The Places We Go To (part 3)

A mixture of emotions splashed through him, incredulity and anger among them. Hundreds of thoughts of what might happen now flashed through his consciousness in the blink of an eye. Out of the swirl, a memory of their wedding day lifted to the surface. And of the radiant, shy, skinny girl Alice had been on that rainy spring afternoon forty six years ago. She’d blushed at their first public kiss after the emotional “I do’s.” He remembers the sparkle in her eyes when they parted and the look she gave him that made him feel that he could do anything with her by his side. Edgar’s gaze rested on her face, at the wrinkles and grey hair the years had brought, along with an overall softness that only enhanced her immutable strength. From somewhere deep within, Edgar felt the stirring of laughter that soon escaped his mouth.

Alice stared wide eyed at first, then joined him. It wasn’t long before her laughter turned to sobs.

Edgar gently drew her close and held her until her crying ceased. She hiccupped and sniffled against his neck.
Edgar offered her his handkerchief.

The phone rang.

Edgar felt her body tense, her heart beat faster. “That’s them.” Her voice was high and tight again.
“Do you want me to get it?”

She shook her head. “I need to do this.”

Edgar stood by her side while she apologized. “Of course, yes. I understand.” She hung up the receiver. “No surprise. I’m fired.”

“And?”

“It was strange. Mike said he was sorry it had turned out this way. For some reason I believe him. He said I could come early tomorrow morning to get my things, and just leave the key on his desk. That was very kind of him. I really don’t want to face anyone.”

It was raining the next morning as Edgar drove Alice to get her things. Resting on the computer keyboard at her desk was a big, bright yellow envelope.

“Aren’t you going to open it?”

“Not yet.” She put it in her purse and continued to pack with quick, efficient movements. “I hope I didn’t forget anything.” She scanned the office one last time.

“They’ll let you know if you did.”

“Right.”

After they were several blocks away, and her breathing had calmed down, he asked, “Are you going to open it?”

Wordlessly, she took the envelope from her purse. Several employees had signed the card, wishing her good luck. “Here’s what Helen wrote,” she said. “You did what I would have done if I’d had any courage. And I’m not the only one who thinks that way. We’ll talk. Love you, Helen.” Alice looked at Edgar, the hint of a sad smile playing at the corners of her mouth, eyes bright with unshed tears.

He smiled and touched her cheek. “We’re going to be all right.”

She nodded, leaning into his touch. “I know,” she said, “we will be.”
###

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