Edith sat on the edge of her bed. She was waiting for something that was never going to happen. There was no one coming home to her. Her father was gone. Her husband was gone. Her son was gone. Literally, everything that this war could take from her short of her own life–it had. She sat alone at the edge of her bed, watching her door as if one of them might come walking in any way. And with each second that passed with no one there, her heart grew a little heavier.
She allowed herself exactly ten minutes that morning to sit there in blind grief, silent and afraid. Then she had to stand up and face the world again. She’d been sitting in silence and fear without noticing time passing since she was first brought her the news. She’d stay here forever if she didn’t press forward today. Those soldiers, her men, didn’t go off to fight for her to fall apart. They didn’t go out and die so that she could spend the rest of her time moping and wishing that they hadn’t gone to fight for her country and everything they believed was right and good. She pulled herself to her feet, tied up her hair, and headed out into the living room.
Her neighbors looked up in surprise at her reappearing. “Edie, are you okay?” Her friend Marie asked, before wincing, “I mean, of course, you aren’t okay, but I mean–” Marie shook her head again and tried to offer Edith a sad smile. “What I’m trying to say is that we understand if you just want to have a quiet day today.”
“I don’t think that sitting alone in my room dwelling on my sadness is going to be much help to anyone,” Edith answered with a perk in her voice—it sounded terrible even to her own ears, but she wasn’t sure what else she might sound like if she tried. “Please, Marie, give me something to do. Don’t make sit in there alone.” This desperate tone was no better at all—she almost preferred the overly cheery tone. But it seemed to be exactly what Marie needed to hear from her.
“Of course, of course. Do you want to work on something small or something big today?” Marie asked gesturing to the other women in the room.
“Big, I think,” Edith answered quickly, so she wouldn’t have time to analyze the tone that her voice was taking now.
“Okay then. Talk to Eleanor,” Marie gestured to the oldest woman in the room, sitting near the fireplace, “She’ll give you something big, and keep you as busy as you want to be.” She reached out and took Edith’s hand, pulling her in closer so that Marie’s next words could only be heard by Edith. “But as soon as you need an out, go. No one here will fault you for leaving work undone for a while, okay? Don’t feel pressured to get it done.”
Edith nodded slightly at Marie. “Thank you. But—I need this.”
Marie nodded as well, and let go of Edith’s hand. “Go see Eleanor, She’ll get you set up.”