On the walk to the bus stop I noted it must have rained in the night. The gravel beneath where my husband’s truck had sat light grey whereas the gravel around it was dark.

“Mama, I can smell the rain. Isn’t it strange, how we can smell the rain?” My son said as we walked hand in hand to the bus stop.

Strange, yes it is strange. And yet, every time I step outside after rain has fallen through the night I inhale, welcoming the smell of rain. Not as intense as freshly cut grass, a subtle scent all its own. The smell of rain is scent anew.

The scent is fresh. Like the removal of stale air that has consumed any sense of goodness in the oxygen which we breath. The air we had previously become accustomed to, not knowing it was anything but fresh and in fact was no better than day old bread left out to dry. Each day we had come out for a walk, inhaling deeply, satisfied. All the while filling our nostrils and our lungs with less than. Okay to be satiated, by stale air.

And then, rain falls. Our senses awakened. Eyes close, shoulders drop then rise, lungs expand, spine lengthens. Scent anew fills our nostrils from the freshly fallen rain having cleared all pollution.

“I’m sorry you have to live in this hideous apartment. You deserve better than this.” My brow furrowed as I watched his eyes scan the room.

Inwardly I chastised myself for opening the door to him. It was after midnight. I was alone in the apartment my daughter and I had fled to in the middle of the night just a few short weeks ago. The knock had startled me as I tip-toed around the lonely apartment. My daughter was at her first sleep over with a girl from her new school. She was only half a block up the street. I assured myself I could go get her if she needed me at any moment. I quickly realized it was I who needed her.

He stepped towards me. I backed away.

“You don’t have to stay here, you know. You can come back home. I forgive you.” Once again, I was in the wrong and he was here to assure me he would take me back.

I scanned the room just as he had. Mouth closed, words caught in my throat. Our living room had a full-size sofa and matching love seat, an oak framed glass coffee table and two matching side tables. a large tube television sat on a stand across the room from the sofa, antenna sticking up, reaching for the connection floating in the air above our home.

My hand slid across the clean surface of the dining room table in front of me. Large oval dark brown formica surface with heavy metal legs holding it up. Four solid chairs reminded me of captains seats on the Star Trek Enterprise I used to watch on Sunday nights as a kid. He stood behind one of the faux leather chairs, staring at my face. Our eyes connected. His full of question. Mine, empty.

“What are you thinking?”, he asked.

I shook my head.

“Come. on you can tell me. Really. I’m here for you. You and Laurie can come back to me. Like none of this ever happened. You can leave this dump and we can be a family again.” His eyes sparkled, pleased with himself.

I hadn’t understood what he saw when he first walked into the apartment. His words condemning what felt and looked beautiful to me. Each day I walked into this space, ever amazed at what my eyes beheld. The apartment was simple, comfortable, safe. A few photos of Laurie and I in frames I had purchased at Fred Meyer sat on the side tables. New memories we had created going on bike rides, just the two of us.

He spoke again, and it hit me, the air was growing stale. Each word he spoke emitting toxins into the space around us.

“We should watch a movie together. Maybe you could cut my hair.”

I glanced at the stack of papers on the table.

“I need you to sign these papers.” It was the first I had spoken since letting him into my home.

I slid the papers across the table toward him and grabbed a pen.

“What papers?”

“Divorce papers. It’s not final. I mean, if you go to counseling like you said you would, we can talk about working things out. But, for now, I need you to sign these papers.” I stared at him. He was silent. I willed him to respond, praying he would sign them.

“If I go to counseling, you’ll come back to me?” Don asked, his brow raised as he waited my reply.

“If you keep your word, we can talk about it. But first you need to sign these. I won’t file them yet. Please, do this one thing, for me.” I extended my hand offering him the pen.

He took the pen, looked into my eyes one more time before leaning over the table. I watched as he signed, tapped the pen on the table two times before setting it down.

“Can I have a hug?”, he asked.

I stepped towards him and allowed his arms to encircle my body. I kept my arms wrapped tight around myself, my body stiff to his touch. He held me for what seemed like an eternity. I cleared my throat and moved to step back. His arms released their hold on me.

“I’ll call a counselor tomorrow. You’ll see. I mean it.”

Don turned and walked towards the door to leave. I followed him, several steps behind.

His hand on the knob, he paused.

“I love you.”

I remained silent. He turned the knob, opened the door and left.

I closed the door behind him and turned the deadbolt. My heartbeat raced inside my chest. I turned back to the table and picked up the stack of papers, checking each page for his signature. Ninety days after filing, I would be free.

I inhaled. The air, like after freshly fallen rain, filled my lungs.

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