By FC Malby
The early morning light pierced through the kitchen window, catching the edge of the table. Dents left from an old mincer had been ingrained along the edges, and there were strokes of felt tip pen in an array of colours left by the grandchildren during a recent visit. Signs of life, she thought. Kitchens are the hub of the home, her mother had said, but life as she knew it had come to an abrupt end last night when she had received the call.
Her coffee rested in front of her, the steam rising into wisps, curling as they pulled up toward the ceiling. Tick tock. The constant motion of the clock on the wall behind, a reminder of the minutes slipping away. There were no small voices in the house. She missed them with their requests and hugs, with bits of paper thrust into her lap, adorned with sequins and magazine cuttings, torn at the edges. Last weekend, she had lost the best part of the travel section of the paper. “Gran” was usually written into the design in a corner or as a headline in bubble writing, presented with a smile or a raised eyebrow that said, “What do you think?”
These were the moments she usually enjoyed before the day began, but the quiet felt deafening this morning. A dive into the murky waters of the ocean might be both loud and quiet. There is silence underwater, but you can hear your heart pounding and the thud of a boat engine above, the splash of swimmers and the air as it is sucked from the oxygen tank.
It’s Dorothy, the caller had said, she had an asthma attack they think. Her inhaler was found upstairs. I don’t think she could reach it in time. Dorothy had been her closest friend since the children were small. They had met at the school gate on her eldest’s first day. They had started talking and the conversations continued, spilling into days, weeks, months, and then years. She had ended the call last night and sat down in the conservatory looking up into the black of the night sky. There had been no stars. She had wondered how it had happened and whether it was quick or whether she had been distressed.
This morning, the shock had failed to dissipate, and the silence of the night sky only replaced by sunrise and the whooshing of the milk cart. They still delivered. The postman would come next. The daily routine would continue, with the exception of the call from Dorothy, just to check in, she always said, won’t be long. But this morning long would have been fine. Anything, just a few words. She wanted to hear her friend’s voice.
The phone broke the silence. She ignored it. It wouldn’t be Dorothy, and she did not want to talk to anyone else. The milk cart was nearing the end of the drive. Footsteps, followed by the clinking of bottles, then the whooshing sound as it disappeared. Tick tock.
She finished the dregs of the coffee and stood up, wishing she hadn’t spent so long talking about herself yesterday morning, wished she’d asked more, talked less. She closed the coffee jar and put in back in the cupboard, then closed the cupboard door. The postcard from Dorothy’s summer holiday pinned to the front. “Wish you were here,” it read. Yes, she thought. Wish you were here.