Mirabelle’s hands fished in the hot soapy water for another dirty dish. She’d really let them pile up this time.
Yet it was impossible for her to stress over the little things when her hands were soaking in water. It had always been that way. Was it like that for everyone?
Water brought out her dreamy side. Like right now, she mused, as she looked out into the clouds. They parted in the sky, just for her. A sign. She knew she stood at the edge of a new chapter in her life.
A whole new life. And she knew just how to celebrate.
She took a whiff of the peach cobbler baking in the oven. Tonight at supper she’d feasted on her favorite foods, and now she’d finish it off with her favorite dessert.
And she’d have the whole weekend to herself!
Wilfred would’ve hated every last thing she’d cooked today. Shepherd’s pie, red cabbage, stuffed peppers. She’d even had salad with Thousand Island dressing, a thing Wilfred detested. He’d have pulled a face at seeing it on the table, so she rarely bought it.
He’d have frowned on all those dirty dishes.
She shrugged. Well, he wasn’t there to order her around for once. As she washed another plate, she reflected that she’d been bossed her whole life. First her mama and papa, then her five older brothers and sisters. When her mama had birthed Mirabelle’s little sister, Tessa, she’d thought at last she, Mirabelle, could call the shots.
But the baby was colicky and screamed all the live-long day. Mirabelle had been the one to mostly mind her little sister; it had seemed a cruel trick that even an infant could be so demanding.
When Tessa died two months later, Mirabelle was at first relieved that she was gone. But when she saw how her mama’s shoulders drooped from that day on, sometimes Mirabelle would stand at the empty cradle and a sick wave of nothing-will-ever-be-right again came over her. No one knew why the baby died. Sometimes Mirabelle wondered if she had just wished it so.
Now she sighed and watched the clouds chase each other. She turned her focus back to the sink where the hot water had turned her hands all puffy and pink, her left ring finger bare and strange.
She could hardly remember a time without Wilfred. She’d met him at age sixteen, gotten pregnant, and had to marry him. Next thing she knew, they had six children.
She’d spent her whole life under someone’s thumb. But now, things would be different. Yes sirree, come Monday morning, things would be as different as could be.
Her bags were packed; she was ready. It would be on her terms for once. No more Wilfred dictating every little thing. No more children and grandchildren relying on her for everything. They’d have to look out for themselves now.
She thought about the one other time she’d had a few days of freedom, so sweet, like eating a whole stick of cotton candy all at once.
But that delicious freedom had carried sadness with it: her dad had died, and she’d taken the train to be with her mother for the funeral. Wilfred had minded the children.
The night before she left to come back home, her mama had cried and said she hated to see Mirabelle go. Mirabelle had cried too, and she kept on crying, all the way back on the train.
Even now, she felt a lump rise in her throat and brushed away tears with the unsoapy back of her hand.
She wouldn’t think about that. Just about the weekend ahead. She’d watch anything she liked on the TV, she’d read a book cover to cover, she’d put her feet up. She’d let the phone go to answering machine. She wouldn’t do one lick of housework and not even any more dishes. These would be the last.
The dishes now dripping in the rack, Mirabelle dried her hands and pulled the cobbler out of the oven. She’d have a huge dollop of vanilla ice cream on the side. She could almost taste it, creamy and cold wedged against the hot, bubbly peach dessert. And after that, she’d have one or two of those vodka slushies she’d seen in a woman’s magazine her neighbor had finished reading. They’d sounded so good, and today she’d finally made some, just for herself. Oh, she knew what kind of reputation people got who drank alone. But who would know?
“And anyway, Mirabelle,” she said to herself in the empty kitchen, “who gives a shit?”
But first, the cobbler. Golden brown and bubbly; she pulled it from the oven and let it rest on the stove top.
She opened the freezer for the ice cream and nearly jumped a foot.
“Sweet Jesus, Wilfred!” She put her hand on her pounding heart. “I forgot I put you here. Should’ve put you in the basement freezer. Geez.”
She avoided looking at his lifeless eyes, moved his frozen severed head aside, and found the tub of French vanilla ice cream, her favorite.
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