There was a slight smudge on the window where she’d laid her forehead, distorting the precise lines of the house across the street. She knew exactly what Charlie would have said about where she lived, remembering only too well how he’d spit out the word suburb like an obscenity. To him all the big houses and manicured lawns she and her neighbors worked so hard to maintain were no better than prisons, perversions of nature, stolen property, pretentious and artificial. Maybe so, she thought smiling grimly, but it was a lot better than wherever he was now, wasn’t it? To most people this place was a lot closer to heaven than to hell – Linda, her girlfriend from school, for instance, whose father had developed the area, making millions by transforming what had been just another of the grimy bohunk bedroom towns that surrounded the mills into an enclave for the rich refugees who kept spilling out of the city. What Charlie had seen as a predatory razing of history, Linda had found heroic, a visionary stroke of genius by the father she idolized.
Linda had been an enthusiastic and unquestioning devotee of school, church, country, family – everything her parents believed in, she believed in more. Popular despite a decided homeliness, her enthusiasm had always seemed well founded, as she became the first class president in the history of the school, and later married her first and only boyfriend, surrendering her virginity on her wedding night. Her first child came ten months later, and three more almost as regularly after, even as she worked her way up the corporate ladder at her father’s realty company, groomed as the great man’s eventual successor.
If Charlie had been aware of it, he would have no doubt found it deeply ironic that this firm follower of a disciplined, healthy lifestyle and regular check-ups had developed a malignant tumor resistant to all the weapons of medical science. Even her cherished faith had let her down – she’d caused a minor sensation at her conservative church when she’d stood up at her prayer and healing mass, her once luxuriant blond hair reduced to irregular tufts, and vowed loudly to "kick cancer’s ass" with the help of God and positive thinking. She’d died soon after, leaving career, church, children, parents and quickly remarried husband behind, her obituary considerably longer than Charlie’s, but with the same conclusion.
Now a battered pickup turned down the street and rattled past, several lawn mowers in the equally battered trailer fishtailing behind, no doubt a landscaper getting in one last grass cutting before the raking and shoveling season began. She’d always thought that if she knew one thing about herself it was that she was a survivor, but lately she’d come to realize that her survival was simply an accident like any other, that it really didn’t have anything to do with her. The way people thought about things didn’t matter, their beliefs were just another way to shield themselves from the world, like a white picket fence or the glass in a window.
Her forehead fell back to the pane and for a moment all she was aware of was the sway of shadows.
— the end —