The winter they had been married for twenty years the pipes burst. It was a cold winter. Snow drifts obscured the front door for days. As the snow began to melt the pipes burst. Not all of them, just the ones from the boiler in the basement. Not hot water. No heating.
Each of them silently packed a bag. She threw the food from the fridge into the dustbin. He packed the dog’s bowl and food into his car. She made sure she had her laptop and the spare 5g modem. He took rusks and his favourite coffee. She opened the cupboard where she hid the chocolate but there was none there. Sometimes she hid chocolate behind her tampons in the bathroom cupboard but there was none there either. Cell phone chargers. Toothbrushes. Toiletries. Jackets. Long pants. His running shoes. Her hiking boots. Warm jerseys.
When each of their cars was full, they opened the garage doors and drove away. He turned left. She turned right.
One afternoon a few weeks later he phoned her and left a brief message: the pipes are fixed we can go back home now.
The edge of winter had passed but something cold stayed in the house. They carefully skirted around where they had gone for those absent weeks (and who with). He now smelled like hummus. She had developed a taste for cashew nuts. His toothbrush was now green, not blue. She had a new pair of shoes. The dog had a new collar and wouldn’t come when she called.
Then the kitchen tap started to drip, and they found mouse droppings in the dog’s food, damp in the back wall. The old tree in the garden needed to be cut down and the paving stones leading up to the front door cracked.
They had made a promise in a church in front of their friends and family but that was years ago. The week after he fixed the dripping tap, the For Sale sign was nailed to the front gate. The mouse had been caught in a trap. The back wall dampproofed. The old tree cut down. The paving stones replaced.
The red and green For Sale sign shone bright in the spring sun.
(photo by Galina N on Unsplash)