I’m cleaning out my office and came across this little story I wrote in 1993.
The sun streamed through the waves in the large leaded glass window, warming the sill and spilling its light into the room. Arthur arched his back, extended his paws, and then leaped down from his perch. He padded over to the bed, jumped up and began to purr as he sank into the duvet. Sarah stirred and rolled to her side. Reaching her shoulder, Arthur began to do his happy feet dance, kneading the bedclothes with his paws, and running his rough tongue across her ear. Sarah yawned and turned her head. Arthur pursued, rounding the top of the pillow to seek out the other ear. She opened her eyes and reached over to stroke behind Arthur’s ears. He pressed his head into her hand and he purred even louder. “Good morning to you too!” she cooed. Pushing back the bedclothes, she stood up. Arthur jumped off the bed and started to weave himself between her legs.
She walked to the kitchen, opened the cupboard and grabbed the box of cat food. Arthur ran to his dish ahead of her, and began to circle. She shook the food into the dish and turned to put the kettle on. Absently, she reached over to the mug tree and noticed that her favourite mug was missing. Oh yes, she had left in the studio.
She walked down the hall and entered the studio. The room was small but had good natural light, which was perfect for her painting. Shelves lined the walls filled with sketchbooks, charcoals, and neat little ceramic jars of brushes. There, on the small table by the window was her mug. Picking it up, she peered inside and saw the dregs of the few mouthfuls of tea leftover from the night before. She never did finish a full cup. Alex used to tease her about that all the time. Sarah turned to leave the room and glanced up.
Propped up on the shelf on the far wall, was a sketch she once did of Alex. It had been done as an assignment for art class and she remembered the day Alex posed for it, for that was the day that they had become lovers.
She walked over to the shelf, took down a scrapbook and sat in the armchair by the door. Her hand wiped the dust from the cover and the particles filtered through the air to dance on the beams of light that filled the little room. Her memories disturbed, her eyes misted it over and she reverently turned the pages that held all that remained of their seven years together.
A faded withered petal glided to the floor, now a brittle keepsake of a bouquet of wild pansies Alex had left for her before leaving on a business trip. Sarah chuckled and she read the accompanying card, “My darling Dimples, I shall return.” The first time I was called Dimples, she recalled, Alex was under heavy sedation. Alex had been reading an article about General MacArthur just before the drugs took effect. The story is told that Alex entertained the hospital porter, the occupants of the elevator and the employees of the radiology department with lurid tales of MacArthur’s Filipino mistress, affectionately known as Dimples. Alex came to in the recovery area smiling and while looking up into Sarah’s concerned face blurted, “Hi there Dimples!” and the name stuck.
She sighed, turned the page and smiled at the photo of Alex holding a soaked little stray that they had found on a morning jog by the river. Sarah couldn’t refuse taking in the poor little thing especially when she saw how Alex was so moved by his story state. They named him Arthur. Arthur was almost a year old when Alex was killed.
They had been out all that Saturday afternoon. Alex playing touch football with friends and Sarah cheering lustily from the sidelines. They arrived home chilled and starving so Sarah busied herself preparing supper while Alex laid a fire in the woodstove. Fishing around in the fridge, Sarah realized she was out of cheese. She asked Alex to walk over to the corner market to pick some up along with a few last-minute things for supper. Grabbing a jacket, Alex came into the kitchen for the list, snatched a stick of celery, and kissed Sarah goodbye.
Twilight arrived with its lengthening shadows and the fall evening was even colder now; a warmer jacket would’ve been nice. Alex decided to jog to keep warm. Rounding the corner, the little market came into sight. Alex could see Mr. Hussein sweeping away the leaves from the front of the canopied shop. Alex called out a greeting; Mr. Hussein smiled and waved as Alex began to cross the street. Instantly, that smile became a grimace of horror as a small red car screeched its way around the corner taking out the front quarter panel of a larger parked car, ricocheting like a banked slap shot and slamming into Alex. The startled driver, a boy of 15, careened past Alex’s broken body and sped down street leaving a slew of knocked over trash cans in his wake. Alex was pronounced dead on arrival, the innocent victim of the night of joy riding.
Almost an hour had gone by and Sarah became annoyed that Alex hadn’t returned. Alex probably got talking to Mr. Hussein at the market and didn’t notice how late it was getting. She called the market. There was no answer. Thinking she had misdialed, she rang there again – still no answer. It was only seven o’clock and the market usually stayed open until eleven. Something was wrong. She began to tremble with fear. She looked around the kitchen at the supper that wouldn’t be eaten and then ran to the front closet for her coat. Pulling it around her shoulders, she let the front door slam behind her, jumped off the porch steps and ran down street.
On the corner a police car’s piercing, staccato lights illuminated the darkening sky, silhouetting the gathering crowd. Slowly, she walked to the last few yards, sour juices churning in her stomach. Slumped by the wall outside the market, was Mr. Hussein. He was talking to a policewoman who was jotting down what he said in a notebook. Another policeman was holding the crowd at bay, but she pushed her way past him and called out to Mr. Hussein. He looked up and seeing Sarah, he began to cry. She screamed and felt arms about her as her knees started to buckle. Through the fog that swirled in her head, she heard the policewoman tell her that Alex had been injured by a hit-and-run driver and was already at the hospital. She asked if Sarah wanted someone to take her home, but she declined asking instead to be taken to the hospital.
During the ride to the hospital, Sarah gazed out the window of the car at familiar sights that now seemed somehow different. The buildings seemed to float by as if in slow motion. The policeman left her in the emergency department explaining that he had to return to his duties. She thanked him and made her way to the nurse’s station to inquire about Alex. Behind the desk sat the ward clerk who would give her no information about Alex, but told her to have a seat and someone would be by to see her shortly. Two hours past while she paced the floor, checking back with the harried clerk every few minutes. Finally, in exasperation, she got angry and demanded to speak to someone immediately.
The ward clerk scuttled away to return with a young resident. He took Sarah to an alcove off the main corridor and asked who she was and what was her connection to Alex. She told him that they have been living together for the past seven years. He then explained to her that Alex had died in the ambulance; they did all they could but there was massive blood loss and tissue damage; that Alex had been unconscious and probably didn’t suffer; and that they had notified the next of kin. Next of kin?
Alex’s family had not been a part of Alex’s life for at least 10 years. Apart from greetings at holiday times, as far Sarah knew, Alex had not maintained any family contacts. Sarah was the closest next of kin there was. The young doctor told her a faded address card had been found in Alex’s wallet and so, the hospital had notified the Colemans. As soon as the coroner had signed the release, the body would be moved in the morning. “Where””, she asked. He couldn’t say, but perhaps, if Sarah were to call Alex’s parents… She thanked him and asked where she could call a taxi to take her home.
Her steps resonated with a hollow thud and she plotted up the porch steps, a hollowness that echoed within her heart. She walked through the front door, placed her keys on the hook above the umbrella stand, took off her coat, hung it carefully in the closet and turned to the phone.
Searching through the phone book, she found the Coleman’s number and dialled. Mrs. Coleman answered. “Mrs. Coleman?” she hesitated, “it’s Sarah Wilson.” “Oh my God, it’s that girl!” she could hear Mrs. Coleman say under her breath. “Give me the phone Hazel” it was Mr. Coleman. “Leave us alone”, his voice cracked, “don’t you think you’ve done enough?” He hung up. She stared at the receiver, let it fall from her hand, started to the kitchen, and put the kettle on.
The whistle of the kettle startled her and she lifted her head from the photo in the scrapbook. Blinking back tears, she stood, and carried the book back to the kitchen. Arthur had finished his breakfast and was now sunning himself on the sill over the sink. She took a bagel from the breadbox to have with her tea, sat down at the kitchen table and continued to thumb through the scrapbook.
Two years had passed since Alex’s death, and it had been quite sometime since she had last leaved through its pages. The book was all that was left to her after the Coleman’s attorney had obtained a court order allowing them to enter and remove all of Alex’s personal effects from their home. They had contested Alex’s will and had won the right to the estate. They stripped her of everything that once belonged to Alex. It was all Sarah could do to prove that the house was hers outright and not part of the estate. It seemed that in their pain and grief, the Colemans wanted to punish Sarah for the loss of their daughter.