Debra closed the closet door. Again.
It was nearly Christmas. Also, again. It would be the second one she’d be spending alone. It hardly seemed possible.
She’d turn back the clock, if it were only possible, and make sure Randy didn’t leave the house that day.
She’d turn back the clock and decide that no one needed her famous peanut brittle for Christmas. She’d bought everyone a gift; that should have been enough.
She had sent him to the store for ingredients so she could finish wrapping. If she could turn back the clock, she would have gone herself and let him wrap the presents.
Surely she would have been a less efficient shopper, and so avoided the ordeal at the supermarket.
She could never just get what was on the list—she always dawdled and visited every aisle in case something extra caught her eye, or she remembered something she hadn’t written down.
She probably would have still been in dairy at the time Randy was checking out. Somewhere, at least, further away from the entrance and exit doors.
But Randy was efficient. Randy stuck to the list. And so, when the shooter came in, guns blazing, Randy had been headed for the exit door.
He was the first one hit.
Debra had been watching some daytime television nonsense when the local news broke in with the story of a rampage at their local store. Her heart had nearly exploded with adrenaline, realizing the time that had passed since Randy had pulled out of the driveway, to the time of reports of the first shots fired, to the time the broadcast began.
He would have been home by then, if not for the chaos.
Surely he went back for milk or doughnuts—he couldn’t resist doughnuts, even if they weren’t on the list.
But she knew better. He would have called her before the broadcast began to let her know something was holding him up.
She had checked her cell phone and the land-line phone for messages, just in case.
She had called his phone repeatedly.
And then, in spite of repeated orders from the police presence on the television, she had rushed out to her car and driven to the store.
Now she stood staring at the closet door.
She backed away, brushing tears from her cheeks as she shuffled her way out of the room.
They had shared the room, but the closet was his. She had commandeered the closet in the spare room for her own things, and since his…departure…she slept there, too.
Over the weeks and months, she’d gotten a new bed for that room. New sheets, blankets, bedspread, curtains; it was no longer the spare room, no longer for guests. It was her room.
Their room was closed for business.
She knew it was stupid to blame herself. Nevertheless, she did. She had become the queen of “If only”. But it was always, “If only I hadn’t, if only I didn’t, if only I etc.”
She needed to clean out the closet and re-do things in the room, but she couldn’t bear to see his things just…hanging there. Waiting.
When she opened that door, it didn’t seem like two years. It seemed like yesterday.
Time is a crazy thing.
She went back to the dining room. A stack of empty candy tins were neatly stacked on one end of the table. They had been waiting to be filled with peanut brittle for the last two years.
She had managed to finish wrapping that year’s gifts and her daughter had picked them up and made sure they got where they were supposed to go. But the tins—there they remained.
She thought I should throw those away.
The shooter had shot Randy right through the bags of her candy-making ingredients. He’d been holding a bag in each arm; paper, not plastic, per her orders.
Too bad none of the ingredients were bullet proof.
She would never make peanut brittle again. She would never eat it again. She couldn’t even bear to look at it.
Stop thinking about it, stupid!
Too late. She was crying again. It seemed that was all she ever did now.
Her daughter told her she should move. But the time wasn’t right, not now.
What would she do—leave the whole room as is, all his things behind the closed door? Until she could pack it all up, she couldn’t move.
If she could turn back the clock…
But the clock just kept ticking.
It wouldn’t be done by Christmas.
But she’d get to it. Sometime.