The Northville Review
an online literary journal

Cezarija Abartis

It was late in the day, and the sun falling behind her set its fire in her red hair. When he was twenty-five, he thought it was only the young who felt like that. And now that he was sixty he was shocked by the ache that overcame him. Would he be like this when he was eighty? Cordelia was sewing a button on his cardigan; she had put a CD of Puccini in the player and her face was transported.

“Listen to this, Martin. Listen to the vibrato.” She closed her eyes and smiled. Her forefinger pointed up and climbed the invisible air.

In her youth she had wanted to sing opera, but had settled for teaching voice and choir. The year she had decided to leave the possibility of performing because she thought she didn’t have the talent for a singing career was a churning, dark year. He caught her in their small kitchen crying; she wiped the tears when she saw him and shrugged, saying it was the megrims. He knew what it was, but he could not give her a career.

Cordelia put a fierce henna into her hair when she started getting gray hair. “In France the women don’t get gray hair, mon cher,” she said and smirked. “Must be something in the water.”

The voice of the soprano welled up and poured out the soul of Puccini through the speakers. That voice undulated and whirled to the ceiling as the singer moaned about her abandonment in the cold.

Cordelia finally sat back, his sweater in her lap, looking toward the snow-covered yard on the other side of their picture window. She was out of the fire of the setting sun and half in the shadow of the living room. Their children and grandchildren had left after their monthly Sunday dinner. Their daughter, Lisa, and her husband wanted to move to a larger house; their son, Steve, wanted to find a better job, but really everything was okay. Nobody was ill or homeless or forlorn. Puccini’s opera ached and burned into your heart but then it surged into beauty and made you willingly endure the tragedy.

The snowflakes floated down vertically–there was no strong, cold north wind to whistle through the branches and scratch the skin. This would be a fine dusting that would not cause a buildup of slick and scary ice patches at corners with stop signs. This would not cause danger to drivers and old people shambling across parking lots. This would not down power lines and freeze water pipes and build dams on roofs. This would not ice up airplane wings and cause crashes. This would not isolate farms and cause madness. This would not break trees and houses and roads and bridges. This would not freeze feral cats and banished dogs and hungry rabbits. Birds would still be able to find water and seeds.

Cordelia rose up from her chair and caught the sweater as it was falling to the floor. She walked up to Martin, embraced him, and gave him a long kiss. “Let’s go upstairs,” she said. “I love you.”

About the author

Cezarija Abartis' Nice Girls and Other Stories was published by New Rivers Press. Her stories have appeared in Per Contra, Waccamaw, and New York Tyrant, among others. One of her flashes was included in Wigleaf's Top 50 list of flash fiction. Recently she completed a novel, a thriller. She teaches at St. Cloud State University. Her website is