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Checking herself in the mirror. Valerie straightened her dress—it was two-years-old, but still practical for the rare social occasion. Exhausted from work and running errands, she hadn’t had much time to change but she tried to look the best she could.

Roy had called two days ago. He was flying in for business and wanted to take her out for a night on the town. This afternoon she had made arrangements. Her hotel manager allowed her to book a room for the night at a discount price. She got it just in case Roy wanted to spend the night with her.

They had met two months before. Broad-shouldered and tall, Roy was a bit burly for a businessman. But he had a kind laugh, full-bellied like Santa Claus, to go with a checkerboard smile. She didn’t understand why Roy asked her out after bumping into her in a hallway. Perhaps he felt sorry for causing her to drop the towels she had been carrying. Whatever the reason, he took her out to Larry’s Grill that evening. He held her hand and said that although his job took him everywhere, he only wanted to be in the restaurant with her. The firmness of Roy’s hands reminded Valerie of her late husband, dead five years; their strength comforted her. But something didn’t feel right, which was why Valerie wouldn’t let him kiss her goodnight on that first date.

Glancing away from the mirror, she checked the clock. Roy would arrive in fifteen minutes. The room was a mess. Turning on the television for background noise, she cleaned as a new episode of Match Game ’78 aired.

She collected her personal effects into her purse, smoothed out the bed comforter, and folded the newspaper before placing in on the night stand. Soon after the knock, there was a shuffling noise. She opened the door on Roy standing outside, hands slipping his wedding band into a coat pocket.

Story by Sean Woodard

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