Emily returned to the upstairs and the sorting of her rooms. Instead of taking up where she'd left off in the bath, she viewed her office. In the file drawer of her desk were the bill files, all in order, the information about the checking and savings account, about Mark's 401k account. There was nothing that needed to be touched in there. The second drawer contained a stapler, a ruler, a staple remover, a tape measure, and a box of stationery. Nothing needed to go from there, either. The top drawer held the checkbook and a calendar planner, and a myriad of notepaper pads and variously colored pens. She opened the calendar and noted the day that Mark was to return. Not "return home," just "return." This isn't "home" already. She had about ten days to get herself in order, but could see no problem in that. The big thing was getting the fish to Santa Cruz; she could call the pet store today and find out the name of some company who transported animals safely.
She turned to the bookcase. From its shelves she took the Bible that her mother had given her, Lord of the Rings, White Fang, Ben Hur, and The Prisoner of Zenda along with its tragic companion volume Rupert of Hentzau. And her photograph albums, a thick one of pre-Middi days, a thin one highlighting her father's adventures with Middi. As she stacked them on the desk, she had a stunning thought: she was cleaning and sorting with a different mindset entirely. Where before she had been going room by room in anger and abandonment to get rid of what was no longer useful, now she was preparing to carry away with her only what was necessary for her survival, and shedding the trappings of an old life. She had enjoyed her bookcase of books, and responsibly used her desk, but they were unnecessary to her new direction. There would someday be another bookcase, with other books, but these in the room, other than the stack on the desk, were non-essential. Some day she might have another desk, perhaps a cute little roll-top, but this one was only another symbol of long years of -- Of eating humble pie.
No time like the present for going on a pie-free diet. Pulling the Yellow Pages from her bookcase, she looked up "Movers." Within ten minutes, she had set up an appointment with Danvers Movers to come to the house tomorrow to give her an estimate on moving her essentials -- her bed, her mother's old kitchen table, and her mother's treasures from the attic -- to a storage unit. Elation filled her. I'm going to be GONE.
The office was done. With her new vision of what her task had to be, she went back to the bathroom. From the bottom drawer she took a travel kit, and from the three tangled, messy collections, she chose her face lotion, a tube of hydrocortisone and one of antibacterial ointment, one set of finger- and toenail clippers, dental floss, tweezers, and an unopened package of disposable shavers. Her hairbrush and comb.
The samples of lipstick and facial creams and perfumes and wrinkle removers and eye shadow from the cosmetic counters, as well as the assortment of emery sticks and other clippers, the detritus of combs and bobby pins and curlers -- When the hell was the last time I put my hair up in curlers? Why did I keep them? -- all were dumped into the paper bag. She dampened paper towels again and swabbed out each drawer.
The mirrored cabinet was a collection of sunblocks, powders, packets of allergy pills and various over-the-counter cough syrups and gas remedies. The stick of deodorant joined her collection of keepables, but the rest filled the paper bag. Emily lifted the bag, ready to take it to the garbage can before she started on the bedroom closet, but set it on the desk as the phone began to ring again.
I hope that's not Mark again. "Hello?"
"How are you feeling today? This is KC -- I just wanted to make sure you were all right."
"KC! Yes, I feel just fine this morning, thanks for calling to ask! I was a little stiff when I got up, but that disappeared by the time I had breakfast. You know, I have to thank you again for getting me out of my car before it fell over, and for getting me up that hill -- and for staying with me. It all would have been a nightmare if you hadn't stopped to help me. As it is, it was more like an adventure."
"Well, that's good. But if you feel like having an adventure again, let's try snowboarding or hiking, okay?"
"I'll keep that in mind. Did you dance the rest of the night away at Bobby Lee's?"
"No, I was so cold by the time I got home I just took a hot bath and went to bed. We decided we'd rather go tonight, get there early, leave early, get the best of the music before everyone gets too drunk."
"I can understand that, myself. I really appreciate you calling to check up on me, KC."
"You had some heavy shit dropped on you yesterday. I'm glad you're doing okay. It's hard dealing with everything like that when you're by yourself." There was a silent moment, and KC continued, "Would you like to join us at Bobby Lee's tonight? There's a mixed group of us, a couple professors, some grad students -- Margaret Wills even said she was going to stop by and learn how people are dancing these days."
Mark would have been livid had Emily ever gone to the notoriously uproarious Bobby Lee's on a Friday night, carousing with all and sundry. "Bobby Lee's is where people hang out who get stopped at the door of the country club," he'd told her years ago. "Strictly low-class, for rednecks who think a baked potato with cheese and a beer is a dinner out." And of course, Mark would never have tolerated the company of KC and who knows what-all reprobates she hung around with.
"I've never been there, is it fun?"
"It's a riot. They have a live band on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and the food is good. You see quite a cross-section of Port Laughton in there. We were going to do Poetry Night last night -- everyone brings a poem, puts them into a hat. Later on, everyone draws a poem and gets to read it any way they like. Why don't you come? I hate to think of you sitting all alone worrying about a wrecked car ... and stuff."
I can always bail out and call for a taxi to take me home. "Yes. Yes, I think I will. What time? Six is perfect. Are khakis and a sweater okay for dress? Great. Call me and let me know if you all decide not to go -- I don't want to show up in a strange place and look like a lonesome idiot. I'll see you then! Bye, KC!"
Emily hung up the phone and picked up the bag of junky cosmetics. This is it. When this stuff goes, that bathroom is going to look like a motel room. The only bit of me left in there is what I'll carry with me. She carried the bag down the steps into the kitchen and dumped it into the garbage can on top of the nudes. Be patient, girls. You'll go out with the trash soon enough.
And so will I. The only room left to do was her bedroom, and that one, aside from some clothing that she'd send to a thrift store, was all hers anyway. It was the only room in the house that she'd chosen all for herself, from the four poster bed to the pink and purple comforter, to the puffy pillows, to the dark pink fluffy cotton rugs. Maybe I'll get somewhere else and not like pink anymore. Maybe I'll become a strictly purple person! A purple person without a penny to my name, and therefore, useless. Therefore, trash.
The thought was as clear and cool and refreshing as the springs that trickled down between the redwoods up in the forest on the hill. Useless things had no demands made upon them. They didn't have to be tools for someone to ply; they were not kept safely in padded boxes or wielded for other people's purposes. Useless as a fish, useless as a skunk, useless as a drawing in a journal stuffed under a mattress, useless as a counterfeit dwarf in pieces left to gather dust in the garage.
I can't wait to go out with the trash, myself.
Fantasizing that the objects in the garbage can were as eager as she to leave that house, she carried them out to the big can at the side of the house, and released them to find their new fate.