Reads: 186

Her room seems so much smaller than it used to.

“I moved some things down to the basement, I wasn’t sure if you’d still want em or not. Your father didn’t want to but I told him you’d need the space while you’re home. Not that you need much room, dear. Christ, you’re some thin these days. You eating?”

“Yes Mom, I’m eating.”

“Cause you knows I could fix you up something right quick. You want a sandwich or something? Some eggs?”

“I’m fine, Mom. Really.”

“You’re not hungry?”

“Mom.”

Audrey breathes out slow.

“I’ll grab something in a bit.”

“Good.”

Jess unzips the bag and starts to take out clothes. Realizes how little she’s packed. She can hear Marvin barking at something out in the yard.

“Mom?”

“Yes dear?”

“Is Ashley gonna be okay, you think?”

Audrey shakes her head. Closes her eyes. “In time. It’s gonna take her some time.”

“Has she come out of her room today?”

“Well…”

“Or did she just go in when she heard I got here?”

“Jessica…”

“Well?”

“She’s distraught, Jessica. She’s hardly left the house since it happened. She…” Audrey wipes her eyes and sits on the little bed. Glances cautiously toward the hall, as though expecting to see Ashley spying from behind the corner.

“Mom, what?”

“She went down to Dominey’s for a carton of milk yesterday. I told her not to go, that she should rest. But you know your sister. Stubborn. That much you two have in common. She said she’d be ten minutes.” Audrey wrings her hands together. Her dry, wrinkled knuckles white in the pale room. “A half hour gone by. I figured maybe she ran into someone. Friends. Whatever. An hour. Nothing, no word. Finally two hours into it your father comes home and tells me he found her on his way home from the plant.”

“Whatd’ya mean, found her?”

“He said she was standing by the guard rail on Valley Road, starin’ down the cliff with the milk carton in her hand. Said she didn’t even look up until he grabbed her arm. Jessica he…” She wipes her eyes again.

“Jesus, Mom. She wouldn’t?”

“Makes me sick just thinking. Your father don’t know how long she was standin’ there like that. The milk was warm.”

“What?”

“I said, the milk was warm. When she got back. She must have been there for ages. Just, starin’ down there.”

They sit for a long time.

“She wouldn’t though, Mom. I know Ashley better than that.”

“I know.”

From the living room the sounds of conversation flare up. Jess thinks she can hear Ashley shuffling in her room across the hall.

“I best put on a fresh pot of tea. Just about time for a mug up. Everybody’s come so far. You’re gonna have one.” It’s not a question.

Jess nods and turns back to her unpacking. “I’ll be out in a bit.” Once Audrey’s out of the room she takes out her pills and tucks the little bottle under her pillow. On the way in she nearly dropped dead. So many faces she hasn’t seen for so long, and all of them looking for something to say. Sorry. Sorry for what?

“What’s the dog called?” Jess’s father leans in the door. “I’ll call him in. Looks like rain’s gonna start soon.”

“Marvin.”

“Marvin?”

“What?”

“Nothing.” He smiles. “Good to have you home, Jessy. Even though.”

“I know, Dad.”

He leaves her to her room and she sits and stares at Ashley’s door directly across from her own. A few times a shadow shows under the door, but each time it passes and no one comes out.


Submitted: June 19, 2017

© Copyright 2021 keithdaniels. All rights reserved.

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