Nel finally realizes that she was never really missing her husband. She really missed Sula and the friendship they had. This realization really shows the relationship Nel had with her husband and with Sula. Nel and Sula’s relationship was obviously closer and stronger than her relationship with Jude. It was “appropriate” for her to miss Jude because she was supposed to “love” him because he was her husband. She wasn’t supposed to miss Sula because Sula was the one who took him away. I think that the gray ball that hung around Nel might have been this realization that she wasn’t sad because of her husband leaving, but because of Sula leaving. She lost a friend who had been with her through everything form a young age. That was real love.