Monday, April 9, 2012
Mothers And Daughters By Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw
(Author's note - This was written for a flash fiction challenge over on F3.)
Taut and alert, she lay in bed with a cell phone in one hand and a
candlestick in the other. The woman’s breathing was so shallow she
could not discern the rising and falling of her chest without looking
down… but she dared not take her eyes off of the bedroom door.
What was that? The woman’s ears pricked at the sound… a floorboard creaked in the hallway. She strained to hear… a footfall?
Her senses heightened… waiting for another sound. From the corner of her eye, a shadow crossed the upstairs window as a small cloud passed in front of the moon.
Outside the wind howled as it clove in two, swirling around the
two-story house planted in the middle of twenty acres in eastern
Kansas. The 1920’s structure bore up well to the seemingly endless
storm that had battered it for the last three days.
The woman tried to tell herself that it was only the wind that was
making those noises… that she was alone in the house, but… the hardest person to convince is often one’s own self. Her grip tightened on the candlestick and she brought the cell phone in front of her face again… still no signal. A low moan escaped her lips. Her eyes closed… then snapped open… riveted on the door! She dare not sleep… what if he…?
“Mama? I did it… I left Tom… for good this time… you were right…all those years… how could I… oh, Mama! I’m coming home, Mama… just
for a few days… until I can figure out…” A short double-tone
signaled the end of the tape on the answering machine. The woman
disconnected, returning her attention to the two-lane blacktop of
It wasn’t until she had turned off the highway and onto the gravel
road leading to her parents’ house that the woman remembered that her mother was visiting relatives in Franklin, and might not be back home yet. Papa would still be at Fort Riley.
The spare key was under the old butter churn on the front porch… the same hiding place it had been in when she was a child. “The Bible says to love your neighbor,” Mama would say whenever someone asked her why, in the middle of nowhere, she bothered locking the house, “… it doesn’t say anything about trusting him!” The woman smiled at the memory.
Entering the foyer…familiar scents of childhood fell over her… apple pie… lemon cleaner… fresh linens. Annabeth carried her bags to the parlor and set them down… she would take them up to her room later.
She opened the big suitcase and took out the smaller bag with her
make-up and toiletries… and the Beretta 9mm. Sitting on the sofa, she examined the handgun… locked and loaded… safety on. She might be finally free of an abusive husband, but it was a big world out there and there were, no doubt, others like Tom.
The woman leaned back into the cushions and closed her eyes…
Just for a few minutes…
The woman awoke with a start… her hand still wrapped tight around the candlestick. Frantically, her eyes swept to the bedroom door… it was closed, but…
Something was different…
The room was much lighter now… night had turned to day and the wind had died down to a bare whisper.
But, that wasn’t it…
She looked around the room… unchanged from the previous evening. Sitting up and swinging her feet over the side of the bed… toes touching the cool hardwood.
It took a few moments… the realization… her back! For the first time in… how long… ten years?
For the first time in ten years… that chronic, deep ache in her lower back… gone!
For several minutes, she sat there… eyes fixed on the needlepoint hanging on the wall… her constant ‘companion’ now gone.
She stood up and turned toward the door.
“Marie!” Startled, the woman took a step back.
“I didn’t hear you come in?” Her eyes slid over to the closed door.
“Marie…what are you doing here? I thought you were… Mama said that you had… I don’t understand?”
“I need to show you something, Annabeth.” Marie’s voice was calm… she held her hand out to the woman.
Marie led her down the stairs and across the foyer into the parlor.
In the middle of the room… a dark dot between the eyes… dried pool of dark crimson under his head… Tom lay on his back… dead eyes staring up at the ceiling. His lifeless fingers clutched the department issue revolver.
The woman stared down at her husband for several minutes.
Turning to leave the room, she caught sight of a shadow behind the sofa… no, not a shadow… a shape… feet… legs…
She turned to Marie… a questioning look. A slow nod of Marie’s head… the sadness in her eyes a warning…
The woman moved slowly across the room… mounting dread… her step faltered as she drew near the end of the sofa… looking down… a gasp… her hand flew to her mouth… eyes wide in horror… a stumbling step backwards… turning to Marie…
“The road was blocked… trees… downed power lines… by the time the police arrived… it was too late.”
The woman looked down at the body. Except for the two bullet holes in her chest, she might have been sleeping… her face no longer carried that haunted look.
Annabeth turned to Marie… feeling a peace she had not known for ten long years.
“I’m…?” Marie nodded. “Then… it’s true… you are…?” She couldn’t bring herself to say the word.
“Yes, Annabeth… I died three years ago… ”
Marie reached her hand out to the woman, gently taking the candlestick and setting it on the table.
The room shimmered.
“It’s time to go, dear.” She held her hand out…
Annabeth took it… the parlor began to fade to white… weightlessness…
The woman’s last thought as the room disappeared…
She would at last, be with her daughter.
© 2011 – Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw