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Lists

Every time Lily opens the windows to let in the salt-sea air, dozens of her lists--they're scrawled on the backs of envelopes or torn from spiral ring notebooks--blow about the house like small kites, then settle to the floor with a sad sashay; he teases her about this, the grocery list (broccoli, bread, capers) in the bathtub, the movie recommendations (Beyond the Clouds, Larks on a String, anything with Charles Laughton) between the cushions of the couch, but his tone implies that this is an allowable eccentricity, until he finds, beside the toaster, a notebook containing a list of names, and then he butters his toast and pours himself a cup of coffee, and sits down at the breakfast table to tell her again that he's too old to have more children, that he's already had a family, and didn't they have an agreement, and she listens and nods, and her grief feels unanchored, like dandelion fluff, and for months afterward, she is tempted to do what many have done before her, but she doesn't, instead she hopes he'll change his mind, and time passes, and she adds more names to the list, and attends, when invited, other women's baby showers, and buys them pretty pink and blue gifts, and then one day, she notices that her grief is no longer a floating thing, but has begun rolling through her, like a round, hard pellet, and that's the day she stops adding names to the list, and begins, instead, once a month, to cross them off.

©Stephanie Harrison, appeared first in Northwest Review