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The Windowpane by Jean Sheppard

He peers out the attic window. The night sky is clear though the forecast says snow. He taps a crooked finger on the painted trim, and time flakes to the floor. Shouldn’t he be able to see Venus? He’d like a word or two with love. It owes him—doesn’t it?

      Suddenly he catches her reflection. She’s behind him.

      She frowns as she tugs at the flaps on the rumpled cardboard box and then pulls out the past, folders with ticket stubs and bills, pennants from their little boy’s T-Ball and soccer teams, an old bow tie, the little neck brace, its padding yellow, worn. The brace she places tenderly on the old night table.

      She stops when she gets to the wedding photo. She taps the glass and shakes her head. She doesn’t look up at him when she says, I’ll never forgive you, her voice withering.

      A moment later she vanishes into the photo, stipples herself silver in the dank silence of the frame.

      He rubs his forehead. The migraines are getting worse. He reaches for the picture and wipes a tired sleeve over the clouded glass. Was what he’d said those long years ago so very wrong? Was the drink he’d made her too strong? He had not meant to push her over the edge.

      He rubs his brow again, squints. Flattened by glass and time, she looks almost happy.

      He steps toward the table, picks up the neck brace, turns it over in his hands. He looks up when he hears a light tap at the window followed a couple of moments later by an insistent

percussion.  Looking over, he sees himself in the windowpane, sees himself also pressed behind glass.

      He drops the picture to the startled floor and yanks up the window, his mind skittering into nowhere as sudden sleet pocks his withered heart.

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