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The Widow Always Wins

...even if she doesn't realize what she's got.

By Robyn ReischPublished 3 years ago 4 min read
The Widow Always Wins
Photo by eberhard 🖐 grossgasteiger on Unsplash

Gerald's heart attack struck him as he was leaving the house. He'd just loaded a package into the passenger seat of his car. The small box sat there while his wife came, and then the paramedics, and finally his sister-in-law. She was the one who extracted it with her thin, reedy hands.

The package was wrapped in recycled brown paper from the grocery store. Back then its edges had been thick and crisp.

His sister-in-law, Mabel, recognized it right away.

This was Gerald's final coronary episode in a series of four. As such, his death came as no great surprise to his widow, Myra. She grieved him deeply and immediately, being able to skip the shock and denial that often comes with losing a loved one. She held her sister's hand. Together, they watched his body leave their home for the very last time.

He had died right in the middle of the driveway. The car keys were still resting in his palm when the paramedics came. Gerald hadn't told his wife where he was headed. That wasn't unusual, though. Gerald often popped out for a moment without much forethought. He would always make his way back home for dinner, much like an outdoor cat.

Mabel brought the package inside when the front porch ordeal was over. "Let me have it," Myra said as she snatched the little box from her sister's hands.

"No, let me." Both sisters clung to the package. For a strange and intense moment, neither would let go.

Of course, Myra was the one who kept it in the end. "The widow always wins," her sister had sighed with resignation.

By Leone Venter on Unsplash

Now, two years later, the brown paper wrapping was old. Age had made it soft and full of unintended creases, like Myra herself. The paper was weathered away in spots. One frayed corner revealed a pixel sized glimpse of white.

Myra had intended to open the box the night Gerald passed. It was one of many small but meaningful tasks: clean up the breakfast he'd planned to finish later, pour out the coffee she never drank, call their daughter, Kendra, to break the news. This task felt the easiest. She picked up the box with both hands.

It was a dense, heavy thing. She guessed it weighed five pounds or so. On her way to grab a box cutter from the kitchen, she spotted Gerald's plush blue armchair.

Myra sat down instinctively. She held the package on her lap like a little dog. She wasn't sure if she was tired or trapped there by the box's gentle weight.

Maybe she was just sad.

By Camellia on Unsplash

Myra dreaded being alone. Just as urgently, though, she dreaded the clerical aspects of widowhood. She'd had enough friends endure this loss to know there were many. Her daughter Kendra was across the country and busy with her own children. She couldn't be much help.

Thankfully, her sister Mabel was by her side for every moment of the considerable process. Eventually she even moved into the house. Mabel was a detailed woman. Soon she knew Gerald's middle name, insurance information, date and location of birth - even his social security number.

"Let me," she said simply whenever a new form arrived. Mabel always had been the practical one. This is when Myra, the dreamer, would retreat to her chair, always holding that mighty brown box.

She couldn't tell Mabel everything. Myra knew how it looked. The way she spoke to the box, asking where it was going, constructing scenarios...She knew it was silly - crazy, even.

It seemed almost alive to her, though - this last errand, left incomplete. It made Gerald feel real. It felt something like holding his hand.

Twice now she'd caught Mabel trying to abscond with the box. Myra supposed it frightened her. Things that didn't make sense always seemed to somehow unmoor her older sister. This only made Myra stand her ground all the more firmly.

Mabel offered every day to get rid of the package, to take care of whatever was inside, to finish Gerald's business. Myra always said no. Mabel would huff off. She stopped trying to hide her irritation.

"My connection to Gerald is more important than your to-do list," Myra scolded her once. "Just let me have this."

"It's a box," Mabel had replied coldly. "It is not your husband."

Both sisters agreed to disagree. Each night, Myra held the box as she rocked gently in her husband's chair. Each night, Mabel rolled her eyes.

Eventually, Mabel gave in. She smiled at the thought of Kendra going through their things when both sisters were gone.

What would Kendra do when she opened the box and found two neatly packaged kilos of cocaine? Would she be shocked to learn the business her dad ran with dear Aunt Mabel wasn't actually for cleaning houses? Or did she already know? Would she wrongly assume that her mother was in on it, too?

Sometimes, when she was alone at night, Mabel would laugh savagely at the thought.

By Todd Cravens on Unsplash

Short Story

About the Creator

Robyn Reisch

Robyn Reisch spends her days cooking, writing, and raising three gorgeous little hooligans. She is married to the world's greatest man.

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