There was a time when things were simple. When life was friends and games and school, when even school was mostly the playground. There was a long, easy time of climbing trees and playing monkeys, chasing each other through the dusty leaves and the bitter green cherries. Then she looked down and saw Denny gazing up at her like there was something he wanted, something on a pedestal he could never climb high enough to reach, and life changed in that moment.
She decided, late that night, the night of the day that she’d seen Denny watching her, to start a diary, and she carefully cut all the used pages out of a spiral notebook from school. She wrote “My Diary” on the front cover, and embellished it with hearts and flowers and a pony’s head, and then she put it in her top dresser drawer until she could decide on the best way to say “I saw Denny Martin watching me today, and something woke up.” She never did decide, and the “diary” got thrown away empty a long time later, but over the years since then, she’s picked and worried at that one entry a thousand times, and never gotten it any better. I saw Denny Martin watching me today, and something woke up.
At three in the morning on her first day as Mrs Dennis Martin, knowing no other way to voice the joy and fulfillment that had become her life in those moments the day before, she sat in the bathroom and sobbed as silently as she could, smiling so hard it hurt, the most joyous pain she’d ever felt. Mrs Dennis Martin. Lucy Martin. Lucy Springer Martin. Lucille Ball Springer Martin, actually, and she’d sworn him to secrecy three times in a row before she told him her middle name.
And now, nearly thirty years later, she still feels both, the pain and the joy, the longing and the fulfillment, every moment of every day. All she wanted, all she needed, was him, and all she wants and needs now is for him to be happy. There is no belief in her that a woman needs a man in any magic way, or that no unmarried woman can be happy or complete or fulfilled, only that she needed him, only that she could never be all of herself until he was half of her.
She begins to stack the dishes, running water, squirting soap, watching the tiny bubbles float in the strong light through the window. She stands there, not washing, not scrubbing, just watching the bubbles rise like prayers in the silent house.
Gardening always calms her. It centers her, it reminds her of everything she’s ever loved, of why we’re here, of how our days are supposed to pass. Except today. Today her eyebrows keep drawing together, today her jaw keeps tightening. Today, the hoe loses its rhythmic scuffle and begins to chop angrily. Halfway through each row, she has to stop and breathe. She has to stop and pray.
Midway through the afternoon, she suddenly lays her hoe aside and heads for the house, walking fast, scrubbing her hands on the seat of her jeans. She ransacks the pantry with no particular thought in mind except make it nice, her face pressed together in something close to pain, something damp and edgy. She finds the last of her dried apples, vacuum-packed in glass jars, and a tiny smile dawns in the storm of her face.
Flour, sugar, cinnamon, allspice, butter, her mind calls out, answering itself check, check, check, check, check. Pork and potatoes and salad, and dried-apple pie, and she’ll wear that new dress, the red one he liked so much he couldn’t wait to get it off of her. A stack of 70’s rock on the CD changer and cranked loud, the house smelling of pie crust and pork roast, she begins to dust.