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Viv raised her glass to the light, the thick red liquid swirling and glinting; alternately revealing, then concealing, the secrets within its depths. It had been a ridiculously long day, even worse than usual, thanks to a particularly nasty bankruptcy case she’d argued in court. She couldn’t wait to get home, discard her confining suit, pour that first glass, and hope Greg was actually home (for once) to talk to.

Greg was never home to talk to.

In fact, she realized, there was never anyone to talk to. When she herself was actually home, that is. The kids were around, but after she checked in with them, plus Lise, the live-in au pair, they had nothing more to say; she closed their doors, leaving them to their scrolling, slowly descending the stairs to her favorite seat in the kitchen, and her favorite glass.

Who had she talked to about anything other than work, the kids, or running the house recently? When was the last time she’d actually done anything fun, anything for herself?

She swallowed the remaining sip in the glass, and poured another.

Once upon a time, life had been fun. Back before law school, before Greg, before kids, before BMWs and cul-de-sacs and business suits.

Back when things had been simple, and she had no expectations.

Back before nightly wine.

Back in Ghana.

Impulsively, after college, she had enlisted in the Peace Corps, desperate to get away from home, her stifling parents, and everything that was familiar and constraining. She took a position in health education, liking the idea of working to raise awareness about HIV, gender roles, and education and empowerment for girls. Ghanian people were wonderful: welcoming, curious, appreciative of her education efforts; inviting her to share in collecting water, walking to school, cooking and eating meals. She often couldn’t understand everything that was being said, but she never felt out of place, or unwanted, or in the way.

Unlike now.

Now, she had no place, except to keep everything running.

Invisibly. Making money to pay for private schools. Organizing the calendar of appointments, activities, and unnecessary “enrichments,” arranging house and car repairs, groceries, cleaning. And, strangling herself each day with a job that forced her to be intimate with other people’s hostility, vitriol, and secrets.

She hated it. She hated it all. She sighed, head in her hands, staring out the window into the dark, wishing she could just . . . leave. What would happen? Would it all fall apart, this house of cards? If so, who would pick it up? What would be next? How could . . .

No. It was impossible.

She had never just given up. It wasn’t in her. She could never live with herself if she walked away, could never be happy. She would always be wondering, What If. What if I’d just tried a little harder. What if I resolved to be better, happier. It was no good. Complaining never changed anything, anyway.

Viv raised her glass to the light, the thick red liquid swirling and glinting; alternately revealing, then concealing, the secrets within its depths.

Heather Shaff

Heather is a book designer based in Boston who, when she’s not writing or taking care of the fam, can be found racing her bike, enjoying nature, or just daydreaming.

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