She sat up. She thought some more about it. She told herself it didn’t matter. She lied. It mattered but not in the way she’d expected it to. She wanted to know but knowing wouldn’t change anything fundamental.
Neal had come home from the mussel farm and left his wet muddy clothes in a heap outside the bathroom door. As she’d told him at least three times a week over the last ten years, no nine and a half really, it had taken a good six months for the flaws to reveal themselves, “I am not your personal servant”. She didn’t say a word just smiled to herself and put the soiled clothes in the basket beside the washer; there was a steep learning curve but he was making progress.
He reported on events at the aquafarm, snippets of information regarding machinery, production and regulations. She preferred to hear about the people. They were worlds away from them, aging hippy relatives of the Rockefeller-Morgan-Carnegie-Vanderbilt variety, hoping to make the world a better place and pretending to be average working class people. He respected them if they worked hard; otherwise, he was unfailingly polite but disengaged. He mentioned a new addition to the workforce, Emily Granola he’d called her, a niece to the aging hippies. A 28 year old woman with black dreadlocks and unshaven armpits, financing her personal quest with a generous trust fund. “With all that money you’d think she could afford a razor” was his comment. People with a lot of money didn’t have the worries they had. There was nothing and no one for them to fall back on, just each other.
Through the summer, Emily’s car was in and out of the garage for repair. Emily was without transportation to and from the farm so she had asked Neal for rides. He had grumbled, to her, that Emily was imposing but her family owned the shore frontage on the entire point and allowed access to the mussel farm.
It became the summer routine, leaving earlier in the morning and returning a bit later in the evening to transport Emily. Neal confided that he thought Emily was coming on to him and she’d laughed at the absurdity of it. Emily was 10 years younger than they were and light years away from their reality.
Not sickness, death, or soul smothering drudgery had torn them apart.