This story is by Denise Weiershaus and was part of our 2022 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The pain that ripped through Moira’s chest blinded her. It exploded like a fork of lightning, spreading its electric fingers in shocking jolts. It reached every nerve in her body, almost immobilizing her. Moira’s liver-spotted hand clung to the edge of her white kitchen sink. The ceramic surface felt cold as her arms drained of color and turned as pale as the virgin nightgown she wore. Perspiration slowly trickled down each vertebra of her bony spine.
The pain eventually ebbed, allowing her shaking fingers to curl around a glass on the stainless-steel drying rack next to her. The cool tap-water drowned the ache in her body and a sigh of relief escaped her lips.
Able to lift her heavy head at last, Moira looked at the outside world that lay still and quiet in front of her. Through her kitchen window, and clear before the night sky, her reflection stared back at her. The skin that covered her time-ravaged body had succumbed to gravity’s power. Her once rosy cheeks had grayed and lost their vibrancy. A messy white nest sat on her head with a soft duck feather poking out of her hair from another restless sleep.
When had she gotten so old?
In the living room, the cuckoo clock chirped as it hit five in the morning. In over fifty years, it had always kept perfect time. She smiled at the memory of her first holiday with Joe. Lost together in a medieval town in Germany, she had asked the owner of a clock shop for directions in her broken German. Kind and made of a sort of hospitality that belonged to a different age, the owner had closed his shop to walk them back to their hotel. They returned first thing the next morning and bought a cuckoo clock from him. It was a tremendous investment at the time, but she couldn’t imagine her life without the chirps which had marked every joyful moment in her life. On that same trip, Joe had bought his favorite brown leather jacket that accentuated his sand blond hair and made his topaz eyes twinkle. He never took it off and had even worn it at the christening of their son Michael. He hid in the shadows of the old chapel, invisible to the family’s judgmental eyes, as Moira stood unmarried and alone at the baptismal font with Michael in her arms. But she had seen him, camouflaged against the church’s oak confessional. He smiled at Michael with tears in his eyes before he slunk off quietly to the godforsaken battlefield one final time.
She carried Joe with her, around her neck, close to her heart, in the amulet with the four-leafed clover engraved on it.
There was nothing Moira could do to prevent the glass from slipping through her fingers when another wave of pain overwhelmed her and took her breath.
She should call Michael. He was just a thirty-minute drive away. Maybe he’d make it. But would he come? Now that he knew the truth. He’d been so angry. At her, his father, and the world. He needed time to process, time that she didn’t have.
Her red velvet slippers dragged along the hardwood floor. Her feet screamed with each fragile step. Wheezing, Moira held her arm and fought through the stabbing pain that pricked and grew inside her. She was one step away from the emergency button, which shone brightly next to the phone. If she could just press it with her slim, wizened finger, a blinking cry for help would summon an ambulance and the nearest doctor.
A small cloud of dust burst around her as she sank into the dark chestnut armchair in her living room. The cushions still carried the memory of her husband’s form. Bill’s form. This was his favorite spot in the house. The armchair that nestled comfortably next to the eastern facing window and in which he had spent many sleepless hours bottle feeding Michael at night, while Moira sat at the kitchen table studying.
Like most people, he had been drawn to sunsets, the loud splashes of colors that lit up the heavenly canvas at the end of day, but Moira had always preferred sunrise. That brief moment in the morning when the world was still shrouded in darkness and the sun’s first light fought its way through, reborn again in shades of pink. The perfect start to a new day, like the one in front of her now. Pink cotton candy clouds hung, voluptuous and soft, in the sky. She could almost smell the sweetness of the dawning day.
The first rays of sunlight washed the room in gold and reflected off the treasures that Moira had discovered over the years. Each meant the world to her; from Bill’s collection of books to her sparkling glass figurines, one from each country they had visited, together and then as a family. Her favorite piece of memorabilia was the family photo in the crystal frame on the bookshelf in front of her. Taken on the day of Michael’s graduation.
Bill’s chocolate hair stood in such contrast to Michael’s blond locks. He had been so good to Michael. After coming into his life as a small child, Bill never made him feel he wasn’t his when it was so clear to the world. But to Bill, it didn’t matter. Michael was his and would always be. She had never been more proud of her husband than on that day.
A sudden nervousness began to creep up inside her. She started to question herself and her decisions. Maybe she should have told him sooner?
But the smiles that looked back at her from every corner of her sanctuary dispelled any doubts.
Her life had been full of adventure and love. She wouldn’t change a thing – even the hardships that had been thrown at her, like the whispers behind her back or the blatantly open stares of her neighbors. Until they moved on to the next and bigger scandal. Sometimes time healed wounds, but some wounds just never got stitched back together. Like her heart.
She had had a perfect husband, an adorable family, and a decent life by any standards. As a mother, she felt guilty leaving her child in the dark again, but the adventuress in her was curious to know what the next journey would bring and hopeful that she’d see him again.
Moira closed her heavy eyes and sought to breathe as her heart ruptured. The telephone hung untouched on the ivy wall, the coiled cord swaying slightly from side to side.
Rays of celestial warmth showered her face, relaxing every muscle. She took a deep, strong breath and filled her lungs with rejuvenating oxygen. When she opened her eyes, a new day had begun.
Through the dazzling light, a blurry figure approached, striding confidently towards her until she could make out the sand-colored hair. The same hair she had long dreamed of running her fingers through again. The young man stopped in front of her and smiled. His eyes as blue as the ocean. The smell of leather filled her with comfort and belonging. Moira slid her smooth speckle-free hand into his strong warm palm and met her happily ever after with joyful tears in her eyes.