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  • From the driveway Bethany could hear their bickering in the back, near the corner of the yard. Someone used the word “shit,” followed by a quick chorus of laughter. She let it go. Their sitter was paid through ten and a peek at her phone revealed that it was not quite eight. On the curb, her bare heels out over the street, Beth pushed up with only her toes, flexing her calves while she caught up with texts.

    She crossed the neighbor’s yard into the park, barefoot, and picked her path carefully through the wet grass. Everything was still damp from the late morning’s rain. She flipped the seat of the outside swing, and it offered her an almost dry place to sit. On the previous Sunday, her ex had become engaged, their two boys had reported. If he had come back begging at the front door that night, she might have let him in. Beth wanted the divorce to carefully stack a barrier of brick, where that door used to be.

    Last weekend, in the nightstand, on what had been his side of the bed, she found a long envelope with three numbers written on it. Her ex’s sloppy writing. From a random office phone, she had dialed the numbers during the week. They all belonged to women. This envelope, with its scribbles, suggested a dozen new questions that needed to be asked of him, but again, she was able to let it go. All of that was done now. “Move forward,” was the mantra she reminded herself nine times a day.

    On her date, earlier that evening, things should have gone better. He was the friend of a friend, a single female friend of hers, which most likely made him a toss me down. That thought hadn’t occurred to her until the drive home, and really didn’t matter anyway. She needed a date. She had felt the need to sit down to a meal and engage in slightly awkward banter with a total stranger. For some reason this series of motions provided a sense of comfort, and next Sunday, somewhere near the end of the weekly conversation with her mother, she wouldn’t need to lie about whether or not she was dating.

    Bethany had changed outfits four times that afternoon. Denim, with a light colored blouse and dark red flats, followed by a change of the blouse, abandoning the denim all together for a dress with the red flats, hanging the dress back up, searching, and finally walking out of the house with that same dress and cream heels. Her date showed up three minutes late in cargo pants and a dirty pair of canvas sandals.

    After a quick survey of the café, he asked if she was okay sitting outside. Maybe it was a little too windy, she had suggested. He didn’t think so and her iced tea blew over twice during the forty minute meal. In summary, another blah date, her third blah date in a row.

    From her neighboring yard, Emily noticed Beth alone in the park. “Date?” Emily asked as she approached. Bethany nodded yes. “And?” Emily wondered.

    “Blah!” was Bethany’s only reply.

    “Well then, you can tell me about it all, over breakfast. Tonight, we just swing.” The chains of the swings snapped and then slacked until well after dark. If anyone had been in the park that night, they could have listened to two women, becoming girls again.
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