Cassie had planned for everything. From needing a rake the first week they moved in, to their bags perfectly packed with every essential needed for the first weekend of chaos. She had meals planned, the fridge filled with exact amounts of ingredients to measure out each recipe.
But Cassie could not plan for the garbage company failing to empty their garbage can.
“What do you mean, we were skipped?” She asked the garbage company’s representative over the phone.
“I’m sorry, ma’am, sometimes this happens with new addresses on a route. We’ll get someone out as soon as we can.”
“Well when will that be?” Cassie thought about the harsh taste of a Marlboro Red, remembering the burn in her mouth and throat as the smoke pulled into her lungs.
“The earliest we can get someone out there would be Thursday.” The voice on the phone was bored.
“But it’s Monday. That’s almost a week away.” The exhale would be the best part, the blue-grey stream of smoke funneled out of her like a sideways tornado, twisting as it righted itself into the air around her.
“I’m sorry, ma’am, that’s the best we can do.”
When Jacob came home from work that night, Cassie didn’t say anything about the trash can. It stood at the end of their driveway, its lid propped open by the bulging white plastic bags.
“How was your day?” He asked, his mouth full of the perfectly planned for spaghetti and meatballs.
“Good.” Cassie said, spinning her spaghetti noodles into her spoon exactly three times.
“The place is really coming together.” Jacob said, intentionally looking at her face until she looked back at him. He wasn’t sure if he could smell cigarettes on her breath when he kissed her earlier.
“Thank you.” Cassie blinked three times at him, pulled the corners of her mouth up slightly, and went back to counting spaghetti twirls. She thought about menthols, and their cool-hot minty flavor settling on the back of her tongue like a slowly dissolving mint.
The next day, a pile around the garbage can began to form. As boxes and bags were unpacked, the pile grew. Jacob had to drive around it to get to the garage when he came home, but Cassie still said nothing.
“Anything exciting happen today?” He asked that evening over beef tips and garlic mashed potatoes.
“Nope.” Cassie said, stabbing a carefully cut beef tip with her fork, dipping it in gravy twice before bringing it to her mouth. “Same old same old. I’m still so amazed at how much stuff we’ve accumulated over the past two years.”
“Huh. Yeah, I guess it doesn’t really feel that way to me. We’ve barely put anything in the garage attic.” Jacob drank loudly from his glass of water, avoiding her eyes. That cigarette smell was still hanging around, but it felt old, not fresh.
“Mm.” Cassie held her fork between her pointer and middle finger, tapped it against her plate, and thought about the red hot look of a lit cigarette, its tip grey and chalky from needing to be ashed.
The garbage continued to pile. And then Thursday came. Cassie sat outside on the front stoop all morning, waiting for the truck to rumble up the street. After Jacob had left for work, she walked to the corner store and purchased two packs of cigarettes, Marlboro Reds and Camel Menthol Crushes. She sat, smoking slowly, alternating between Reds and menthols, her lungs and mouth and tongue and lungs burning.
After the truck drove away, the can empty and mountain of trash now gone, Cassie remained where she was. She sat and smoked until she saw the familiar headlights of their Chevy Malibu turn onto the street. She was smoking her last cigarette as Jacob got out of the car and walked to the front steps. He looked at her as she crushed the butt against the cement, her heel slowly twisting around the smoking remains three times.
She met his eyes and blinked twice.
“I’m sorry.” She said.
Jacob thought for a second, then said “The garbage finally came,” and walked past her into the house.