Rain had been threatening for the past few hours, but all she could think about was the stain on her left shoe. Dark and splotchy it was, marring an otherwise perfect pink high heel. Looking up, a single humid curl fell across her left eye, and she surveyed the lowering sky for the first time.
Desperation seized her, and an image of Patrick flashed across her mind. Standing up quickly, so quickly that her head spun and darkness swam around the edges of her vision, she took a few jerky steps down the gravel path. She could almost hear him calling her, but did she have the strength to go? Others were filtering in through the door, a flash of thunder cracked against the sky, but the rain held off. The car was still parked a little beyond the front gate, it would be so easy to dart back inside to the warm, comfortable upholstery, forgetting about Patrick and all that might happen if she crossed that threshold.
Ramona had been dead only three months, it was too early. The rain would ruin the party anyway; no would expect her to come, so none would miss her. The dress was probably too fancy for the occasion, and Maude had said that it didn't suit her coloring. The stain on her shoe, everyone would notice it. Patrick might not even recognize her with her hair done up in beautiful braids and curls instead of wadded up in a ponytail; he might not know her in a rustling gown after only ever seeing her in her old jogging shorts. Yes, it would be so much better to go back to the car and forget the whole silly business.
And then she heard a laugh from inside the house. That ringing, high-pitched, contagious laugh that made you break into a smile just to hear it. It was a laugh that had echoed through the last three years of her life with startling clarity and frequency. The laugh seemed to tie everything together in one massive bundle of nerves and expectation and memory and joy and pain and longing and eagerness. She hadn't even noticed that she had been slowly walking away toward the front gate, and suddenly turned on her heel, walking back to the house as fast as her heels would take her. A cool wet breeze swept across the lawn and the first sprinkles began to fall as she took a deep breath and gathered up her skirts to enter the house.