A special occasion
Being bitter is the last thing she can think of so she just keeps on waiting.
“He just went out to do some shopping”. She tells the sleeping cat. “… Probably gone to visit somebody on his way.” She pauses. “Jenna and William? … they are awfully busy … got new jobs … you know what it´s like!”
Her old black cat stretches on the kitchen chair beside her. He gives her a forbearing look.
She sits in the kitchen sipping her coffee looking out onto the road where there is nobody to be seen. She doesn’t want to see anybody anyway. She drinks her coffee, the cheapest one from the shop. No need to waste money.
“They want me to go there. No way!” Her voice is suddenly very firm. “I can’t go anywhere. I have to be around … you know!”
She has started talking to herself lately. Or to the cat or the kitchen wall. At first it frightened her but now she has given in. It is rather nice to hear her own voice now and then.
She gets up and puts her cup in the sink. “I need to clean” she notes to the sleeping cat, as she looks around at the dishes piled on the filthy kitchen table, at the stove which is covered in a thick layer of fat and old dirt and at the walls, once light green now brownish. “I really need to clean”. The cat seems to be totally indifferent. He doesn’t even look up.
Right now she wants her nap. She lies down on the coach in the small lounge next to the kitchen. Not much light penetrates the heavy brown curtains: only a small ray of sun is shining through revealing specks of dust dancing in the light.
Before dark she closes the hen house in the backyard. That is the only time the neighbours see her except for Fridays when she stands in the doorway getting her groceries, delivered by Timmy, the errand boy. She always pays cash, and she always tips the boy. She knows they think she is dotty but she doesn’t want to be called stingy.
In the evenings she keeps herself busy embroidering cushion covers. She has got a stack lying in the old cabinet beside her armchair. All of them completed. “I just need to buy inners for them!” The cat looks up, yawns, and goes back to sleep.
They don’t know if she felt it coming or what made her do it. With a determination she hasn’t experienced before, she one day decides to open the green peeling door in the east end of the house. She has kept the key over the door frame for 18 years.
Filled with resolution, she turns the key but when she reaches out for the door handle her courage fails her. “I can’t do this” she wavers. “I can’t”
The cat, now suddenly wide awake, scratches the door.
She takes a deep breath and opens.
Everything is exactly as it was.
The dining room suit in dark polished mahogany. The heavy white damask cloth on the table. The immense chandelier hanging above. The crystal glasses, the silverware, everything exactly as it was left.
His smell is still in the room, his after shave, his tobacco, even the smell of his warm body. She sees the scene from that day in front of her eyes: him sitting at the table looking down telling her about the other woman. She sees herself jumping up, screaming and pummelling him on his chest. Then her begging him to stay.
After that only the room. Even the smell has vanished.
“…He has really gone ..!?”
Her skin prickles and something ascends from the back of her head.
“ … definitely need some fresh air in here,” she mutters and opens the windows wide.
She walks to the old wardrobe and finds the violet brocade dress with the gold braiding. Her dress for special occasions. It still fits her.
As the sun sets behind the spring green hills she makes herself a pot of the best soup and finds the sherry in the side board. She eats in the soft candlelight.
“Oh, I’ve got company”. She greets her dear husband at the other side of the table with a reverent nod. Her daughter Jenna sits to the left and William to the right. “Your health” she exclaims joyfully and takes a sip of her sherry. “Your health” she repeats and suddenly an immense fatigue overwhelms her to lie down on the couch.
The next day the neighbours worry when they do not see her. They find her lying on the dusty maroon velour couch.
They say she died happy.
They say she had a smile on her face.