked her room behind her, although she didn't really need to. Mom had come up with a basket of laundry a couple years ago and found her sprawled on the bed wit her lab partner, who was busy investigating her bra. The next time they saw each other, Karen was drinking a glass of wine and pretending to read a magazine. “I was thinking,” Karen had said without looking up. “You're getting old enough to do your own laundry.” Force fields. That was how they did things.

 

Ashley flopped back on her bed and reached for her phone. He should be out by now.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Hey, babe,” said Ashley.

 

A grunt. “Don't you babe me. What's up?”

 

“Not much. Mom's making her going away dinner.”

 

“Ohh.” She could feel him soften. “I'm sorry, Ash. We'll hang out tonight.”

 

“No mushy shit,” she said.

 

“Of course.”

 

“Bring weed,” she added.  

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