the next months, Gabe transitioned from open weeping to a
general numbness and opacity that would only dissipate when
he warmed to a certain reassurance that at some point during
the day he would see Ana.
The glass patio doors were almost a guarantee, and Gabe would
make it a point at noon to gaze at the glass every time he
opened the doors.
And she would be there, a vision within the sunray, a searing
glint giving dimension and form to her profile.
But just as she grinned, he would inevitably shift in his
stooping and the sight would vanish into whiteness.
He lived in the wake of sensations and moments of full clarity
that she was still with him. The key was the daily routines,
and that was what kept his nature on a short leash.
He kept the appointments, the charity balls, neighborhood
walkarounds and breakfasts at the Starbucks on Webster Ave
with Lou and Sandy. His strict napping schedule and evening
stroll around Jack London Square to sit for hours on their
It took him a while to notice that the moments of strongest
disconnection with Ana's spirit came whenever he would be
around certain objects. When he passed the glass cabinet that
contained the porcelain china cups and dishes decorated with
delicately drawn images of the Prince and Princess of Monaco
drawn in the crystal clarity of a Mediterranean sun. Next
to the boat replicas carved in delicate balsa wood from Rhode
In early June, when the breezes off the bay took the edge
off the heatwave that plunged Alameda into yet another drought
warning, he sat on the bench under the protective shadow of
an umbrella. Gabe opened up a scrapbook that was at the bottom
of the dozen or so photobooks that he had been slowly leafing
This book actually made a noise as he opened it, pages stuck
together, spine cracking from unnatural motion. It had some
dates at the start, and appeared to be one of the first scrapbooks
that Ana had kept. Evidence in her tiny, but still very self-assured
hand when writing exact dates, and even times, to the album.
It began with high school photos. Ana was the prize of Lincoln
Park High. "You were a quiet beauty, Ana, my sweet,"
he whispered, and warmed to the sense of her presence next
to him on the bench.
But suddenly there was only coldness, and he looked up at
that. No one around him to disturb them, and a silence that
was suddenly disconcerting.
She was just here
and now she flees?
The breezes off the bay ceased, as clamminess crept through
his thick, hand-sewn sweater.
He returned to the photo album. The scribbling along the photos
got sloppier and jagged as he came upon a section of photos
about a summer that she spent in Rhode Island. And there was
the photo that was framed in their hallway of Ana in the sundress.
But the shadow next to her was gone. Replaced with the image
of another teenager, who appeared older than Ana, and in contrast
to her fit effortlessly in a loose-fitting dark dress that
she lit up with a brilliant crescent-moon smile. Her eyes
were covered in teardrop shaped sunglasses.
He realized that it was someone else's handwriting that he
was reading. No wonder the whole tone changed. Intense scrutiny
on this text made his eyes ache, but he narrowed them to a
slit to focus.
Who was this girl, whose features resembled Ana but in a funhouse
distortion? Where Ana was short, this woman towered, though
with fleshy build. Her writing was brief, vague. Odd comments
like "finding our souls" and "taking all this
away from me."
But the telltale word was in capital letters, and the last
of the comments scrawled. Reading it, Gabe sensed his wife's
presence fleeing. This was followed by the crushing tonnage
of loneliness that stuck a spike directly into his soul.
was the word.
He closed the scrapbook and tried to shake the puzzlement
from his face, not quickly recovering from the shock of his
discovery. He immediately returned to their home, cracked
open all their boxes in storage, scouring the yellowed memorabilia.
But no further evidence of Ana's sister was to be found, except
when he removed the frame from the hallway photo and found
a name badly erased on the inside: Claudia.
And he did unearth from beneath a pile of old newspapers a
tightly sealed box which required a cleaver to cut loose choking
string and violently spread masking tape. Inside was an assortment
of religious relics, such as crucifixes and rosaries.
So when the basement area got severely flooded the next week,
he let the water sit there, knowing it would seep into the
photo albums and crucifixes and vials of holy water; all "gifts"
from Claudia. He relished the resulting rusting and crumbling
of evidence Gabe knew Ana wanted to be submerged.
She would've liked it better that way, he decided, and patted
the seat next to him on the loveseat couch for her to join
him in watching their favorite home improvement shows. And
back Ana was, glinting through the sunlight reflections off
the shades, joining him in dreaming of the changes that would
never be made to the house they shared.
But he forgot to return to the basement the scrapbook from
the high school years, so it remained in the upstairs pile
of the photo albums of their wedding, marriage, and old age.
A week after the discovery, realization, and burial of Claudia's
evidence, the call came from his lawyer.
As he mentioned Claudia's name, Gabe blanked out for several
seconds, and he almost lost hearing when he stated that she
was alive and now contesting Ana's will. So the firestorm
that had smoldered unseen for years had now caught as if a
brushfire to consume him and Ana.
Claudia found and nurtured an obscure loophole that she knew
was there until Ana passed on, and now, with all the Old Testament
fierceness of God's retribution, she used it to take to her
He had ten days to vacate the house.