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It was New Year’s Eve, five minutes to countdown, and although they had said they didn’t care, there were champagne glasses on the coffee table in and a bottle unopened from the previous year. The grandfather clock ticked irregularly, just another quirk of the old house, but as the countdown approached, it seemed to hasten its pace as if it were the old man rushing to the bathroom, tapping his cane on the hardwood floor and occasionally fumbling. And when the clock struck midnight, the dog’s ears perked up. But since there was no intruder, she simply let out a tired huff.

The old woman turned off the TV and walked across the living room to the old man asleep in his recliner. She laid another throw blanket across him and smiled because he smiled in his sleep as he always had. That was something she never told him.

There was a photo of their daughter on the side table. She was twelve and that was the last one they’d taken of her. They had struggled for a few years after she passed. He seemed to recover too quickly, saying he was grateful for the years they were able to spend with her and for all the love they shared as a family. And she fought with him, not understanding his grief or her own. Eventually, she was able to find peace, different than his, but similar because she felt at last her connection with the part of love that persists.

She touched the photo and her husband, just a brief sweeping touch with the gentleness of a kiss. And then she went to bed, turning off the lights along the way. The nightlights came up in the hallway. She settled herself into bed and slept soundly into the new year.

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