Adeline noticed the slip of the ring as she sipped her tea and watched the daybreak’s brilliant crest across the eastern mountains.
A headache and nosebleed after her morning stretch confirmed all suspicions.
She knew she’d have most of the day to prepare — she’d already seen this progression in a mother and a grandmother, so she finished the dishes, tidied the kitchen, took out the last of the garbage and recycling and called Mr. Henry about the dog.
“It’s time then?”
“Yes. I’m sure this time.”
“I’ll be over in a half-hour. Can you wait that long?”
“Of course. Just come in when you get here.”
She put on a pot of tea (Mr. Henry liked the Oolong), arranged a few biscuits on a plate, then sat down to stroke Marvy’s silky ears. The collie yawned and slumped heavily against her leg.
Addie had already taken some pills for the pain, but she felt the pressure building, and noticed her vision blur and refocus from time to time.
The sky was clear and bright, but Mr. Harvey arrived in galoshes, as always. Marvy greeted him with joyful eyes and an unabashed display of squirming.
“You should let me give you a ride out there.”
“I can still drive.”
“Of course, but if you let me give you a lift, Marvy and I can spend a little more time in your company. You’ll have plenty of time to be alone, right? And then we don’t have to get your car towed back.”
They paid the state park entry and arrived at the broad field by noon. Mr Henry and Marvy ate the picnic lunch Addie packed, but she just sipped tea from the thermos.
Marvy ran along the length and width of the clearing while Mr. Henry and Addie scouted out a suitable spot in the center. He cleared out the rocks. She moved aside the brush.
By two, the pressure precluded conversation. Mr Henry settled Addie on her blanket, helped her take the last of her pills, kissed her goodbye, and whistled for Marvy.
The sound of the truck rumbling out of range. The sound of an overhead plane. The birds of the field. The insects in the grass. Addie’s internal voice silenced. She heard only the sound of breath and blood as the change began in earnest.
By four, her body had flattened across the field. By six, it stretched miles wide.
As the last light slipped away in the west, the sky shifted from tangerine to raspberry and plum. The expansive plane stretched to its thinnest, widest reach, then broke apart in the twilight.