Quiana lived in Solon’s house for three months, watering his plants, tearing off pages in his calendars, taking in his milk and newspapers, paying his bills. She told the few people who asked that Solon had left on a business trip, but he hadn’t said where he was going or when he’d be back. After three months she had removed the traces of Solon’s presence in the house and made it entirely hers. After three months, summer had come, and the wild strawberries ripened, large and fat and red, red as rubies.
She made jam from the strawberries that she pulled from over his grave. Red pound after red pound of strawberries she picked, sorted, washed, and stemmed. In large pots she cooked them, cut slightly into their red, red flesh until the juice ran out, simmered until the juice rose above the berries and their sweet smell filled the house. Sugar she added, and watched it dissolve into the red, red juice. Patiently by the stove she stood, mind empty, smiling slightly, until the jam had cooked through and the timer buzzed her back to wakefulness. She jarred and stacked the jam, shelf after shelf in the quiet basement, a wall of red, a sweet, red, red wall of jam.