Rose hangs the knitted suit jacket on a padded hanger and steps into slippers waiting by the bed. Pouring herself some Postum, she settles in at the kitchen table to sort the piles of papers. Clear on her choice, now it is just a matter of tidying up the details. Midway through the stack of documents a memory flutters through the window and floats around the room. It leads her to the foyer where she opens a small door under the stairwell. Deep storage, she calls it, since most of the items stowed there when she moved into the house, have not been looked at since. Behind the old Electrolux, under a layer of ribbons and wrapping paper, is a metal trunk, excellent at keeping out mice and moisture. Rose drags it out far enough to slip her arm under the lid; touch is all she needs to see inside. First she feels the shoe box of old photos and sets it behind her on the rug. Then her fingernail clicks a button eye: the stuffed bear. She can’t bring it out, not today. A tap is enough for the wooden cover of the scrapbook she made that first summer and she has only to rub a corner of the ornate frame to see the image it holds. But when she sinks her hand into scratchy wool her fist closes around it. And for some reason, today of all days, she takes the sweater from the trunk. It is a fisherman’s style, hand knit of wool in a mossy green. Giving it a shake, she slips it over her head. The sleeves are so long they cover her hands. Then a shadow of exhaustion passes over her. She lies down on the sofa to close her eyes for a moment, while her mind drifts back fifty years.
Wind gusts through the trees, raining needles into the clearing. Rose sits on a boulder, tracing each letters on the flat stone with her finger. Her heart is a prune in her chest; dry, shriveled, rattling around in a hole too big for it. She stretches the neck of the sweater to cover her throat and pulls the cuffs down over her hands. Her fingers work a loose strand of yarn into a hole. A storm is coming, but she can’t leave him here alone. If only she could crawl under the stone marker. “Mommy. Mommy!” Life is calling her. “I’m coming, Peter.” It is time to go. She takes her toddler’s hand and they follow the path back to the Buick. She beds him down on the backseat, hoping he will nap on the drive home. Before pulling away she turns for one last glance, to make sure a part of her is still sitting on the rock.
And that’s where she stays, until the following afternoon when the upstairs neighbor, stopping by on her way to the grocery, finds her.