By Ekta R. Garg
Prompt: Find an unexpected piece of clothing in your laundry basket. Write a story about it.
I held the scarf and tried to remember when—or why—I might have put it in the laundry. After a few moments I realized the scarf had begun shaking in small, rapid movements, but it didn’t occur to me until a full two minutes later that the scarf shook because my hands had begun to tremble. Just then the scarf slipped from my fingers, and I covered my mouth with my hand as I backed away from it. It fluttered to the floor in a rush and lay there, its serpentine shape challenging me with the poison of a love story gone wrong.
“I love you so much,” Daniel whispered in my ear as he held me tight. I’d never seen anything as beautiful as this scarf with this pearlescent white color interrupted by bold dashes of black flowers and ending in slim tassels that swung with measured exuberance, and I giggled as he nibbled my ear and then lined my neck with kisses in my house on our lunch hour.
Looking at the scarf, the same questions that had plagued me for those first few years came back in full force: why did he leave? What had I done wrong? Had our differences really mattered that much?
“I know it hurts to end this relationship, but that’s the only choice I have at this point.” I read the letter he’d slipped only a week later into my purse, and I wondered again as I read those words how the paper could hold them so calmly as if they were just canned goods on a shelf and nothing so explosive as the pain that had shattered my heart.
I leaned against the wall in the laundry room wanting desperately to remember with more clarity the moment he’d given me that scarf and remembering instead the way the letter felt in my hands. Remembering how we’d taken to writing each other these cute little love notes so that no one could track our office romance as easily as they could with an email trail. How the charming, almost antiquated method of expressing our infatuation had become its messenger of doom.
“Hey, Erin, are you okay?” my boss, Shelley, asked one day as she stopped me in the hall before a meeting. “For the past couple of months you look like something serious has been going on. Can I do anything to help?”
“Yes,” I’d wanted to say. “I keep finding little pieces of my heart all over the place, and I don’t know if I’ve managed to gather all of them yet. Can you help me look for them so I can start gluing it back together with this cheap glue stick called Time?”
I inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly. Several years had passed; I hadn’t even thought about Daniel in all this time, but seeing the scarf again—the one that had supposedly tied a knot in our love and had instead become its noose—made me feel breathless.
I jumped and felt my heart restart after several empty seconds that should have counted as beats. I tried to make my face neutral, but I don’t think it worked. My twelve-year-old daughter stared at me with concern.
“Are you okay?”
I nodded, not trusting my voice to work just yet. The scarf on the floor caught her eye, and her expression changed back to that of a regular tween as she picked it up.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Mom, I thought I put this in the laundry. I found it in your closet, and I thought it was cute but it smelled kind of musty so I thought we could run it through the machine. I wanted to wear it to school next week. Is that cool?”
Something about my daughter’s innocent request brought me back to my current reality—a loving, supportive husband who never hesitated to tell me the truth no matter how unpleasant; children who respected me and didn’t give me too much trouble; a beautiful home; and a fulfilling career. What more did a girl need?
“Uh, Mom? Seriously, what’s up?”
I shook my head yet again today as I had so many times at the past, but I could hear the shakiness—could feel it—in my voice. I took a few deep breaths and tried to smile at my beautiful girl. There, much better.
“Nothing, sweetheart. Seeing the scarf just made me think of something. So, how was school today?”