The first hint of trouble came at the reception following the memorial. Poor Adele stood by the window staring out at nothing. Her long black dress seemed too dressy for the occasion. Those with a trained eye guessed her heels to be closer to four inches high than to three inches. Sherwin had picked out her clothes and given them to her as presents, so everybody could forgive her lapse from her usual polyester style. They told each other they understood her faux pas with the dress and heels.
Muriel approached her at the window. “Come, my dear, I have a plate of food for you. Let’s sit over here.” Muriel led Poor Adele by the arm to a chair at a table occupied by her husband’s friends. The poor widow did seem unsteady on her feet.
After the general greetings and comments on the goodness of the food, which wasn’t all that good, Poor Adele politely turned the subject, “Ron and Marilee, how good to see you here. Weren’t you just in Ireland?”
Ron and Marilee told about their trip, then the conversation drifted off to Hawaii then Tahiti. Finally, someone interrupted their table to tell Poor Adele how sorry they were for her loss. Poor Adele sounded just a wee bit cross when she brushed off the well-wisher and asked Ron and Marilee who they used for a travel agent. Sherwin’s friends shook their heads and told themselves she was grieving.
After Poor Adele had greeted each of her husband’s friends and relatives most properly, she hugged her cousin, Carol, and whispered, “Thank you for coming. You are the only person who came here for me. Can you come by the house and discuss some things with me?”
Once Adele reached the safety of her own home. She took off her high heels and danced a waltz through the living room while mentally considering what she intended to get rid of. She snorted, “There isn’t much here I want.”
When Carol, arrived, Adele surprised her cousin. “You are retired now. We’ve always had fun together. What would you say to taking a cruise around the world?” Adele went into the laundry room and took a large scrapbook down from the shelf.
Carol wondered about her poor cousin as Adele caressed her clothes dryer.
Carol forgot any weird behavior as she and Adele looked through the big album of postcards from around the world. “These are from his friends at work. They talked about Greece for years after the visit.” The cousins talked about how beautiful Greece appeared and how wonderful Hawaii would be.
Finally Carol closed the book. “I don’t think either of us has enough money for such a trip.”
Poor Adele whispered, “He did leave me some money, and I intend to have a garage sale. He was so organized that I have a list of everything he owned and it’s value for the executor of his will.”
“You know you won’t get anything close to full value at an estate sale.”
Poor Adele looked around the slightly shabby living room. “True. I think I will have to use some of his savings.”
As the week passed, Adele met with the attorney for the estate and the executor. When she got home, she sorted her belongings from her husband’s things. She asked her son to take the family photos and make electronic copies for everybody. She paid the bills as she always had from the small amount of her social security and her pension. Sherwin had insisted they live on her income and save his for the future. She continued to make plans to travel with her cousin.
On the first of the month she paid her bills, started the laundry, put a large load of towels in the dryer and turned it on to high. She picked up a shoe box containing her favorite treasures and put it in the car. After locking the house securely, Poor Adele drove to the grocery store. She treated herself to a coffee while she studied her shopping list. Poor Adele stood in the shampoo aisle trying to choose between shampoo for volume or shampoo to revitalize damaged hair when she heard the fire sirens. She chose the shampoo for damaged hair, smiled to herself and continued her shopping.
Before driving home, Poor Adele stopped at the pharmacy and looked at the pretty glass decorations before picking up her refills.
Finally, Adele returned home to find the street blocked with fire trucks and firemen. She parked near the corner, got out and walked toward her house until a neighbor grabbed her up in a big hug while cooing and comforting. “Come inside with me there is nothing you can do. The house was fully engulfed before the firemen got here.”
In a quiet, dazed voice Adele confessed, “I put towels in the dryer and left home.”
Her neighbor hugged her some more. “There, there, there. That was a normal thing to do. It might not have been from the dryer.”
Poor Adele watched the firemen from the window while she drank tea. Finally the fire chief found her. She confessed immediately. “I put towels in the dryer and left home.”
The Fire Chief consoled, “There now. You couldn’t know it would catch fire, and it is a good thing you were gone when it happened.”
“Had I been home maybe I could have stopped it.”
The neighbor cooed, “Oh no darling, we were all so glad to discover your car gone. I was so relieved to see you drive up all safe.”
Within another minute the Fire Chief completely exonerated Poor Adele of any responsibility for the fire and promised to help with the reports for the insurance company. “Call your insurance agent, and I’ll send the reports. Do you have family you can stay with? You’ve had a rough time can you drive?”
Poor Adele assured her neighbors that she could drive to her cousin’s house. As she turned her car around in the neighbor’s driveway, she paused to look back at the charred remains of the hell-hole, she’d called home for fifty years. She whispered, “That’s what happens when people don’t repair their houses, Sherwin. You wouldn’t let me get a new dryer when the old timer broke. You said I could sit by the dryer and turn it off when the clothes were done. You said I should be thankful I had a dryer at all. You know what I’m thankful for Sherwin? I’m thankful you were so allergic to chicken and that the dryer never shut off. I’m done with you.”
Six months later: The elegant widow Adele accompanied by her cousin stood beside of the temple of Diana and relished the feel of wind through her hair. Some of the Greek men sitting nearby wondered who the mature beauty might be, but she never looked their way.