May/June 2020 • Vol. XLII No. 3 FictionMay 1, 2020 |

The Widow

One week before meeting Ben, the man who would become my husband, everything I owned was lost in a fire. I came home that night to a scene on the front lawn: young women, all neighbors I’d seen previously only in passing, cried, while a group of firefighters hauled an enormous hose through the wreckage, their boots foundering in the wet soot. Through gaps in the collapsed exterior I could make out the remains of two bathtubs, a sink, a glass coffee table, one bed frame, and a gnarled, bloated mattress, all completely charred to black. Patches of ember glowed beneath the ash. The firefighters laid a small collection of salvaged objects in the grass before us. One of the girls stepped forward and tearfully picked up a little jewelry box. I recognized nothing of my own. All my possessions didn’t amount to much, but still the thought of being without them left me in a panic. I was new to town — I’d been renting the room in that house only for a couple of months and didn’t

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