New & Precious Sounds, Bright Flash Literary Review, June 2022

 

Desiree decided to leave her husband while washing dishes on a warm Thursday afternoon. The words landed inside her like a package dropped at the front door: I’m leaving. She was fifty-five, a retired school teacher with no kids of her own. People said she was reliable; people said she was trustworthy. I’m leaving. 

She didn’t walk out on Frank right away. Instead, she lived within her secret, relishing her veiled existence. She imagined herself as sole passenger inside a dim waiting room at a bus terminal, ticket clutched between her fingers; but where would she go?

 

As the days passed, new sounds came to her, sounds that had always been there but that she’d never noticed: her footsteps, creaking down the stairs; the teapot, ticking on the stove as it cooled; the edge in Frank’s voice, the whap of the screen door. Her heart, however, remained untouched, tucked away, deep within.  

 

Would she sneak away at midnight? Or flee in a rage? Would she race off to Paris? Rush into another man’s arms? 

 

For hours, she considered all the possible scenarios, savoring them with a reverence that was entirely new to her.  I’m leaving, I’m leaving.  

 

Frank went on his morning walks; he left for work by seven, returned by six; she cooked him dinner; they ate together, hearts emptied by meaningless conversation; he watched the news; she read a novel; they slept. All the usual things. 

 

On a Tuesday morning in late July, she woke to a tapping—so subtle she’d almost missed it. Something was caught, something alive; like a bird, batting against the walls in a dark panic. She sat up. There was no bird.  More fluttering, and she realized that it was her own heart that had woken her from sleep, a new, precious sound that she could no longer ignore.