by Winnie Kay
A voice struggles to break through the silence of grief.
The empty wine carafe on the counter displayed a prismatic glow of orange and yellow hues as dawn erupted through the east window over the kitchen sink. She looked out at the road leading to town and the ice-capped mountain shrouding the deep ravine below. She thought back to that particular sunrise two months ago. Her heart ached with a need to move on. Maybe I can get him to hear me today.
Rebecca went down the hall to check on Ted. Coaxing him out of bed had always been a challenging game of wit and laughter—at least until the cold silence invaded his world. She paused at Amanda’s room and allowed her hand to linger on the closed door for a moment.
She approached the entrance to the master bedroom and gazed down at her lover and best friend. Still maintained in the confines of his side of the bed, Ted faced the French doors that led to the hot tub on their secluded patio. Rebecca recalled how excited he was about having their own private spa when they first bought the house. “This is so romantic,” he had said. The shutters were now drawn, blocking the view.
“Good morning, honey." She glided through the clothes on the floor and crossed the room. As she bent down to meet his unshaven face, he opened his eyes and seemed to reluctantly blink back the oblivion of sleep.
“It’d be a shame to waste such a beautiful day lying around in bed.” She reached out and touched the curl on his forehead. “I’m worried about you, Teddy.”
Ted swung his legs over the side of the bed, ran his fingers through his unruly hair, and frowned as dawn peeked through the gap in the closed window blinds, sentencing him to another day.
“You’ve got to come see the sunrise this morning. I don’t think I’ve seen such vivid colors over the mountain. Come on now; get up. I mean it, mister. Are you listening to me?”
Ted stumbled to the master bathroom, snapped on the cold water faucet, and splashed his stubbled face. He raised his head and stared at his reflection.
Rebecca sat on the bed and watched him through the open door. She wondered if he was going to shave today. “Are you going in to work, Teddy? You’ve always told me how much you love your job. I’d hate to see them replace you.”
He brushed past her and headed to the night stand, grabbed a Marlboro from the half empty pack, stuck it between his lips, and thumbed the lighter as he inhaled.
“I can't believe you've picked up that nasty habit again, especially after your father died last year.” She frowned as he took another puff. “Are you listening to me?”
Ted plodded down the hall. Rebecca followed in a cloud of smoke, and they entered the sun-lit kitchen. He dumped yesterday's coffee grounds into the overflowing trash bin and started a fresh pot. Hands resting on the edge of the sink, he kept his head down as if forcing himself not to look at the mountain ridge across the road. He pulled the coffee pot from its hot-plate before it had completely stopped brewing and poured the thick liquid into a dirty cup. The ashes from his cigarette, pinched between his first two fingers, drifted to the floor. Ted lowered himself into his chair, and the tears began to flow.
“Teddy, please don’t cry. I’m right here with you. Are you listening to me?”
Ted looked at the disproportioned, blue and green cat displayed on the refrigerator door. "She was so proud of that picture, Teddy. Remember? She rushed through the door with that dimpled grin of hers as she danced around the kitchen, her pigtails swinging across her back." Rebecca watched as Ted stared silently at the crayon art-work.
There was a knock at the door. He slowly got up, tossed the cigarette butt into the sink, and dragged himself to the living room. Ted peeked out of one of the side glass panels flanking the door and sighed.
Rebecca leaned over his shoulder and grinned. “Oh look, Teddy. It’s Jim. Why aren‘t you inviting him in for coffee?”
He unlocked the door and swung it open, motioning for Sweeney to enter.
“Hey, partner. Thought I’d stop by and see if maybe you’d like a lift to the precinct…you know…just for a visit.”
“Isn’t that sweet of Jim. You two go on. I’ll be fine.”
Ted shook his head and shuffled back to the kitchen. Jim stepped into the room and scanned the untidy surroundings, closing the door behind him. “Sorry about the mess, Jim,” Rebecca said, and they followed Ted through the maze of unopened mail and empty pizza cartons.
Uninvited, Jim lowered his tall frame into the chair opposite his partner and followed his gaze to the refrigerator door. “Case load’s piling up, Ted. We really need you back. I’m not supposed to share this with you, but we got some leads on that bumper we found next to your car at the bottom of the ravine.”
Ted pushed away from the table and disappeared down the hall.
“Uh…maybe you shouldn’t bring that up right now, Jim. He’s having a bad morning.” Rebecca heard the click of the lighter as her husband returned in a ghostly haze of smoke.
“Leads, huh? You want some coffee, Jim. It’d have to be black. I’m out of cream, you know.”
Rebecca turned to Ted and the memories of that early morning drive began to flash back like an old movie projected in her mind—the crisp coldness of the air—bundling up Amanda and suppressing her giggles so as not to wake Daddy—the note left on her side of the bed:
Gone to store with Amanda. You’re out of cream, again. Kisses, Becky.
“Nah, I’d better get to headquarters.” Jim stood by the kitchen window, shifting from one foot to the other, and shot a thumb over his shoulder. “Nice sunrise,” he said.
“I already tried that, Jim. It didn’t work,” Rebecca whispered.
"Well, I better be going, Ted. I'll let myself out. Just holler if you need anything…anything at all."
Rebecca followed Jim to the door. "Thanks for coming by, Jim. He really needs a friend like you to check on him."
She floated back to her husband, and she kissed his cheek. “I love you, Teddy. Are you listening to me?”
Ted touched his cheek and looked up at the sunlight as he sat alone in the silent, empty kitchen. Through the tears, he smiled. "I love you, too, Becky. I will always love you."
Rebecca's heart leaped for joy as her spirit faded from his world. She had finally been heard.