Silver Teeth — Lauren Stearley

Jade was vacuuming the bedroom. She could do their whole place without unplugging it once. Her husband read a magazine in the other room.

She hated vacuuming. It hurt her back, reminding her too much of the clothes she hauled out of dressing rooms day after day. Her neck kept itching in the heat but scratching only made it worse. Rent was due tomorrow. It was her first day off in two weeks.

She nosed the vacuum under the dresser, and there was a sound like a blender spitting to life. Rolling her eyes, she turned the vacuum off and hunkered down to dig whatever it was out of the vacuum. The carpet was scratchy under her knees.

It was a necklace. A fine silver chain, glinting from the dusty feather teeth of the vacuum. It took her too long to claw it out because her vision was blurring. By the time she did, the delicate chain was bent and jagged.

Jade went into the other room.

“Lee?” she said. “Lee.”

Her husband was rubbing his leg, setting down the magazine. “God, Jade, the cat near tore my leg off. Why are you yelling?”

Her only response was to collapse to her knees and cry, clutching the necklace to her chest. That got Lee off the couch. His hands fluttered a second before he rubbed her shoulders.

“Hey babe,” he said. “Shh. What’s wrong? Why are you upset?”

Jade couldn’t remember her mom’s face sometimes. But she could picture her hands perfectly as they gave her that necklace. It was as sparkly then as it was now. Jade had been careful to keep it that way, or she thought she had. She couldn’t remember taking it from the box. She couldn’t remember.

“Oh shit,” Lee said. “That’s your mom’s…shit. Right. Okay.”

And then he just held her closer than he had in months, and she couldn’t ask him to do anything else.