The evening before had been beautiful—one of those spring nights when the air managed to feel both crisp and warm at the same time. She'd made dinner for them to eat on their small patio out back, with the wild roses climbing over the privacy fence and the sky a constantly changing landscape of pink, orange, and lilac.
As she tossed together a salad to go with their pasta, she'd felt optimistic—hopeful even. Maybe something good would come from this move to sunny south Alabama. Maybe this would be where they could create something lasting—for them, for their marriage, for their life.
She'd planned to bring up the subject of house hunting, but when she joined him outside and glanced at him across the rickety wrought iron table, the sight of his red, tear-rimmed eyes pushed away all her prior thoughts. She was stunned. In the year and a half she'd known him, she'd never seen her husband cry or even come close to it.
"Worth?" She set down her fork and reached across the table. "What's wrong?"
The shape of him was so familiar to her—the slope of his shoulders, his flyaway blond hair, the way his calf muscles narrowed down to his ankles. This evening he'd crossed one leg over the other knee, and his foot bopped up and down. His face, body, even the air around him seemed to quiver with tension. For being so attuned to his body, she wished she knew his mind and his heart half as well.
"What is it?" she repeated.
He took a deep breath and blinked a few times. "I'm sorry I brought you here." His voice trembled as he spoke. "To this new town. This"—he lifted his hand and gestured behind her—"this ugly house. I've completely uprooted you. And for what?" He laughed, but it was devoid of humor.
"Babe, my life was uprooted long before you came along." She smiled to show she was kidding, but they both knew her words were true. "And what do you mean, 'for what'? We came here for your new job. A new start. For both of us. Right?"
He rubbed one eye with the heel of his hand and cleared his throat. "I haven't been a very good husband to you."
The sadness in his eyes almost undid her. She opened her mouth to speak but found she had no words to offer that could fix things. That could fix them.
He gently pulled his hand out from under hers and began to eat, and after a moment she did the same. They didn't talk about looking for houses; they didn't talk about his job. They didn't talk about much of anything.
He remained on the patio long after she cleared the dinner dishes away and wiped the last smudges from the kitchen counter. When he finally came to bed hours later, the scent of whiskey on his breath, he curled his body around hers, his chest pressed to her back. His hand found hers, and they lay like that for a long time, the only sounds their mingled breaths.
Something in his silent embrace felt different from the usual way he held her. It was only now, standing at the counter holding his note, that she put her finger on what exactly she'd felt as he'd tightened his arms around her the night before. It had felt final. He'd been saying goodbye.
* * *
That night Lily poured herself a glass of wine and carried it to the patio. Sitting in the same chair she'd sat in the night before, she gazed across the table at Worth's seat, empty but for a single dragonfly perched on the back. Its iridescent wings glimmered, reflecting the light of another sunset.
She'd spent the day absorbing, digesting, and reframing Worth's disappearance to the best of her ability, yet she'd come up with nothing more than this: she was alone. Again. But this time there was no one else to jump in and save her. Her mom was gone, everything she had that had been connected to her was gone, and now Worth had left too, effectively pulling off the bandage that had been covering up all those wounds. Lily was the only one who remained.
She closed her eyes and took a long sip of her wine, willing it to dull the day's sharp edges. Letting herself sink would be so easy, just like falling asleep. She could cover herself in grief like a blanket and never get up again. But all day something had been prodding her, way at the back of her mind like a dream she'd mostly forgotten. Whatever it was, it was the thing that kept her from sinking. From letting go.