by Madeline Anthes
My husband is gone.
The other women cry for their missing men. I see them in town, their babies swaddled against their chests. Their eyes are red and swollen. They are the picture of grief. Loneliness.
They take my hands as though to unite our pain. “We will survive this. They will return.” The women in town sing this chorus, as though repetition would make it so. We should fill each other with hope.
The day my husband packed his belongings into his satchel and put on his uniform, I kissed his cheek and straightened his collar.
“I’ll come home,” he said, taking on the face of a soldier. Serious. Focused. “We’re fighting for independence. Liberty.”
He liked to repeat things I already knew.
“Fight hard,” I told him.
He slung his musket over his shoulder and gave me a smile. It was the smile I’d loved so long ago. I’d found him so handsome.
My lungs expanded when the door latch dropped, inhaling something sweet and foreign. The house was so quiet.
I unpinned my hair and sat in the chair by the fire. It was the chair he usually sat in after dinner. Where he smoked his cigar and read the Bible. It was softer than my wooden chair, and it was closer to the fire.
Maybe if he’d left when we were eighteen and newly wed. Maybe if our home didn’t feel so small with the two of us filling it. Maybe if I could breathe this way all the time. Maybe if I’d had a chair as comfortable as his.
But I don’t.
So I tell the other ladies to be strong. I return home with my goods and I take off my cloak.
I sit in my husband’s chair and enjoy the quiet.
Madeline Anthes is an ex-Clevelander living in eastern PA. She is the acquisitions editor for Hypertrophic Literary, and her work can be found in journals like Cease, Cows, Lost Balloon, WhiskeyPaper, and more. You can find her on Twitter at @maddieanthes, or find more of her work at madelineanthes.com.
Image detail from Joseph Badger’s portrait of Mrs John Edwards (Abigail Fowle), circa 1750 to 1760. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.