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by Diane D. Gillette

The contents of my closet litter the bed. It doesn’t make sense to leave anything. But only so much will fit in my suitcase.

I’m baffled by how much stuff I accumulated in just a year. After the fire, I was left only with what I’d worn to the ugly Christmas sweater party. The snowman lit up and blinked to the rhythm of Jingle Bells, a useless SOS raging against the flames of our house.

It was bitter cold that night. Marc’s mother knew we didn’t want her smoking in our house. She was a sweet woman. Adored her grandson. But she could be flighty.

Marc’s sweater was worse than mine. He looked ridiculous as he ugly-cried on the curb. They hadn’t even told us what we’d lost yet. But the numbness had already begun to tingle around my heart. Maybe I was just jealous that Marc could feel something while I worried I’d never feel anything again.

We tried to fill the hole the fire left behind. So much damn stuff. We took the insurance money. Bought a new house. Infected our lives with clothes, gadgets, all the latest in everything. Everyone says you have to keep on living. No one ever says why or what for.

Marc comes to our bedroom. He studies the mess. The open suitcase.

“So this is it? You’re going to burn down our marriage too?”

I turn my back to him and throw clothes in the suitcase. I stop when I grab the snowman sweater. I flip the switch that makes it light up, but the battery must be dead. I throw it in.

“Haven’t we lost enough?” Marc tries again.

“There’s nothing here worth saving.”

“Each other?”

I hear the sincerity, and I wonder how he can believe I could ever look at him again without seeing our son’s eyes and dimples. That certain way he cocked his head when he wanted something I’d probably refuse. Marc cocks his head just so now. For just a moment, I see a glimpse of our son standing behind him. I shake my head, and he curls away like a wisp of smoke.

Diane D. Gillette lives, writes, and teaches in Chicago. Her work has appeared in over 50 literary venues including the Saturday Evening Post, Blackbird, Hobart, and the Maine Review. You can find more of her published work at digillette.com.