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May 21, 2012

She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally decided to walk through the door. Mom’s blouse catches in the door jam as she runs out of the house and down the walk in the rain with bare feet to watch the taillights of the car roll away. The spring storm drenches her as she stands at the end of the walk, one hand on the chain link fence. Lightening illuminates a black cloud behind her and a giant clap of thunder booms above. Instinctively pulling her hand away from the fence she clutches it under her chin with both elbows pressed tight against her ribs she shivers soaking wet.

Turning back toward the house she sees me staring out of the window. With shame at first then just blankness she walks up the stairs two at a time, opens the door, shakes her wet head walking into the living room and strips off her wet clothes. She says over her shoulder, “I’ll be right back after I change, go set the table.”

“Uhhuh.” I mumble and watch her go up the stairs in her underpants twisting her long hair up into a bun. In the kitchen I take down the plates and cups and set them on the table.

I put the forks on the yellow napkins I love with the orange flowers beside the plates. There is nothing cooking for dinner and I am not sure why I am setting the table. I sit down at the table and watch the sky fold into darkness listening to the gutters rush with water.

I hear her call out to me while I stare out of the window and she walks into the dining room, turns on the light. “Why are you sitting here in the dark?” she asks sharply flipping the light switch. “Gosh it got dark fast with this storm. Dinner will be ready in a minute, I have left over salad and chicken from yesterday, okay?” I hear the fridge open, the stove click on and the kettle being filled. .”Do you want tea? I am freezing cold! Mint or regular?”

“Mint.” I say without thinking. “Get the water pitcher please and fill it. Feed the dog, she’s making me nuts.” I go to the screened in porch behind the kitchen and fill Busters bowl and she runs in, licks the back of the my leg in thanks and pushes me aside to eat her dinner. Back in the kitchen she hands me the green water pitcher and I fill it and take it to the table.

The rain lets up and the winds die down. The recent blossoms lay on the street bruised like day old pink snow. She brings in dinner balancing the salad bowl under her arm and the plate with chicken in the other and sets them down on the table. She starts to sit down but jumps up, “I forgot the tea!” As the kettle starts to whistle but then looks down at the table, sees the third plate I set without thinking. She picks it up, walks to the back door, opens the screen door and sails it out into the yard. The plate hits the dogwood and shatters scarring the dog making her look up from her dinner. My mother wipes her hand on her new dry shirt and shuts the door and says, “Never again. He is never coming back.” And walks to the kitchen and shuts off the kettle.

Thunder claps and sounds just like his slap across her face.

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