The rain poured down outside. April showers drenched the outside world, blessing the fertile earth. The drops pounded against the cheap tile roof. The house was dark throughout. A single solitary wall lamp was lit in the kitchen. In the living room, which the kitchen opened into, sat a middle-aged woman in a big, brown, leather chair that had a small tear on the back.
The appearance of the woman was that of a generally well-kept lady. Her hair was pulled back into a bun, from which some loose hairs had escaped from their elastic prison. She wore a partially-unbuttoned, silk blouse and form-fitting tweed skirt around her mid-sized frame. She had podgy cheeks and bags beneath her eyes. Her feet rested bare on the beige carpet.
The woman rocked back and forth in a slow, hypnotic manner. Her light brown eyes stared vacantly downward at the photo album lying in her lap. She held a glass of gin in her right hand. Every so often she would blink, never losing concentration. She took in long, deep breaths, and let out raspy exhalations. Expand… collapse… Her chest followed a steady pattern, which if timed, would be precisely on beat, to the very second, every single time.
The streetlights intruded through the stained, lacy white curtains of Margaret’s front window. Occasionally a car would drive past. As they passed by, the headlights would shine in, casting extended shadows of the cheap furniture on the peeling wallpaper in her living room. Still, it left her undisturbed. Not even the sickly, pungent smell eking in from the kitchen bothered her.
Suddenly, the old tarnished grandfather clock chimed for the midnight hour, and the sound jolted the woman. Her eyes drifted over to the clock adjacent to her. Watching it with unwavering concentration, she stared at the pendulum swing. Memories came flooding back to her as it swung, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth…
“Margaret, isn’t this beautiful? Wouldn’t it be perfect for you? Peter would love it! He collects antiques, you know? You could surprise him with it when he comes back from University!” Susan, a talkative young woman, exclaimed as she admired the antique grandfather clock.
Margaret, at the youthful age of nineteen, took a stance next to her friend. Her hair was tied in the same tight fashioned bun. She looked over the clock with analytical eyes. A proud smile crept across her face. She ran her fingers over the smooth surface.
“Yes, it’s perfect..."
The clock finished its twelve bongs. Her eyes sank down again. Simply listening to the tranquil sound of the rain, Margaret zoned out once more. She closed her wrinkled eyelids over her deadened eyes. Her soft cheeks puffed out as she let out a long breath. She wrinkled her brow. Gasping for a breath, her heart began to throb painfully as the past came vividly back to her…
“Look at the stars… Aren’t they mesmerizing?”
“I could just lay here with you forever… Hey, Peter?”
“Do you, do you think that anyone else is looking up at the sky like this? Just like we are, in the middle of a field of wildflowers? … Oh no, don’t answer. I’m embarrassed now. What a silly question... Forget it.”
“It’s not silly. I don’t know for sure, but I hope so. I’d hate to be the only one this lucky.”
Margaret giggled and rolled on her side. The young lovers lay staring into each other’s souls through the portals of their eyes. Iridescent fireflies glowed all around them. Loving fingers reached out to caress warm satin skin. Groping hands reached craving more. Silk lips grazed against each other. Her strawberry flavored lip-gloss had tasted like candy.
“I missed you so much when you had to go away for school. I wish you didn’t have to go back. I know it sounds like I’m paranoid, but I worry about all of those girls you are with there…” Margaret sighed sadly. “Please promise me you’ll come back to me.”
Peter took Margaret’s hand in his, and then gave her another kiss. As he pulled away she felt something slide onto her finger. Glancing down to see what it was, she saw a diamond ring, mounted in white gold, on her ring finger. Her heart fluttered and she felt herself blushing. Up her eyes darted to meet with his. Her jaw fell open.
“I’ll always come back, if you’ll have me.”
“I’ll always want you to come home to me.” A smile crept across Margaret’s youthful face.
The two lovers confessed their deepest passions in the grassy field. A shooting star passed by above…
As if vibrating, Margaret’s hand quivered. The gin in her glass sloshed about. The veins in her neck stood out as she was engulfed in her memories. Thunder boomed outside. It surprised her and she gasped. Lifting her shaky glass to her lips she gulped down her drink.
Before her weary eyes were photos of her wedding. Taking her left index finger, she traced the face of her groom. Her heart grew heavy in her chest. A car drove by, reflecting light into her eyes. She did not lose focus on the photograph.
“Peter…” her vague voice muttered.
It was a cloudless day in late June. Pink, white, and yellow roses bloomed around the cove by the Pacific Coast. The sea breeze blew softly, rustling playfully through the trees. The subtle lull of the gentle waves relaxed listeners. It was warm and barely humid. Birds chirped happily all around. It was the perfect day.
Margaret stood in her puffy, white wedding dress at one end of a white carpet. At the other end of the walkway there was a gazebo post, decorated with purple lilacs, which matched the bridesmaid’s gowns. With her arm interlocked with her father’s, and a bouquet of lilies between her hands, she began her walk down the aisle.
All attention turned to Margaret. Ahead of her lay her entire future. Her husband-to-be stood under the gazebo by the minister. He was tall and handsome, with the most alluring gaze she had ever witnessed. There he waited in his formal tuxedo before her.
Step, step, step… Margaret approached Peter. His romantic aura welcomed her. She could feel the soft earth through the carpet strip. She parted from her father’s arm and took the last few steps up to her true love’s side.
“We are gathered here today…” The minister began…
The howling of the dog next door startled Margaret out of her flashback. She knew the dog well. It was now an old, greying golden retriever named Bess. It was of a sweet constitution. The only time she ever barked was at squirrels, which apparently she was afraid of.
Margaret’s neighbours also had children. The dog always played with them. They ran around the yard together, throwing a tennis ball for Bess to chase after. The laughter echoed in Margaret’s head, reminding her…
It was a sun-drenched afternoon in late January. There was a foot of snow everywhere outside, which glistened in the light. Margaret walked up the pathway to her little brick house with two brown grocery bags in her hands. As she took out her keys and stepped up near the door, she could hear the children playing next door.
One of them ran out into the front yard followed by a beautiful golden puppy. The little girl tumbled into a pile of snow. The puppy followed and licked the girl’s face. She giggled profusely. The second daughter, slightly older, emerged from behind the back of the house.
“Hello, Mary!” Margaret cheerily said to the older girl, who stopped and looked over, “Your parents get you a new puppy?” she queried.
“Yes, Mrs. Allen, we named her Bess. Isn’t she cute?”
The giggling girls continued running around in their little snowsuits. Margaret smiled, took out her keys, and unlocked the front door. Once indoors, she wiggled her feet free from her snowy winter boots. From the entrance area, she could see clearly into the living room. The clock sat in the same position, as it would be many years later, properly polished. The leather chair was on the other side of the living room, without its tear. Pictures hung on the walls within elegant frames.
The front door gave a tiny squeak as Margaret shut it behind her. Walking from the front hall, through the living room and into the kitchen, she placed the bags down on the maple table. Unbuttoning her coat, she then shimmied it off of her shoulders and rested it over the closest chair. After that, she commenced to unload her groceries from the confines of the brown paper carriers.
Margaret turned on the stove. She glanced over at the clock, which read three o’clock. Busily, she set off to work. Grabbing a colander from a cabinet beneath the counter, she placed it in the sink and turned on the tap. Placing her fresh carrots beneath the running water, she started washing them off.
Two hours later, almost to the minute, Peter came through the front door. The delectable scent of the roast in the oven lingered in the air. The dining room table had their most expensive tablecloth to decorate it. The fine china was out, along with a bottle of champagne.
The door gave another squeak as Peter shut it behind himself. Margaret finished shredding lettuce leaves into salad dishes and wiped off her hands. She let her hair free of its confining bun and teased it with her fingers.
“Hello! I’m home,” Peter called.
Margaret pulled free her apron and entered the living room to greet her husband. She took his bag from him and put it aside. Peter removed his coat and put it over a chair. Margaret stood in a coy manner by the sofa. Peter went toward her and pecked her on the cheek. He was about to pull away to leave when he took notice of the set up in the dining room ahead. It was then that he saw the twinkle in her eyes.
“What is it?”
With a grin from ear to ear she replied, “I’m pregnant.”
Unable to cope with the memory, Margaret began to hyperventilate. Her forehead beaded with perspiration and her insides felt horribly twisted. Sorrow-filled salty tears trickled down her face. Soundlessly, she stifled a scream. Squeezing the material of her skirt within her fist she desperately searched for relief.
After several painstaking moments, she gathered herself. The ache in her chest dissipated and her tears ceased their untamed flow. Releasing the death grip on her skirt, she meticulously straightened out the wrinkles she had created. Struggling to get through the moment, she turned the page of the photo album.
Margaret’s eyes flared wide open. Her lips quivered as she stared down at a daunting birth certificate staring back at her. She felt a great pressure building within her very being. Shutting her eyes, she refused her eyes the sight but could not stop the vivid resurfacing cries…
“…Why isn’t she breathing!? What happened? Oh no… No, no! Oh, dear God, no! Don’t take her away from me! … What happened? What happened!? How could you let this… Oh, my Daisy… Baby girl please don’t go!”
The agonizing death of her two-month-old daughter Daisy replayed for her. She opened her eyes to see the tiny urn with Daisy’s ashes still resting atop the mantle. Margaret felt a well of emotions building in her core. The smell from the kitchen hindered her concentration…
Eggs fried in the cast iron pan over the gas stove’s flame. Peter sat reading the morning paper, occasionally sipping his straight black coffee. It was a dreary, spring day. Overcast clouds painted the sky many shades of gray. Toast popped up from the toaster, which Margaret hastily grabbed and swabbed with butter.
“… My boss asked us to join him and his wife Nancy at their dinner party tonight, so remember to be ready for five,” Peter said absently, involved with one of the articles.
“I know. I haven’t forgotten,” Margaret flipped the eggs.
Again there was silence. Turning off the flame, Margaret shuffled the eggs onto a plate with the toast. Alongside the cutlery she set the plate down before Peter. He folded his paper reluctantly and set it aside.
Margaret took her seat next to Peter. Picking his coffee up to take one more sip, he cringed in pain. His left arm tensed up and a great pain bellowed in his chest. Margaret looked on with fretful eyes. She froze in her seat, terrified. Peter’s face turned red and he let out a grunt before he fell back in his seat motionlessly. Crash! The mug hit the floor. The kettle started whistling…
Margaret could still hear the kettle in her ears. Hypnotically, she set down her glass of gin and then shut the album on her lap. Carefully, she set it aside. With empty eyes, she stood up. Like a puppet she moved, as if possessed, toward the kitchen to turn off the kettle. Her feet shuffled against the carpet. The pungent scent worsened as she neared the kitchen. Just inside the doorway, she flicked on the lights. Peter still sat there, flopped over his chair, beginning to rot. Ignoring the decaying body of her beloved husband, she hobbled over toward the empty stove. She turned off the flame beneath the imaginary kettle, then turned to Peter and asked,
“How would you like your eggs, dear?”