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She once welcomed the alone time, a chance to exercise her creative inclinations in woodworking.  In the shop over the garage, Kirsten turned four-inch stock on a lathe and followed the initial work by hand chiselling finer details, four posts for what soon formed the legs of a handcrafted cherry dining table.

Three weeks, he told her.  The company needed him in Bradenton until the manager-in-training assumed responsibility.  Kirsten heard such optimistic declarations of trip truncation before, the last three years earlier, when Sean promised a month in Charleston.  It elongated to nine weeks.  She surprised her husband the last weekend, intending a mini-vacation.  An hour after arrival at his hotel, she changed her flight and returned home at three times the original cost.

Yet she forgave him.

Eleven weeks into the latest away time, work offered Kirsten no refuge.  When her fingers slid close to the radial arm saw blade, Kirsten powered down, ran for the house, and uncorked a bottle of seasonal ale suited to fall.  She retreated into the backyard garden, now in fall dormancy.  Kirsten loved autumn’s earthen shades, from khaki to residual greens to full brown and orange, so much beauty in the post-life remnants of flora.

“Hey there.”  Lost in self-pity, the words of her neighbour surprised.  “Whoa there, woodsmith, why the startle?”  Cued to the need, discerning eyes scrutinised.

Kirsten understood the capabilities of her guidance counsellor friend.  She knew her reputation amongst students as seer.  Far from fearful, Kirsten welcomed the exploration of her wounded soul.

“I see you brought along a beer.  Planning to visit a while?”

“Kirsten, when did he last call?”

“You don’t waste time.”

“Let’s just say I believe it best to treat a wound before infection sets in.”

“Too late.”

Jordan wrapped her arms around Kirsten, hand folded away to avoid beer spillage.  This way they stood for a time indeterminate, until the eyes of one happened into those of the other.  Who went first, they debated for years thereafter, playful, uncaring.  Something unlocked in Kirsten, something hidden but present and never given exposure to light.

Right there and forward, whatever Sean did in Bradenton mattered only to him.