Permisson.

He stood on his porch, hands in his pockets, watching his neighbors come and go. He waved and smiled at them while, inside, his wife muttered about her bread not rising properly and needing time to do her hair before the reunion.

She was like this every year. Nervous about making a good impression. Nervous about seeing her high school sweetheart again.

This was the sweetheart that got away, not only from her, but from the town, the state. The sweetheart that made something of himself and returned in triumph for an idyllic retirement with his lovely wife. The wife that passed away last January.

He studied his flower beds. The marigolds needed weeding. He wondered who was pitching in the game that afternoon.

He removed his hands from his pocket and went back inside.

“I’m not going.”

His wife turned from the oven, her face red and sweaty. “What?”

“To the reunion. You should go alone.”

She closed the oven door and started wiping flour off the counter with a sponge. “Of course you’re coming. Don’t be stupid.”

“I want you to go alone. Have a good time. Spend the night if you’d like. Then come home to me.” He paused until she stopped cleaning and looked at him. “Be sure to tell Jim I say hello.”

Their eyes locked.

“You mean…”

“Have fun and then come home to me.”

She ran her hand through her gray hair, making her bangs stand up straight. She nodded, once, before turning back to the counter.

He left in search of his gardening gloves and trowel.

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