How could she face the emptiness in her life?
April 7, 2014
A VG Serial: Hills of Eden
What would she do without him? How would she stand the long nights, the endless days? Who would ever know her as Fred had known her? What would she tell their son, Martin, when he woke up? He had wanted to go with his dad, but had to work the late shift at the charcoal plant. He had come home exhausted, face blackened by smoke and charred wood, had eaten a late supper after his shower and gone to bed. She hadn’t the heart to wake him just yet. He would take it hard. He worshiped Fred, worshipped him as a boy who had been an only child for seventeen years can worship a father, worshiped him as a friend.
The sobs shook her again and she tried to stifle them, to keep them from ripping away all her self-control. But she could not stop the flood, could not ease the ache in her heart, could not halt the rush of self-pity that consumed her. What would she ever do without him? How could she face the emptiness in her life? How could she go to bed at night all alone?
The lamp seemed to flare brightly again. She felt caught in its blatant roar, exposed, all of her thoughts exposed, her feelings illuminated in its harsh, searing light.
She reached for the switch, pushed it in. The room swam in darkness for a moment. Then, the moon glazed the room with pewter, softened their bed, the bureau, Fred’s boots in the corner. The lamp seemed to burn still, but the afterglow was only in her mind, she knew, raging there like some essence of her husband that would not die so quiet and voiceless, so final and quick.
She stared through the window as if, by an effort of will, she could make Fred materialize, come bumping along the dirt road up to the house in his pickup truck, the headlamps bobbing up and down like phosphorous lanterns.
One of the boards in the hallway squeaked, startling her. She heard the soft footfall, the click of the hallway light switch, the soft creak of the door on its hinges. She turned, saw the silhouetted form of her son. His shadow filled the doorway, blotting out the hallway glimmer. He came toward her, barefooted, still in his pajamas.
He reached past her, pushed the switch on the lamp. The light came on and she saw his scrubbed face, the glaze of tears softening his blue eyes.
“No need to turn it off so soon, Mom,” he said., the husk in his voice low and startling, like his father’s. He put his hand on hers and this startled her, too. His hand, so warm, so comforting.
“I heard it on the radio,” he said. “I can’t believe it?
“Oh, Marty,” she said and his name was like a sigh rushing out of her, like the coda at the end of a prayer of gratitude.
He knelt beside her, and wordlessly, they both stared out the window. They could see their faces floating in the flame-threaded pane, tawny holographic images blurred against the velvet, moonshot darkness beyond the glass.
“Yes,” she whispered, “we should leave the lamp on. Dad would want us to leave it on.”
The lamplight glowed on her skin, warming the coldness out of her, warming her inside, warming her like sunshine, like the fresh new morning sun just beyond the darkness at the end of the lane.
Hills of Eden will be published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Please click the title, Hills of Eden, to read more about Jory Sherman and his books.