Here is another installment in the new novel. The story about the newly-widowed woman deciding to take the life-insurance proceeds and sink them into an old mansion in the little town where she lives.
Elizabeth knew it would come again. There would be another conversation with Susan. And Susan would be prepared this time. Elizabeth would give the same answers to the same questions: it was an emotional decision, finally, to buy the old house, but not a sentimental one. It was not just nostalgia. Nostalgia was a longing for something you once had and lost – or at least you believed you once had it. The two women had fought that very thing for years and finally overcome it. But this emotion of hers was not that. She knew good and well she had never had the thing she was now longing for and she knew as well that that thing, whatever it was, might not exist and if it did it might never be called into being by a habitation of this old mansion. She was also ready for the questions about the practical consequences of such a decision. She was not denying them. Not denying that this allocation of her substantial but not unlimited resources would limit her choices for the rest of her life. Her winters would not – would likely never – be spent in Florida or the Caribbean. She would drive the same, old car she was driving now for years. Maybe for the rest of her life. But Susan would not let it rest, she knew. Susan had made her own mistakes and had paid and was continuing to pay for them and she would not stop at polite distance from the hard questions.
The time came only days later. Elizabeth knew going in what was up. Susan was test-driving a new car and asked her to come along. Susan had been permitted to bring the car – a new crossover – home with her for the day and night. And so the two of them were back on the road, up and down the blocks and the miles that they had driven together, time and time again, from high-school days, through Susan’s divorce and, last of all, during the months after Elizabeth lost her mother. This was their ritual; their inner sanctum.
Twenty minutes in, Elizabeth started the small talk. She liked the car. Liked how it felt; how it seemed to handle. You should get yourself one like it, Susan said. Makes it easier in the snow. I know, Elizabeth said. I know.
They drove on, past the old river beach where both of them had gone in the springs and summers of their early twenties. This is where they had spent the important time with the men they would marry. Neither woman could look at the low beach across the pooled river without emotion. Without, to tell the truth, those thoughts that lie too deep for tears. It was not that they missed the men. They missed who they were back then, when they walked with such confidence and hope. Because of all that, and because each knew the other’s mind – had to know; just no question that the other had to feel the same – neither of them spoke a word of it. Neither of them allowed themselves to even look long at the old beach, now covered with a soggy blanket of autumn leaves, as they went on.