I remember when you used to sit and talk to me, in the afternoon as the golden sun swam through the kitchen window and lit up your face and the tiny puffs of acrid smoke that escaped your lips. You'd talk about how you wished you'd painted the peeling blue shutters green, because that was Dan's favourite colour, and maybe he'd have hung around longer. And I'd tell you that a colour wouldn't have stopped him from running off with that girl, and you'd rest your cheek on your fist and look out into the garden, wondering if he was out there somewhere and if he was thinking of you.
I remember when you'd come home from work, from the silent office where your only companion was your phone and your thoughtless boss, who dumped the mindless mess of papers he didn't want on you, and you'd sit at the kitchen table and I'd make you a pot of coffee, because that was the only thing that kept you going until dinnertime. You'd say, "Gracie, where are my smokes?" and I'd tell you that I'd thrown them out again, and you'd chuckle softly and sip on your coffee and tell me how, someday, you were going to quit.
I remember when you told me that you were leaving, that you'd met a man called Matt and had decided to rent an apartment with him, a block away from where he worked as a nameless actor in a nameless theatre. And you said, "Thank-you," and hugged me, and I helped you pack your things without asking, "Why?" And before I knew it, you were gone. I spent that afternoon watching the dust mites dance in the golden sun that kissed the walls of your empty bedroom, where the only things left were the bare single bed and the chest you'd said I could keep, since you'd lost the key, though I'd told you that you'd buried it in the garden after Dan left you, because it was his and you didn't want it anymore.
And now all I have left of you is that photograph, where you're clutching your mess of brown curls and trying to hide from the camera, and I'm laughing a big red lipstick smile and clutching your arm and neither of us knew that those days in our tiny city cottage could end.