The List

It was the loneliness that did it. She could have handled just about anything, but being alone in a relationship broke her. For a woman used to needing loads of alone time it was a bit of a shock. She knew she’d never be a good military wife, but she never thought of herself as needy or one of those women who had a new relationship started before the old one ended just to ensure she’d never be alone. But here she was in a relationship with a man she loved but rarely saw and it was breaking her.

It’s not like she didn’t know what she was getting into. He’d been a workaholic from day one. In fact, she respected his work ethic, was proud of it. But after ten years, three careers, and absolutely no change in his sixty to eighty hour work weeks she was coming undone. How many plans had been cancelled? How many dinners ruined? How many nights spent drinking just a little bit more to numb the loneliness?

She woke one morning, mouth dry, head throbbing, bed empty and realized this was her life. Realized it wasn’t going to change. Realized her drinking was getting excessive. She needed a plan.

She got dressed and brushed her teeth. At least she’d look presentable if he came home. She began making coffee, breakfast, enough for two, just in case. She sent a text, hopeful but not expectant: “Breakfast?” it said.

A couple minutes later as she was plating the food her phone buzzed. The reply was typical, brief: “Can’t.”

She ate her meal in silence and formulated a to-do list. It included all her normal Saturday chores: laundry, cleaning, bathing the dog, grocery shopping. And then, surprising herself, she wrote “make a plan to leave.”

That hadn’t been what she’d meant rolling out of bed feeling like hell. She’d been thinking more along the lines of finding a new hobby. Maybe quilting? Or was it knitting that was all the rage now? Well, whatever, that’s where she’d been leaning until she saw it in print. But she knew it was right.

If you love someone, let them go. She knew she loved him and knew he’d never change. She also still had some love left over for herself and apparently it was time to let herself go.

It was odd that day. Doing the chores as though it were just another ordinary Saturday. But it wasn’t. At all. Next to her grocery list she also maintained a list of the things she’d need in order to leave: make a budget, look into buying a home, where to live in the meantime, leave dog?

That one gutted her. She saw the dog more than any other creature. Took care of it, fed it, bathed it. But a dog would make it harder to find a place to live. And a dog would increase expenses. And taking the dog would mean he’d come home to an empty house. She loved him still and couldn’t do that to him. Not when she knew how much it hurt. Plus, maybe her leaving would be a turning point for him and having the dog as an excuse he’d start being home more.

Every Saturday after breakfast she’d start a load of laundry and begin cleaning the house. Today was no different. The first load of laundry went in and by the time it was done, she was done cleaning and could move the first load of laundry to the dryer. Then she’d start the second load of laundry before going to bathe the dog. By the time she was done washing the dog, cleaning herself after washing the dog, and cleaning the bathroom, the first load of laundry would be ready to fold and put away, the second load of laundry would be ready for the dryer, and the third load of laundry consisting of dog towels and blankets and cleaning rags would be ready to start.

After folding the first load of laundry and putting it away, she stopped, debating: if she went to the grocery store she’d be spending money she’d need on food she wouldn’t be around to eat, or would she? Was she really going to leave?

She finally decided that whether she left or not she’d at least need to eat lunch and seeing as how it would be cruel to leave the kitchen devoid of food, if you don’t count the things they almost always had like lasagne noodles and panko crumbs, she decided to head to the grocery store for something for herself as well as boxes, cans, and freezer food for him.

She headed to the grocery store like it was an ordinary Saturday. As she shopped the aisles, pushed the cart, and crossed things off her list she found herself picking up the ground beef she’d normally purchase and putting it back. Old habits. He wouldn’t know what to do with a package of ground beef. She spent more time than usual in the frozen food aisle selecting one of each flavor of TV dinner available.

Despite having come to the same grocery store every Saturday around 1pm for ten years, she always had a different checker and bagger. For the first time it made her happy. The anonymity. No one to ask about the lack of fresh fruit and vegetables. No one to ask about the mountain of TV dinners. Just the regular small talk about the weather.

By the time she’d returned to what she was already calling “his house” the second load of laundry was dry. She switched the loads around, did a quick rinse to clean the washer drum of dog hair, and then proceeded to put the groceries away. It was remarkably easy and quick. Painless really.

She folded and put away the dry laundry. All of her clothes were now clean, dry, and hung or folded. How easy that made it. She knew she’d never have room in her car for all of her things, so she decided the first trip would be all of her clothes, toiletries, jewelry, and whatever else she could smash in.

It was here that she realized she didn’t have a place to go. Going back to the kitchen she threw a TV dinner in the microwave and pulled out her phone. There had to be several options what with the military base nearby. Apartments must come available all the time. She did a quick search for “apartments near me” as the microwave beeped. Peeling the plastic off and scorching her knuckle in the process she sucked the marinara off her fingers and realized she’d heated the spaghetti dinner. Damn. The least appetizing of the bunch.

Selecting the first result off the list on her phone she saw that even if they had any vacancies she wasn’t interested. Puke green and two to three bedrooms. No, thank you. She briefly considered the idea of a roommate as she hit the back button on the phones browser. Then selected the second list result and thought “no. No roommates. I’m lonely for my man, sure, but that doesn’t mean I want to give up my freedom or space.”

The second and third results on the list would have been fine but both websites noted the existence of a waiting list. She was beginning to consider that this plan may not be going into effect anytime soon and she’d have some explaining to do about the groceries when the fourth result loaded. It would do. Not ideal, by any means, but no major red flags.

“Call for vacancies,” she read aloud as she pressed the link.

The phone rang twice before a recorded voice told her some unremarkable information and then informed her she could speak with someone in the sales office by pressing two. Doing so connected her with some more prerecorded and unremarkable information followed by something someone somewhere considered music. By the time her dessert was gone, much better than expected and loads better than the entree, a polite man had answered the phone.

He’d clearly been in customer service for several years as he had the studied diplomacy that only ages of handling assholes gives you. In no time flat he had confirmed the vacancy of a studio apartment, “no one bedrooms available currently, I’m afraid,” taken her details and informed her he’d be in touch shortly as the credit check would take roughly an hour to complete and would she “like to come take a tour in that time?”

~~~That’s one hour~~~

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