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The note is written in your rushed, elegant script on a small piece of fine, cream-colored paper ripped from something larger. You have never believed in stationery, always scribbling to me on receipts, the backs of envelopes, and post-its. You haven’t even put a return address on the crumpled envelope the note came in, just “Me” in the corner.

Are you unhappy?

After a year, that’s what you ask me? It’s the wrong question; you’re supposed to ask, “are you happy now?” But you have a knack for this—inverting what’s expected. I regard the question for a moment before I cram the note back into its envelope and rip it into the smallest pieces I can manage, then sprinkle them into my compost bin under the sink.

#

As I am putting laundry away, something flutters out of the mountain of clothes and drifts to the floor.

Are you unhappy?

For a moment, I consider the possibility that you have followed me, found a way into the house, know my husband is out of town this month. But this is the same note that came in the mail yesterday; it is the same torn shape. I trace its velvet edges with the tip of my finger, remembering the feel of your skin—every mole, every callous, every scar—the way I remember every long drive without a destination that we took together. Touching you was a journey without a map.

I am tempted to smash the note inside a book or journal but decide to flush it instead.

#

I don’t talk about you much. I try not to think about you. My husband thinks you were my best girlfriend in college. I’ve never told him the rest. One night of studying for finals that turned into everything else: winning a couple’s dance contest with you dressed in drag, crashing a family reunion until we couldn’t keep from laughing, the time we almost got trapped in the art museum overnight.

I’m supposed to be working from home, but I’ve locked myself in my office and am going through the pictures I’ve secreted away. I don’t smile like that anymore. In these photos, I look like someone who feels beautiful and invulnerable, which seems too dangerous to be real.

Among my papers on the desk, I see it.

Are you unhappy?

I bring the note under my nose; the smells of your perfume, your shampoo, your sweat quiver through me. My hands shake as I put the note in the shredder. I search your name online. You are here, in the city, working as a… oh… you’re…

I tear the shredder open too forcefully and the bin tips onto the floor in a blizzard of the last thing you will ever say to me.

#

Like any other night my husband is gone, I can’t be bothered to cook for myself. I only cook to maintain the suburban delusion. So I resort to another frozen dinner. It doesn’t matter which one; they all taste the same. Sameness is nice, easy. Safe. Everyone knows that.

I see it there on the box.

Are you unhappy?

I don’t remember exactly how it ended. No, that’s a lie. But I don’t have to tell you that. You always knew. I moved a year ago—packed up while you were at work—and didn’t tell you where I’d gone. I wasn’t prepared to feel that way about another woman. Didn’t even leave a note. It felt justifiably cruel then; just cruel now.

I mix the note into my half-cooked frozen meal, close my eyes, and take a bite. I try to imagine what the words (you) will taste like and what it will be like to have the question (you) coursing through me. Like exotic spices and starlit walks in foreign cities. Like walking barefoot on the beach with a glass of zinfandel. Would (do) you enjoy this?

I am afraid that, when I open my eyes, you will be here. I am afraid that you won’t be.

Author Bio:

Danielle Mayabb is an MFA candidate in Fiction at the University of Nevada, Reno. Her fiction has appeared in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and one of her tattoos (and accompanying micro-essay) appears in Bodies of Words (December Press).