Her Last Coat of Paint
Eleanor sat up in bed. The covers were too warm with the spring sunshine filtering in through half-parted curtains. The glass was open just a crack, and it let in the smell of wildflowers and dry earth. It was later on in the day than she would normally rise; beside her the bed was empty and the clock read a quarter past ten.
She had been up late, putting things in boxes - boxes to leave behind, to take to charity sales, to give away, boxes to go with her when she left. It had been a difficult decision to make, leaving Indiana, leaving her childhood home. But with Cullen still Commander, she had decided it would be better to follow him back to Thedas. He had seemed reluctant, but they each saw the logic, and so she’d begun filling boxes. She’d done the very last of the packing in the small hours of the morning, putting away the pictures of her parents, carefully wrapping the frames in newspaper and laying them gently in their cardboard coffins. The barn had been stripped, and her Civic was sold. She decided to keep the truck. After all, she was leaving, it didn’t have to be for good. She couldn’t sell this place, not after all it had seen. And she could always come back, perhaps on a warm afternoon if she were gripped with nostalgia. No, the house would be hers for as long as she lived, however long that was, or until she found someone better to give it to. Or until, maybe, Cullen gave it all up and succumbed to the quiet life. They’d be closing the Breach behind them, but Evelyn had promised that opening it once more was the least she could do for them. And after all, the link in the Deep Roads remained, but then, who knew what else remained in those dark tunnels. But they had a way home, if they should seek it. Until then, it would be here, full of boxes, full of memories.
Dust motes floated through the yellow sunlight, stirred up most likely by her efforts to clean, and she watched them for a moment, following their evanescent paths through the air, before the sun shifted angles and she could no longer find the glittering white flecks.
She swung her legs over the side of the bed, putting her bare feet on the warm floorboards. She breathed in deep, and could smell coffee. Padding softly to the kitchen, she poured herself a cup from the coffee maker; two mugs, one for her and one for Cullen, and the little Mr. Coffee were the only things they had not yet divested themselves of or packed away. She propped her hip against the counter by the sink. Swiffer lept down from one of the kitchen chairs and brushed her little grey body up against Eleanor’s bare legs.
“Good morning, little girl,” Eleanor sang. “Where’s Cullen?”
The feline only mooped and walked to her food dish, nudging the bowl with her nose.
“You already ate,” Eleanor chided, seeing the bits of hard kibble left behind after Swiffer had nibbled away her wet food. “Just because I’m not the one who fed you doesn’t mean you didn’t eat.”
Defeated, the grey kitten stalked away. Eleanor wondered how the cat would like Thedas.
“Hey, Cul?” Eleanor raised her voice and called through the house. It reverberated off of all the empty space, the angles of the cardboard boxes, in a way she could not recall having heard before.
“Out here, El,” came his voice through the dining room window.
In nothing but a t-shirt that was definitely too big to be hers and a pair of dark blue underwear, Eleanor went out to the porch, letting the screen door slam behind her. She stood there for a long moment, drinking in the blue spring sky, the green grass, the trees in the far distance. They were heavy with blossoms, ready to sprout leaves. A gentle chill still clung to the breeze, but it was warm in the stillness, even here in the shade. Closing her eyes, Eleanor breathed in the smell of pollen, of soil, of Indiana spring. Oh, but she would miss it.
But her feet found the stairs, and she strolled onto the lawn, gripping the fresh grass for a moment in her bare toes before stepping carefully around to the back of the house.
“Good morning,” Cullen said, standing on the lawn, wearing a white t-shirt and jeans, a cigarette dangling from his lips. In his hands he held a paintbrush, and his clothes were streaked with Loyal Blue. He was looking at the side of the house proudly. It was done.
“Thought the old girl deserved at least her last coat of paint finished before we left.”
Eleanor’s face split into a wide smile. She set the coffee mug down on the grass before jumping into Cullen’s embrace. He dropped the paintbrush and picked her up and spun in a small circle before setting her back down and kissing her forehead. They parted and stood side by side, Cullen’s arm over Eleanor’s shoulder, and for just a moment, they stood back and admired their combined handywork, spaced out over nearly the span of a year.
Cullen passed the cigarette to Eleanor and she took a drag, before handing it back to Cullen. He pulled her in a little closer and bent his neck to kiss the top of her head, brown hair still disarrayed from sleep, but warm in the sun. He turned his head and rested his cheek on her warm hair. He took a deep pull from the cigarette and flicked ash into the grass.
“You know,” he said, breathing out smoke that was swept away by a breeze and giving her shoulder a squeeze, “I’m not entirely married to the idea of going back to Thedas. I mean - this place isn’t so bad. We could just stay in Indiana.”
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