When you’re just past forty and ex-husband/childless, you take October seriously. It’s time to haul out the big socks, buy a few books and start planning the excuses to avoid Thanksgiving with the family. It’s time to shop – for dinner party wine and those old-fashioned Christmas cards because it’s fun to be the old-fashioned aunt. It’s time to go back to the park – crisp-cold and quiet. Walk home in the dark. And make all-day Sunday soup that simmers the entire apartment until the guests arrive. It’s time to hide the summer clothes and put a tea towel over the bathroom scales and think about yoga – in January. It’s time to devour pages of Nordic detectives, deep into the twilight of an early afternoon. It’s time to drink kick-off-your-heels tea and check what’s on TV. It’s time to take your lunch in a thermos and go for drinks after work and fend off well-meaning blind dates. It’s not that she didn’t like well-meaning blind dates; they were fun, too. But when one turns into two and two turns into more, it’s better to move on before normal turns into a nuisance. The truth was she had no intention of taking on the open-ended responsibility of making someone else happy, because she was already happy, perfectly content to be covered by her own life like a cozy knitted afghan thrown over her shoulders. Content to choose her own friends, never wash anybody else’s underwear or negotiate what to have for dinner – especially on the nights when it was going to be sweatpants and ice cream and Rosamund Pike. She was content to do what she wanted, when she wanted — without lame explanations or nagging regrets.
Of course, she did have some regrets. She’d gone to university like all the women in her family and had had high expectations. She thought it would be nice to live in a retro-poor apartment with too many stairs and a cat named Sniffles. Maybe have some adventures. Maybe be seduced by a poet who would leave her broken when he went back to his own bohemian tribe. Then collect all his verses and put them in a shoebox at the back of the closet for her children to find. But instead, she’d settled for four years in a dorm room — plastic and new — and sex with a waiter, a boyfriend and Rachel’s brother Danny (but she’d married him, so that didn’t count.) She did have a shoebox, though, but there were no secrets in it and no children to find it, so…. Sometimes, she thought she should regret the years of her marriage – but she never did. It had been serious and it had been fun, and she hadn’t overstayed her welcome, moving on before she’d completely lost herself in their married routines. Although she did wish she’d taken the bread maker – that would have been nice. But she was young then and unaware that, after some months alone, on a chilly kick-leaf October morning, she’d fall in love with her own future, and, like a fairytale princess, live happily ever after.