By Lisa Molina
“James! My closet light is still flickering!” Sally calls to her husband of nearly twenty-five years.
“I can’t hear you!” James yells. “You know I can’t hear a word you say when you’re in the closet.”
With a sigh of resignation, Sally looks straight up at the white spherical glass orb on the ceiling of the dusty closet.
Flick. Flick. Flick.
Beneath her, shoes are strewn all over the floor, separated from their mates. Some—mostly the heels–she hasn’t worn in years. Stepping over the mismatched shoes, she sees her favorite blue blouse. Her gaze moves from the blouse down to her body. The faded terrycloth robe she wears is tied around her bulging menopausal belly, ironically making her look like she is five months pregnant. She can’t see her feet.
The light flickers.
“James! It’s doing it again! The light!” She yells, poking her head out the closet doorway. “Do you think I’m imagining it?!”
“I just replaced that bulb a few days ago! And,” he adds, “you need to clean out your closet. You haven’t worn most of those clothes since you were in your twenties.”
He goes to work.
Sally stands alone in her closet. As tears drip, drip, drip onto her robe, and the light continues to flick, flick, flick, she says in the silence,
“How many husbands does it take to change a light bulb?”
A few weeks later, James enters their bedroom after deciding to leave his office a few hours early. While loosening his tie, he hears Sally’s voice.
“He’s not that bad,” she says. “You’ll like him once you get used to him, like I had to do.” Pause… “Don’t even say that!” Pause… She giggles flirtatiously.
James opens her closet door forcefully.
“Oh!” Sally gasps, standing in her old robe. “You scared me. I didn’t know you were coming home early.”
“Who were you talking to?” James asks accusingly, before stopping suddenly.
The closet is unrecognizable. The old clothes are gone, and there are new clothes hanging in perfect order by type of garment. Dresses, blouses, slacks, all perfectly pressed, hanging like soldiers in formation. Even the walls have been freshly painted.
“I finally did it James,” Sally exclaims with giddiness. “Just like you’ve been telling me. I cleaned my closet. I got rid of all the cobwebs and skeletons.” She giggles. “Get it? Skeletons? In the closet?” More giggling.
The light overhead flickers. James looks up at it, startled.
“Oh yes,” Sally exclaims. “The light bulb. I finally got tired of asking you to change it. But that’s okay. I’m glad you didn’t change it.”
Sally looks straight up to the light and says to it, “Don’t worry. He won’t bother you.”
“Who are you talking to? What’s going on?” asks James.
“James, darling, it’s the light. We’ve become the best of friends.” And although smiling, her tone becomes slightly menacing. “It doesn’t really like you much, so you’d better be nice.”
James stands silently for a moment, and then reaches out his hand to her.
“Sally…Sallicat…I want you to come out of the closet with me.”
“Oh James,” Sally says breathlessly, “You haven’t called me ‘Sallicat’ since we were, well, newlyweds.”
Her eyes moisten, and her smile softens. “But I’m going to live here now. I feel protected and safe and beautiful here with my new best friend. I’m queen of my own castle here.”
Sally looks up, addressing the light with a smile, “Aww…you’re so cute when you wink at me.”
Then Sally stares squarely into her husband’s eyes. “And soon, James, you’ll learn to love it here too.”
Sally reaches out her hand and clasps her husband’s trembling outstretched hand for the first time in several years. She moves towards him, and gives him a long, lingering, passionate kiss, as he stands, dumbfounded.
The light flickers rapidly, relentlessly.
James steps back, looking at Sally. As the blinking goes on and off like a strobe light, disorienting him, she begins to crush his hand in hers.
James watches in horror, as his wife blink, blink, blinks from her present fifty-three-year-old self to the young woman he married almost twenty-five years ago. Over and over, again, again, again.
“Let me go!” he yells.
“Why don’t you ever believe me, James? Why?”
As Sally finally releases her grip, and the light stops flashing, James turns quickly for the door. It slams shut. He frantically tries to turn the doorknob. It won’t budge.
“You can’t leave me, James. We’re in this together forever, remember?”
James finally gives up trying to open the door. He turns around slowly, facing the young Sally, unable to speak.
Suddenly, the light becomes brighter and brighter, as though the sun was crashing into the Earth. His pupils shrink to pins, becoming almost imperceptible. Everything disappears before him in the excruciating brightness.
Then, a soft familiar voice whispers in his ear, “Til death do we part, James, darling.”
All goes black.
The closet door slowly opens.
The long shadow of a tall, svelte woman in a skin-tight dress wearing spike heels appears across the bed that hasn’t been slept in for weeks.
Despite the slim silhouette, Sally walks out of the closet in her robe, the belt still struggling to reach around her protruding middle.
She walks around the bed to the dresser, looks in the mirror, picks up her lipstick, and applies it slowly and sensually. She rubs her full red lips together, and leans forward, kissing her reflection in the mirror.
“Oh, Sallicat,” she says with trembling lips. “You’re so beautiful! I’ve never been so happy.”
She twirls in her robe with a flourish.
The heels click clack with purpose across the wooden floor, and Sally exits the bedroom, lit only by the glow emanating from the closet full of mismatched shoes and old clothes.
The lipstick on the mirror smiles at the white orb eye shining from the ceiling of the closet.