Posted in Writings

The Red Clock

The whites of Maggie’s knuckles were showing as she clenched a wadded-up tissue. She used the same tissue she had groped around for in her bag on the drive home. Sniffle. Wipe. Repeat. She stared out into the street. Her husband, Brian, followed her gaze. Maddie and Taylor were riding their bikes around their cul-de-sac. The sounds of their laughter echoed into their quiet existence, like an unwanted guest. The Jensen girls ran into the house next door. Their mother, Darla, was expecting a third child.

He let out an exhausted sigh standing for a moment before taking a couple of steps and slumped in the overstuffed chair next to her. He stared up at the ceiling and glanced at the little red clock placed on a side table that divided them.

It was a canary red retro alarm clock. Maggie had picked it out a few years back at a flea market on their way home from a road trip up the Pacific Highway Coast. Beside the clock, there was a frame with a photo of the two of them standing in front of the Experience Music Project Museum in Seattle, Washington. Their forefingers and pinkies pointed into the cloudy sky with their tongues hanging out like the lead singer from Kiss.

He picked up the clock, holding it in both hands and watched as the second hand made its way around the face. He tossed it around wondering what it might feel like to chuck it through the window before setting it down. He placed his hands on either side of his temples and rested his elbows on his thighs.

            Tick. Tick. Tick.

Brian brushed his lips gently on the top of her forehead. He sat on the edge of the coffee table opposite her and reached for her shaky hand. She quickly pulled away from his grasp and fiddled with the dainty rose colored crucifix that hung just below her collarbone. It was a reminder of sweeter days, a gift he had given her on their wedding day. She tucked her legs tightly beneath her as she sat with her back erect on their leather sofa. She stared blankly out of their bay window of the Livingroom. Her long chestnut hair was an untidy mess held up in a high bun, loose strands framed her delicate features.

There was a soft knock at the front door. Brian reluctantly walked to the door and opened it wide.

 “Here.” Darla Jensen presented him with a casserole dish. It appeared to hold homemade macaroni and cheese suspended in a gelatinous mixture of cream of mushroom soup and the distinctive smell of tuna fish. “I wasn’t sure if you wanted the chips over it, so I brought a bag of them just in case. Maddie and Taylor wanted you to have these too.” She tried to hand over the casserole and the freshly baked snickerdoodles, but when he didn’t make a motion to take it, she walked passed him straight into the kitchen.

She made her way to Maggie and sat down. She scooted in close and put her arms around his wife. In a half embrace, Maggie rested her head on Darla’s shoulder. Maggie began to sob. With each wave of tears, her body shuddered.

 “Shhh. It’s okay.” Darla cradled Maggie in her arms.

The tears kept flowing, and Darla continued to hold her in silence. A growing pile of tissues had emerged on the coffee table. When the tears had momentarily stopped, Maggie began to speak. There had been a heartbeat the day before, but sometime during the night, it had stopped.

            “These things happen. There is no real explanation.” Dr. Young had said. He made some marks on her medical chart and gave the nurses the okay to begin the procedure. Her labor had been induced. After the delivery, a nurse had given them some time to be alone with their baby. Their daughter’s eyes shut, her blue lips pursed in a sort of pout, ten fingers, and ten toes. Gracie Lynn Wheeler was perfect.

            There were no words of comfort that Darla could offer. She left a short time after with a promise to come back tomorrow. Maggie nodded and went back into the same position she had been before Darla had arrived. Legs tucked underneath, but instead of tissue, she clutched a throw pillow to her stomach.

            “You call me if you need anything.” She squeezed Brian’s shoulder before she let herself out.

            Tick. Tick. Tick.

            Maggie continued to look out the window as the pink, and the orange sky turned into a deep blue then purplish hue before turning completely black. Brian turned on a side lamp. The light on Maggie’s face elongated her features and accentuated the dark circles underneath her eyes.

            She began to speak in a low whisper. “I was going to read her Goodnight Moon every night. We were going to take her to the zoo. You were going to show her how to ride a bike…”

            Was. Were. Would.

            Tick. Tick. Tick.

            She threw down the pillow, swung her feet from beneath her. She swiped the clock and flung it onto the travertine floor. The clock became an indistinguishable hodgepodge of plastic and metal parts. The batteries rolled under the couch. She stood there staring at the pieces and brought her hands to her face. He came towards her and wrapped his arms around her slight frame. Her face crushed into his chest and her arms gripped his sides. They began to breathe in unison. He allowed his tears to fall. They trickled onto her head. It had been the two of them for the last eight years, and together they were going to get through this, but for now, they would hold onto each other and grieve over the baby that would never come home.

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Posted in Writings

Solo Respira

Earlier that morning Isabel threaded her thick black ponytail through the back of her hat and coiled it in a low bun. She wore all black from running tights to her jacket with the exception of her neon pink running shoes. She greeted a park employee with an upward nod as she strode through the main entrance. At 12 minutes per mile, her powerwalk was the envy of many a running friend. Her arms brushed against her slender build with every stride. Swish, swish, swish.

A quarter of a mile in, a cyclist breezed passed her on his way down. She broke into a run, gaining momentum with every footfall. She used her forefoot until she made it up to a lookout made popular for its spectacular sunset views. The morning light coupled with the smog blanketed the city with a grayish tint.

She frowned as she walked passed the Japanese Gardens. The vegetation was dormant right now, but the ducks made up for the lack of tourists who frequented this area in the spring and summer. Quack, quack. Quack. QUACK. They could tell she had nothing of worth to them and continued to splash around the little pond. A couple of hopeful ones kept their beady-eyed gaze as she passed by. Maybe I’ll bring you guys a whole loaf of bread next week. Yes, next week, but first…

A few angry tears filled her eyes, and the sting from her throat prevented the overflow of tears from turning this into a full-blown crying fest. The ugly cry was not going to happen. She quickly wiped the tears away.

Nope.She said under her breath and nodded her head from side to side, focusing on the ground beneath her. She gulped down hard and straightened herself. She had no one to blame. It was my own damn fault for wearing the ring in the first place. In her haste to get in her daily run, she forgot to take it off.

She sprinted up the last few steps that led to the small gray stone chapel. If she had continued on the main steps to her left, she would be at the highest point of the hill. There stood the statue of the Virgin Mary, greeting visitors near and far with open arms. The statue was lit up each night. She instinctively wiped away the sweat that trickled down the side of her cheek. She took off her hat, shook out her hair and unzipped her jacket. A couple of women were on their way out. She smiled at them both, and they returned the gesture and whispered, “Ciao.” in succession.

She sat down in one of the pews in the back. The bench creaked as she settled in. She took a deep meditative breath and then another. Breathe in positivity. Exhale the negativity. She prayed that the pain of losing her mom would lessen, even though it had been three years. Most of all she prayed that she’d find that ring. It was a simple silver wedding band, but it held the one tangible sign of the life her mother had lived. She wanted to pass it on to her daughter at some point in the future, but until then she was the bearer of the ring. Some ring keeper I am. Her mom had only lived to see Victoria’s first birthday. Oh no, not the tears again. She allowed the tears to flow. They rolled down her cheeks pooling momentarily at the corners of her mouth and on past her chin before dropping to the cold stone floor.

She sat for a few more minutes, taking in the peace. Solo respira. She came out of the chapel with a sense of calm. Whether or not she found it, it was going to be okay. She realized that the people who left their journey in the physical were still very much there. She could feel her mother’s presence with her now. She followed a path that led to the playground.

She had stopped to linger there yesterday. She ran her fingers along the grooves of her favorite tree and along the various carvings and initials that marked it like a tattoo. It was a perfect place to sit as a child and an even better tree for climbing. She sat there now and recalled a time when she was about five.

“Mira, Mami!” She looked to see if she was watching, but when she turned she had lost her hold on a branch. She braced herself for the fall, but her mother had been right there to catch her.

“Isabelita, te tengo. Siempre te tengo, mi amor.” Her mother gave her a long hug and kissed her on the cheek. She was always there to catch her.

The clouds and smog had disappeared. She looked to her right, and there in a clump of dead grass lay her mother’s ring, glistening in the mid-morning sun. Gracias a Dios. Gracias. Tears of joy filled her tired eyes. Not only did she gain back what she had lost, but she also found the peace she had longed to feel. Mami, te amo. She pressed the ring to her lips before placing it back on her ring finger. Voy a estar bien. Yes, I’m going to be okay. Everything is going to be okay.