Volume 15 • Number 1 • Spring-Summer 2023

Alice K. Boatwright

After the Rabbit Died

I met my husband Arthur the week after my rabbit died. You could say the link between these events was coincidental, but there was a vacancy in my heart. Billy and I had been together for eight years. Now, with no one to share my breakfast cereal and kiss good night, I was vulnerable to Arthur’s quiet charms.

I had noticed him before. At 7 am, every Monday through Friday, he was at the corner table by the window in Frankie’s Coffee, where I also made a regular stop on my way to work at All 4 Pets. As I waited in line to buy my double latte with no foam, I had observed him with the kind of mild interest that you have for the life cycle of the tree outside your front door. I only knew his name because I had heard the barista call out “Arthur!” and hand over his toasted bran muffin. Billy and I liked bran muffins too.

I took him for a computer programmer or possibly a graduate student in some arcane field that would never lead to a job with benefits. He read thick books and wrote with a fountain pen in a small red spiral-bound notebook. He was the brown-haired variety of male, always neatly dressed and with gentle hands and long fingers. You would not notice him unless you were looking carefully. Rabbits are like that too. It’s amazing how many people believe they all look alike.

On the morning in question, I was preoccupied with thinking how only the previous Monday my beloved Billy had still been with me, so I did not hear the barista call out “Arthur!” and I ran straight into him as I turned away from the counter with my full uncapped latte. Coffee splashed down both our jackets – fortunately waterproofs.

I began to apologize, but the warm liquid spreading down the leg of my jeans reminded me so intensely of Billy, who was prone to accidents when excited, that I began to cry instead. Arthur showed no surprise and did exactly the right thing. He took my coffee out of my hand and put it on the counter, then with one arm around me and the other hand gently holding the back of my neck, he pulled me close and let me cry.

In my experience, a partner’s instinctive behavior and unspoken expressions of love are more important than any amount of conversation in determining whether a relationship will endure. When he let me nuzzle against his soft warm neck that morning, I knew immediately that I was his and he was going to be mine.

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Alice K. Boatwright is the author of the award-winning Ellie Kent mysteries, as well as short stories and other fiction, including COLLATERAL DAMAGE and SEA, SKY, ISLANDS. Her most recent book is MRS. POTTS FINDS THANKSGIVING, a story inspired by Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” for children 8 to 108. She lives in the Pacific Northwest.