She never removed it

It was when the leaves on the bushes outside began to change color that she knew.

“Mother, where are we going?”

“It’s a surprise, my darling.”

The smile felt more real than fake and it took everything Mary had not to let the tears in the back of her throat reach her eyes. She’d always been very good at lying and anyone who was as good at it as she was knew that the art in lying is in having just enough of the truth in it to make it real.

“Are we going to have to finish our homework?” her youngest asks, eager for a reason to not finish the packet sent home for the fall break.

“We’ll see, Matt.” She shares a grin with her eldest at the boy’s groan. What she doesn’t say and what her eldest likely already knows is that they will likely never return to this house that had almost become their home.

Matt didn’t remember living anywhere but here, he’d been so young when her husband had left and only a little older when his father had died. She still wore her wedding ring even though it was on the wrong hand. It was a plain enough band that many wouldn’t know that it had ever been a wedding ring in the first place. Her husband’s name was only clear on the ring once the band had been removed.

Mary never removed it.