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Six weeks. In six weeks Rainey Forrester would be leaving home, the only place she’d ever loved. Been loved, Felt loved.
In six weeks she’d be handing over the keys to someone else. To prepare, she’d written notes. Endless notes explaining why the last door in the hall didn’t match the rest (a fire in 1897) or why the kitchen floor looked so ancient compared to the rest of the house (reclaimed lumber.) It made her feel better and it was the least she could do.
She loved the house, loved its arching doorways and the wavy curved glass in the bay window. She’d sat for hours with a toothbrush and a nail file, cleaning paint from the carved bannister. Tracking down the historically accurate wallpaper for the hallway had taken months, but the house deserved it. It had sat, abused and abandoned, for so long. Rainey felt its pain as she poured into it all the energy, all the time, she’d once reserved for her job.
“You love this house more than me,” Doug had said. And she couldn’t argue. It was likely one of the reasons they were divorcing. Rainey didn’t know when she’d stopped loving Doug. It had built up over their 30-year marriage, growing like mold in the basement, unseen until someone shines a light in the right corner.
That slimy corner had held Doug’s girlfriend, probably one of many. Rainey refused to learn her name. It didn’t matter. It wasn’t her fault. This divorce had been coming for a long time and now that it was finally here, she faced it head one. No one could say Rainey Forrester wasn’t a realist. She’d come out of this looking like a winner. It hurt a little, but not as much as losing the house.
Still, she couldn’t be there while the furniture was hauled away, to be stored in an old brick warehouse until she and Doug could stand being in the same room to divide it. Instead, she drove to the cottage. The lake in Wisconsin. There, Marin and Laurel, her eternal best friends, would meet her, carrying bottles of wine and bags of food like they had every summer. As the days fell shorter, the three friends would sit in dock-side adirondack chairs, staring at the sparkling water as they recalled their high school days. Their college days. Their weddings. Rainey’s was the first divorce they’d have to discuss and she felt a perverse pride, like she’d accomplished something none of her friends had attempted.
They would arrive late, having left Concordia mid-morning. Rainey, left at dawn, taking the back roads from her Chicago neighborhood, ignoring the tollway. It calmed her to see the factories turn into subdivisions, then into farmhouses and small towns with a single stop sign at the middle of town.
The cabin smelled of wet towels and dead mice. A mason jar of wilted daisies sat in the center of the farmhouse table, the petals, curved like fingernail clippings, littered the linen tablecloth. Chairs and couches still wore the summer white of slipcovers. By now, she would have taken out the fleecy throws, laid the wool rugs on the painted floorboards. The screens would be stored and storm shutters readied to close against the winter. She would have come up weeks earlier — her and Doug — and prepare for winter. Instead, they’d prepared for court.