Stiletto heels clicked their way down the hall. The echo carried through the darkened emptiness. Verity hummed a tune to herself, almost tentatively, as if her solitude might evaporate at the slightest indelicacy. But she was really and truly alone. Her patrol of the office, conspicuously casual and innocent yet thorough, showed vacant cubicles, workstations abandoned as punchclock veterans slipped free of their drudgery. The night was hers!
And so, liberated from burdensome decorum, she gleefully kicked off her heels--literally--as the song within her bubbled closer to the surface. Her to-do list was far from empty, and her inbox non-zero, but she couldn't feign a single concern for that other life; that bland and colorless dreamland that demanded a third of her day. As she spun, not quite dancing, she felt herself come to life. For her, for now, there were no deadlines but the final one. And who knew when that would be?
Grief takes many forms, but she felt her aunt would approve of this one. A woman who had never compromised herself for anyone else's expectations or limitations would certainly understand or even applaud this momentary rebellion. She may never build a business from the ground up, or even raise a son on her own (not for want of help but precisely because she did not), but Verity made her own decisions, her own mistakes, for better or worse, because of who she was. And because of a woman who taught her never to compromise.
As the song rose to her lips, half-escaping and half-exploding to fill the space around her, she closed her eyes to feel for the tears she expected, but none came. Her voice and all it carried were the only things to escape from her into the placid universe.
For Alice, who always encouraged my writing more than my self-criticism, and a personal feminist hero of mine. R.I.P.