Marilyn thumbs the cracked upholstery of the couch. She shifts her feet in the clogs she’s wearing. They’re awful things, these clogs. Even she thinks so. They’re not so bad as the rubber ones that were borne out of necessity for gardeners and then adopted by line cooks and babies, but they’re still homely. Hers fit like boats. How she gets around in the things without tripping is a mystery.
The windows let in a light summer breeze. Curtains flip against the wall, tickling at a plant that sits dying in the corner. She hears music outside, but she can’t place what it is. Maybe wind chimes.
She hears her stomach churn and realizes she’s hungry. She stands, a little wobbly and uncertain in her boat clogs. Shuffling from the couch to the counter, she surveys the possibilities for dinner. Or lunch. She’s not even sure what time it is, and her watch isn’t dangling from her wrist like usual. The wall clock in the kitchen does not appear to be working. She doesn’t remember eating lunch, but then again, she could have slept right through it. Sometimes, she naps for hours.
Flies buzz around the kitchen. She swats at them and totters on her tired legs. Many of the cupboards stand open, which annoys her. She grumbles and slams a few of the doors shut. They’re empty, she sees. There’s nothing inside.
The fridge is silent. The dishwasher, too. Wind chimes ring louder outside. She twists a gnarled finger at the collar of her sweater, pulling it tighter around her. Her breath catches. She feels a pinch of panic down in her belly, but maybe she is just hungrier than she thought.
She opens a door next to the fridge. A tiny half bathroom sits where she thought a pantry would be. Where is the food? Did she forget to shop? She clears her throat and closes her eyes, a nervous tic she’s always had. She remembers Rick commenting that she’d damage her vocal cords if she did that too often. Wouldn’t want to do that, Marilyn.
Maybe Rick forgot to go shopping. Maybe that’s why there’s no food.
But why is there a bathroom here?
She shuts the door and decides she’s tired. Back to the couch, she thinks. Another door stands closed in front of her. Through it, she finds an empty room. Three windows are open. Only one has curtains, and the other two are bare. She shuts the door. Back to the couch, she thinks. Another door stands closed in front of her. Through it, she finds an empty room. Three windows are open. Only one has curtains, and the other two are bare. She shakes her head. Rick never did like her taste in décor, but he should have at least consulted her before taking anything down.
The breeze is gone, and the air stands stale here. Marilyn shuffles inside, and her clogs crunch on the floor. Glass speckles the hardwood, glittering in the sunlight streaming into the room. Shards poke from a broken window like fingers beckoning to any manner of outcasts.
Marilyn’s sweater scratches at her skin. She clears her throat again. Closing her eyes, she recalls how tired she is. She wants to be lying down. Where is the couch? Isn’t she supposed to be resting? She must have taken a wrong turn. Her eyes flip open again, and she resolves to get back to a place where she can rest.
The wind chimes outside clang louder, two distinct pitches. The curtains hang still, and she feels her chest tighten as she wonders about the temperature. Marilyn remembers then how Rick had always complained that she had the heat up too high. He would turn down the thermostat when she wasn’t looking. This was the source of one of their many recurrent squabbles, little arguments that reminded them that their decades of marriage afforded them resilience as well as selective hearing.
She doesn’t know where the couch is. A fly lands on her nose, and when she flicks it away, she loses her balance and crumples to the floor. Her cheek smacks against the wood, and tiny pieces of glass smart at her temple. “Rick!” she calls. “Rick!”
Marilyn hears the chimes clear and loud outside the window. She hears voices outside and then a knocking at the door. She realizes she isn’t sure where the door is, and she is quite sure she can’t get up to answer it. The knocking becomes a pounding, and then more voices.
She clears her throat and closes her eyes.
Boots crunch through the room to Marilyn. “Mrs. Donahue? Mrs. Donahue, can you hear me?” a boy in uniform yells. Hands lift her off the broken glass and roll her to her back. “Mrs. Donahue?” She closes her eyes.
“Mom,” says a man. When Marilyn opens her eyes, she’s in a hospital. Her son hovers over her. “You’re OK, Mom.” His words sound like a command. He is not smiling. His wife stands behind him with arms crossing over her chest. They share a concerned expression, though hers is darker. Marilyn remembers why she never liked her daughter-in-law. She always pressed for Marilyn to be moved to a home.
The man waits for Marilyn to say something. She doesn’t, so he continues. “They found you at that abandoned house down by the creek.” He searches his mother’s eyes. “The house where kids go to … Well. They found you.” Marilyn hears beeping from the machines in the room. “Mom,” her son implores. “We can’t do this again.” His voice breaks. He looks over to his wife, who steps closer to Marilyn.
“Marilyn,” she says, and wraps icy fingers around the old woman’s arm. “Honey, this is dangerous, now.” She pauses. Marilyn hears more beeps. “Marilyn, it’s time.” Her frigid clutch tightens on Marilyn’s wrist.
Marilyn clears her throat and closes her eyes.
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