Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Hmph! (03/04/10)
TITLE: The Truth of a Lie
By Marita Vandertogt
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How long have I been sitting here. How long has it been since the the brilliant red flashing light stopped strobing its’ way through my head.
Dial 911, he’d said. Now. The word echoes back and forth along with the lights. He’d grabbed his chest. I felt helpless, the noise of the siren taking over.
“Would you like something to drink while you wait,” a woman stands in front of me. “I can get you a coffee or something. There’s a machine right over there.” She keeps talking and I can’t seem to say anything back at her. I nod my head yes.
I need to know how he is. I need to get the thoughts out of my head. To see if they’re real. Did I make them up. I hear my voice, again and again, “Where have you been? Where have you been?” The question keeps repeating itself. His briefcase lay on the kitchen floor, his supper cold in the refrigerator. He didn’t answer. Just grabbed his chest, his knuckles and face an equal white. I feel the guilt.
“Excuse me Mrs.?”
“Andrews,” I say, the coffee cup in my hand, cold now.
“Yes, well.” He begins to say. “You’re husband is resting now. He’ll be fine. We’ll run more tests in the morning, but you go home and get some rest now.” The white of his coat shrinks down the hallway. I want to follow him. I have more questions for Paul. I need answers now.
I go home to keep on waiting. The kitchen light is still on. I open the refrigerator. His dinner is still there, untouched. I pull out the plate and let it drop to the floor. Bright green peas roll under the counter. Smashed pieces lay at at my feet where they belong. It was his dinner. The one that was waiting for him, along with me, getting colder while my temperature rose.
I wake up and it’s the next day. It feels different from yesterday and for a moment I can’t remember why. His hospital room is bright with too much artificial sun. The bed is long and white and cold. He doesn’t look at me. He’s not happy to see me, and I feel like I should know why. I think I know, but I’m still not sure.
“You can go home today,” I tell him.
“Ya. They told me. Just some meds and I’m on my way.” He laughs in his throat, with himself. Not me. Then he says words that I can’t make sense of, but I know somehow they were words to a question I hadn’t asked yet.
“Anna.” He starts out. “I’m going home with you, but I’m not staying. I was going to tell you last night.”
“Your clothes are over here.” I interrupt him, pull the shirt off the hanger and toss it over to him. “Remember when I bought you that one, three summers ago for our 10th anniversary party?” Words keep coming out of my mouth, but I don’t seem to be generating them. They’re coming from someone else.
The food and china pieces of the plate are still on the kitchen floor. It seemed pointless to clean them up. I hear the car door out front and the click of her heels on the walkway up to the front door.
“I’ll call you,” he says on his way out the door. “We’ll make arrangements.”
Two simple sentences and he’s gone. A deep guttural hmph, comes from my throat. I feel the pain of it stuck there, wanting to come out in a scream. But it doesn’t. I sit on the chair and wait. For what, I don’t know. Maybe for the sun to start shining through the kitchen window. Maybe for the pain to start up again in my butt cheeks and move into my back, away from the centre of my heart. Maybe for the plate to clean itself up, put itself back on the dinner table, warm and waiting. As though nothing had ever happened.
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