From the story When Murray Met Helen

Helen was still smiling when she closed Murray’s front door behind her–“don’t get up!” she’d shouted, just to needle him–and headed out on an angle across his lawn. She was surprised to feel the jewel-like coolness of dew drops already forming on the grass. It was comforting, a bit magical, and it made her feel all the more child-like.

Jack Wiggins was, once again, providing the chuckle of the week on the block. The running joke about Jack is that he just couldn’t enjoy a day of retirement without trying to battle entropy with all manner of tools and large, rental machinery. This week, while rebuilding his irrigation system, he’d severed the power to the street lamps on the block. Nice going, Jack-o.

So now, serendipitously, it was dark enough that Helen could make out the north sky constellations of late summer that she had memorized in her youth. Draco and the Ursas, Cassiopeia and Hercules, and Lyra with Vega piercing the darkness, a mere 25 light years away. By millions of years on either side of tonight, this sky would look much the same. And yet, even though she and Murray were separated by the slimmiest fraction of deep time, for all mortal purposes he was ancient and she was about as new as the dew wetting her toes. That’s just the way it was, and it was, for her, an interesting and entertaining way to love a guy without any of the lunatic trappings of romance.

She sat on Murray’s lawn and stared at the sky until her pupils were wide enough that she could make out the Milky Way. It didn’t matter, now, that the dew had soaked through the seat of her cotton pants. Thanks largely to Jack Wiggins’s restlessly neurotic retirement, it was a beautiful evening, what with the ethereal shower of starlight and the screened windows releasing the sweet sound of Miles’s horn tangling with Bill Evans’s piano.

Two years ago, when Jeff left her because he thought she wanted children, and her second cat had died because that’s what happens to cats, Helen went to a therapist. It was barely a tune-up, as nothing more was required, and Miranda, her therapist, had sent her on her way, with a smile and powerful hug, after only two sessions.

It had all been easier, Helen surmised, because really nothing about herself had changed. She had not become cynical. Nor had she, for that matter, lost any capacity to turn a man’s head with her looks. Conceivably, in time, the wrinkles would come, her muscles would get noticeably stringy, and gravity would work its way. But those days were still long off, probably as distant, she mused, as Vega at the speed of light.

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