unlike how he’d lived. Sometime in the night, as Evaline slept in a floral
gown beside him, Harlan slipped out. He disappeared without so much
as a “Goodbye, darlin’,” the most he’d ever said each morning when he
left for the fields, mug brimming with coffee and brandy in hand.
She leaned against the porch rail, wishing he hadn’t taken her lilacs
with him. She’d have liked to take a cutting with her to the condo, but a
rose twig stuck in a bucket of sand would have to do. She liked roses well
enough, but the lilacs had been her mother’s. Where she’d grown them,
out back of Evaline’s papa’s store on Main, had since been paved into a
parking lot. Paving everything, Evaline thought. One more obstacle for
the dead to overcome in their rising.
She dumped the unused coffee into the trash; she wouldn’t need it
tomorrow. The can would work well for the rose canes. At least he’d
left those, if nothing else. Now, with the salt spill, he’d take the whole
damn farm, even after his death. Evaline closed her eyes. She would have
stayed if he’d let her, if he hadn’t insisted on signing the papers.
But he had, and Kester would see that it was Harlan who’d done it,
and they’d say she had made him, the minion of Kestract. Or worse,
they’d believe the truth for once: Harlan Gillie had sold Kester with the
swipe of his pen. The last of him would be gone, then: his reputation.
Evaline couldn’t bear it.
So senior living, a condo in a retirement community, just a few steps
from a nursing home, where old folks like her went for their bodies to
finish their wearing out. No forwarding address to be left. She’d go off
grid. Underground. Whatever it took to keep the town’s respect for Harlan intact. Her own for him was already so tattered. And yet. There’d
never been a fight big enough to dissolve the marriage; she loved him too
much. Or Kester loved him too much, and she wouldn’t share. As long as
he was hers, she’d won. The handsome altar boy. The hometown farmer
and regional peanut king, savior of soil, war veteran, Elks Club President. Each feather in his cap a star in her crown. No one could touch
Evaline, no matter what wrong they thought she did, as long as Harlan
was hers. Plus, his damned smile.
She wondered if a day would ever pass when she wouldn’t catch herself crying for him being gone. Point three milligrams of sodium in each
teardrop. Another salt spill of his making.
Evaline and Harlan had other plans before he died, but he took those
with him, too. “Blood from a turnip,” Evaline’s mother had said when