Ann touched the dusty lace curtain, frowned at the rips in its gentle web. Beyond the window, late afternoon sun threw shadows across camellias, roses, the neatly clipped lawn. Back when she and Rob moved in, ivy had draped from slender palms, choked the camphor, smothered the grass. A ragged asphalt driveway meandered past the old Victorian house and disappeared behind a leaning grape-stake fence.
The surrounding properties were also in need of repairs. Most of the yards were jungles. Along the street, wooden poles supported a mass of power lines like tangled spaghetti. The curbs were broken chunks. But it was a place where older kids kicked balls in the street or skateboarded down cracked sidewalks. The younger ones gathered on porches and played tag up and down driveways.
It wasn’t beautiful, but Ann and Rob loved it, bought it, cleaned up the yard. Inside, they tossed the olive green carpets, stripped the dated wallpaper, remodeled the kitchen. It seemed like yesterday to her, but only time could bring about so many changes. The neighborhood had gone from working-class to middle-class when the city put the utility wires underground and removed the parkway to widen the street. Now with a grassy center divider down the middle, there was talk of adding a security gate.
A gentle shower began, at first blurring the street, softening her view. She moved the curtain aside as the water came down harder, and she remembered her son, at five or six, out on the old cracked sidewalk in his red raincoat stomping through puddles. She could hear him shouting to the boy next door to come out and play. But he shouldn’t be out there alone. He was too young.
A light flicked on in the hall. Startled, she spun and saw her grown son standing in the dining room doorway. Her heart wobbled. She stopped breathing, her body stilled. But how could that be, buried these long past years?
She wiped her eyes and saw she had, of course, been wrong. It wasn’t him, but her husband.
Turning back to the window, she slid the fallen curtain aside. The sidewalk, when she dared to look, was empty.