He died on a Tuesday, but it was Friday before she got the email.
Subject: Sad News
She dwelled on the other names in the dean's send list:
Her brain kicked at them, but they had the spongy resiliency of youth. Her eyes slid past the rest, falling off the screen into her lap.
It had been thirty-six years since her stint as Max’s research assistant. It shouldn’t surprise her that he was dead. She was old enough now.
--passed away after an extended illness--
Yet it wouldn't stick.
She made herself available to the information, and it just wouldn't stick.
The problem was that she hadn’t experienced the world as anything less over the last three days. This seemed a proof enough. Surely she would have felt something had Max been dead. She would have sensed it, if only in hindsight.
She wouldn’t have gotten her hair done in a universe bereft of Max Jamison.
She wouldn’t be folding her hands like that.
--survived by his beloved wife, Jean, and their two children, Rebecca and Joshua. A service will be held--
A scholarship will be endowed--
His legacy lives on in the many--
She stood and went to her bedroom.
In a shoebox beneath her bed, she kept the few things he’d given her. There was the time he’d insisted on adding her name to a journal article he’d authored: Ignobling the Noble Gases. Months later, he’d cooked up a pink crystal in the shape of a snowflake, before presenting it to her in a petri dish in the lab. To deflect her euphoria, she had teased him about its potential toxicity. For an instant, he had looked hurt and she had felt so very sorry.
Setting the things aside, she reached for the letter.
She let the paper drop to the floor and brought the envelope to her mouth. Closing her eyes, she brushed the flap of the broken seal across her lips.
So she did it again.