A Little Dark Short
By Ravenna Young
Copyright 2015 Ravenna Young
Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. All characters are products of the author’s imagination and not based on any real person. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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Annie Cook stared as if hypnotized at the three-inch thick, antique, oak front door. She had treasured the door when they first bought the house. In fact, it was the first thing she fell in love with…now, it was officially tainted. It might as well be stained with blood because the sight of it repulsed her beyond words—the entire house repulsed her, causing her skin to crawl with the emergence of endless goosebumps. This was her house, but it no longer welcomed her home.
Sighing with dread, she raised a shaky hand, sliding it across the perfectly smooth surface. Her hand came to rest on the heavy brass nob, while the other hand struggled to place the key in the lock. She hadn’t stopped trembling since it happened.
Finally, the key connected and slid into the lock, but she paused, dropping her hands and rethinking the situation. Maybe she should just go back to her mom’s house.
She had to do this.
It had been long enough.
How long was long enough?
Nodding her head with resolution, she raised her hand, wrapping her fingers around the nob. Her eyelids closed while she concentrated on the sun-warmed metal gripped tightly in her palm. Somehow the heat soothed her trembling hand, and the vibrations subsided, even though she was terrified. Dumfounded, she stared at the door.
“Come home with me, Annie.”
Startled, Annie spun, surprised to find her mom at the bottom of the steps to the porch. She had been so wrapped up in her emotions that she didn’t notice her mom had stuck around. Their eyes connected for a moment, and Annie almost cracked under the strain of concern in her mom’s eyes. Annie shook her head robotically.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to come in?” Mom took a step up onto the first stair, but hesitated, waiting for Annie’s invite.
Again, Annie shook her head.
Sensing her daughter’s resolve, Mom nodded as a warm, I-love-you-and-I’m-here-for-you, half-smile flashed momentarily across her lips before they shaped back to a worried frown. Reluctantly, Mom turned and walked back to the car. Annie continued to watch her mom until she finally drove away.
“I love you Mom,” she said to the air, “but I need to face this alone. I can do this.”
Annie rolled her shoulders, attempting to loosen the invisible burden that weighed them down, but it didn’t help. Nothing did. A heavy sigh of resignation escaped her lips, and she turned her attention back to the house.
It was time to go in, whether she liked it or not. Annie swallowed hard, fighting back the bile that forced its way into the back of her throat. A few minutes passed, maybe longer, as she stared with a mixture of fear and disgust at the door.
It wasn’t just the door, even though it was just a door. It was the house attached to the door and everything inside that tormented her with dreams that would never come true. The past was her salvation, her present a nightmare, and her lonely future threatened her sanity.
The white, two-story colonial stood before her, taunting her with memories of the moment her life fell apart. True, there were also so many good memories, but they were buried beneath layers of pain and unanswered questions. Tears streamed down her face as she recalled the event from three weeks ago that shattered her world.
Bittersweet tears wouldn’t change the facts. Annie wiped the tears from her face and stood up straight. Living in the house would be near impossible, but she was going to try. She had to. The memories made inside the house were really all she had left of the love of her life.
Three Mondays ago today, Annie received the shock of her life when she discovered her husband Tim dead on their kitchen floor. The scent of the fresh coffee he just brewed, as he had every morning since they moved into the house two months ago, lingered in her mind. Since that morning, she hadn’t touched a single cup of coffee, and would probably gag if offered a cup. She spent the last three weeks at her mother’s house, trying to make sense of Tim’s sudden death while wallowing in unconceivable sorrow.
The coroner believed that Tim died from heart failure due to an undetermined and undetected congenital birth defect. He called it an unfortunate tragedy, and she remembered he repeated that phrase several times, as if it would make everything okay. The word tragedy swirled through her mind—it didn’t even begin to define the loss. It was a vile word, thrown out there to disguise the reality of an unexplained death.
There would be no answers to ease her heartache, and not one word could describe the pain that consumed her body and soul. Time had no meaning, life had no meaning. Every breath she took required an exhausting amount of effort, but she continued to breathe as each beat of her heart forced her to go on.
How was she supposed to live in the house without Tim? It seemed like an impossible feat.
Tim loved the house, and they looked forward to starting a family and growing old in it together. Now, Annie would move on without Tim because he would have wanted her to. At least, that was what everyone, who had no idea what she was going through, kept telling her.
Moving on without Tim was so much easier said than done, and she dreaded the task with every fiber of her being. Not only did she dread it, but the impossibility of ever breaking past the unending sorrow seemed insurmountable.
Annie reached out and unlocked the door, and for the first time since Tim’s death, stepped through the front door of their house. The muggy, mildew-infested air, which any home shut up in a prairie summer for too long inevitably developed, overwhelmed her. Demanding to be released, a waft of mustiness blew past her as it escaped the confines of the house. She pushed through the stuffiness and stood in the foyer as her eyes adjusted to the darkened house.
Like herself, the house desperately needed air and the light of the afternoon sun. She ambled robotically from room to room, busying herself by opening windows. The desperate invitation to the outside world to cleanse the toxic air in her home became her focus.
Annie paused before entering the kitchen—the room where Tim died. She looked around the room in a daze, too terrified to enter. A vision of her husband’s lifeless corpse crashed to the forefront of her mind, causing an immediate invasion of potent emotions to crush her soul, making it difficult to breathe.
Delving deep within herself, she searched for the strength to enter the room, but it was no use. Exhaustion won the battle, so she turned away. Like an old lady she moved slowly and painfully up the stairs to their bedroom and to the bed that practically called her name.
She would face the kitchen after a nap.
Desperate to sink into the sweet oblivion that only sleep or death could offer, she entered their bedroom on the second floor of the house. As far as master bedrooms went, this room sold her the minute she first set eyes on it. It had his and hers walk-in closets, an on-suite bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub, and a large bay window looking out over the back of the house and facing the park.
At the moment, the beautiful view did nothing for her. The knotted empty ‘blah’ that raged deep in her chest overpowered all emotion, and she hoped it would be less excruciating after a decent sleep. Annie cr
When Annie awakened, it was dark, and the house had cooled considerably. She moved to the chair in front of the bay window, snuggled into the luxurious cushions, and stared numbly into the night. The full moon beamed through the window, perfectly framed by the billowing shear curtains. The breeze on her face warmed her cheeks, and she closed her eyes to welcome it.
Still, every move she made felt rehearsed—forced. How long would it take for her to come out of this depression? The all-consuming emptiness created unending exhaustion—all she wanted to do was sleep. It helped that sleeping passed the burden of time, but it did nothing to refresh her.
At least when she was asleep, she wasn’t forced to face the reality of her loss. In her dreams, Tim was alive and well and she was happy. How long before his beautiful image vanished from her memory, from her dreams?
Rising to go back to bed, she