Southern Legitimacy Statement: The story was inspired by a woman who lost everyone she loves and lives alone with her memories in a Southern mansion.
L’appel du Vide
The new moon has cast darkness over my home. A home sealed with squeals, laughter and cries for mom. I’ve lived here since I was a child.
I line up the cutlery and perfectly position the crystal glasses for my guests. Thirteen places. One for each. The bouquets of roses etched on the rims of my finest plates remain vivid, even after all these years. I only bring them out on special occasions, and when I do, I always follow mom’s advice and use a gentle detergent to wash and a soft cloth to dry.
I step back to examine my work. The table sparkles with the promise of new life. I know my grandmother will appreciate seeing the silver-plated candle holders she left to me when she passed.
The wind stirs the leaves in the red gum tree. They are not far away.
I peer out the window. Shadows drift down the driveway toward the house. There’s my Claire. She’s clutching Freddie the teddy and holding mom’s hand.
I go to the bathroom. Check my reflection for the last time. Put my hair up in the style Jason likes best. I’ll show him I’m wearing the tear-drop pearl earrings he gave to me for our thirtieth wedding anniversary. My dress, simple and black; the dress I wore when I said goodbye.
Maggie manifests as I open the cabinet door to take the pills from the shelf. We met at college and were inseparable until the car accident. Maggie’s hair, matted, clotted with blood. Seeing her again like this reminds me of the pain I felt as I watched her take her final breath.
Time to go now, she whispers.
In the kitchen, we stand side by side while I turn on the gas and open the oven door. We return to the dining room, arm-in-arm; as if we had never been apart.
I pop the cork from the bottle of cabernet I’ve been saving since 1982. I pour two glasses. She jokes, we laugh, as I wash down the sleeping pills.
At last, everyone has arrived.