An old woman sits before the fireplace. She clutches in her hand a photograph of the way she used to look. With the clarity of vision that comes only with old age and disappointment, she realizes that she was beautiful once. At least, she was beautiful outside. She can almost see the writhing black snakes that used to fill up her midriff and her heart, hissing and twining around one another, gloatingly, reveling in their hold on her.

A log crackles inside the fireplace and the old woman away from the photograph. There’s a cat by her feet, one of the several that she keeps around her, to remind herself that she still knows how to love. Not many people will let a gnarled old woman touch them, but cats don’t care how wrinkly she is, as long as she pets them.

She tries to get up, and falls back into her chair. She tries again, and falls again. She begins to weep. The cat by her feet sits up, stretches, and jumps into her lap, giving her an excuse to stay where she is. She wonders if another excuse is what she needs. The tears stop flowing as she gathers her resolve. She nudges the cat gently off of her lap and grips the arms of the chair firmly. She takes a deep breath.

She gets up.


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