Emily screamed and kicked a pile of cardboard boxes.
The box she’d kicked continued to crumple after the impact, the weight of the other boxes bearing down on top of it. After a few moments the whole pile collapsed and her collection of sketchbooks crashed to the floor. She yelled again and kicked one of the broken boxes as hard as she could, over and over. When there was nothing left to break she fell to her knees and began to sob.
After nearly three years they’d finally saved up enough to buy a home. Not a big one, but it was bigger than their tiny apartment and the price was reasonable. The previous owner, also named Emily, had passed away in her sleep and her children had listed the house the same day Emily and Mike decided they were ready to move out. They usually didn’t believe in signs or fate but in that moment it felt like the universe was telling them this was meant to happen; they had barely opened the front door before making an offer. Everything was perfect.
On the first day they only brought the barest of essentials. Most of the furniture had been left behind so they didn’t need to worry about how to get their old bed out of the apartment and down the stairs.
“We’ll just leave it for the next guy,” Mike had said while taping up his umpteenth box, “there’s enough to get out of here as it is.”
The box she’d just destroyed was one of Mike’s, wasn’t it? It must have been; it wouldn’t have fallen apart like that if she had taped it. He’d always tried to do things right but little details like that were never his strong point.
Emily wiped her face on her sleeve, not caring about the trail of tears and snot she left behind; there was no one else around and she’d earned the right to stop caring for a while.
After a few moments of silence Emily picked herself up from the floor. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, letting it back out with deliberate care. Crying wasn’t going to fix anything and having a tantrum wouldn’t bring anyone back. She opened her eyes again and surveyed her surroundings. For better or worse, this house and everything in it belonged to her and her alone.
Her legs carried her from the living room to the kitchen. Left foot. “You can do this,” she said out loud. Right foot. “You need to do this.” Slowly her muscles loosened and walking became less mechanical. It didn’t feel good to move but at least it felt less bad. The kitchen didn’t look much different than the living room but she was pretty sure she’d seen aspirin in there, and she needed one. Badly.
Sure enough, the aspirin was in the cupboard Mike was going to fix, the one he went to the hardware store for. It took six minutes for the ambulance to arrive.
The cupboard door left the kitchen before Emily, the remains of a hinge still hanging from the frame. It didn’t feel right to blame that cupboard for what happened, but it didn’t feel wrong either; she kicked it and screamed at it until her throat was raw.
Surrounded by broken boxes, Emily sank to the floor and cried.