Heidi stacked the flattened cardboard on the growing pile in her living room and slumped against the wall. She'd been unpacking for days, yet she could barely move in the room for all of the boxes still left unopened.
Most of them were Ben's. He would shudder with rage if he could see the gouges and dented corners. The movers had treated their things with little care. Three moves equals a fire. Her dad–an Air Force maintenance officer–had loved to say that. Heidi always admired his cheerful acceptance of the inevitable destruction each move brought.
Now, however, it was too close to the truth. Before any thoughts could take hold, she rose, knees creaking in protest, and stretched her tired shoulders. Skirting around the unopened pile of boxes against the wall, she moved into the kitchen and grabbed a carton of ice cream.
Nothing else tasted good anymore, but Ben would not approve.
Heidi slammed her spoon on the granite breakfast bar. “Ben's not here!” She could eat whatever the hell she wanted. Besides, it was okay, the ice cream was organic.
Then she put her face in her hands and cried.
Ben was everywhere in this new house that was supposed to be theirs together. He was in the bookshelf they had picked out for his history reference books. He was in the worn leather chair that sat empty by the window. He was in the photograph of their latest trip to the beach, hamming it up in his green and pink hibiscus-print swim trunks. But he would never set foot in this house that held so much of him.
The arsonist had seen to that.
Heidi took a deep breath and wiped her tears. With a shake of her head, she rose from the stool, cleared her bowl, and got back to work. There were still three boxes of history books that needed to be shelved.
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