“It’s OK, Ann, I’ll be fine.”
“Are you sure?”
“Do I have much of a choice?”
“Mom, you can’t think like that…Well anyways, I hear Jim coming downstairs, I need to get the kids ready.”
“Taking them to the zoo again?”
“No, Annie has ballet. It’s strange…but life somehow still goes on.”
“It has to dear.”
“Call me if you need anything.”
“I will.” Liz held the receiver long after her daughter’s voice clicked off as if she yearned to find another sound within the soft static of the empty line. Noticing the absurdity of what she was doing, she quickly hung up the phone. Two weeks since Jack passed, and she felt very little. She knew a deep sorrow welled inside of her, but she couldn’t seem to foment her loss.
Basic facts of life she knew must be indulged, such as eating, sleeping, and even her daily pleasures, now vacant acts of remembrance. Still early in the morning, Liz made herself two eggs, a piece of toast, which she burnt on purpose, and a cup of black coffee brewed twice strong. Sitting at her kitchen table, she attempted to do what might be considered normal and eat, but she held her eyes on a circle stain across from her where Jack’s coffee always sat. The stain stood out to her. It irritated her, much like Jack used to. She missed it.
His death seemed so fresh, unreal while the hectic flurry of hospice, relatives, and friends like a white squall crashed down on her life and disappeared just as quickly, leaving her ship a mess. She felt rudderless and devoid of emotion she gave everything of herself, making sure everyone was comfortable, all the while averting her eyes from Jack’s fading body. She couldn’t help but feel whittled down to the bone, vacant of any desire.
The burnt toast hurt her teeth. She stabbed the yolk of her sunny-side-up eggs and watched the embryonic yellow sack spill across her plate to be soaked up by the blackened toast. A sip of the coffee caused her to gag. She hated the stuff. How did Jack stand it? She took another sip and winced. God, it was disgusting. Another drink. She burned the tip of her tongue. “Shit.” She never swore what had gotten into her. With her finger, she turned the cup in a circle watching the black liquid swirl.
Not accustomed to the caffeine jitters, she felt her blood quicken and her eyes widen. She liked what the oil-like drink did to her and drank some more, forcing herself not to spit the shit out. There she goes swearing again. At least it wasn’t out loud. “Shit.” She giggled. Something about swearing made her feel free, untamed, like the young lassies she used to scorn in school, partying and the like.
She glanced at her calendar, she was supposed to play poker with the girls, the pretend kind with crackers mind you, at one o’clock today. Two hours. “Shit.” She better get ready, summer’s best and all that. The girls could be so catty if her makeup wasn’t just right, besides it was her month to host the party.
She took to her feet and forced in a deep breath. “Get yourself together Liz. You’re the host.” Halfway up the stairs to go and change, she stopped. None of them called. Not Nancy, Dorothy, Kathy. Not even Wendy. Her friends. Suddenly, breathing was difficult. Her lungs tightened and her chest ached. She rubbed her shoulder and winced, her heart throbbing under her hand.
Liz left the house out the back. The morning chill clung to her face carried on the light dew, remnant from a dreary night. Her prized garden was overgrown with weeds. None of her flowers survived the neglect of the past few months. She felt at fault, negligent, like a mother who leaves her infant in the car, only to return and discover her baby dead. The yard was desolate, wild, untamed, overtaken with all she wished to keep at bay.
Tears dropped from her eyes, catching the bottom rim of her glasses. Grandma glasses her granddaughter called them. Little Annie said they were ‘cool,’ and that she especially liked that they were purple. Liz didn’t know anything about that, but thinking of Annie made her feel a little better.
Liz caught sight of the only color in her garden, why she didn’t notice before eluded her. The wisteria vines she bought and planted just before Jack was diagnosed overgrew all of the back fence as well as a large portion of the side of her house. Long strips of vibrant purple flowers bloomed from the aggressive vines. Something about the plant gave her great joy. At least something in her life, even in neglect thrived
At that moment she decided to do something crazy and the smile affixed to her face, true and genuine as it was, refused to fade. She got in her car and drove to the local nursery where she bought all their wisteria seeds. She then went to three other places and emptied them as well. She felt on a mission.
Liz drove home.
The girls were at her door knocking, all dolled up as if for a grand event.
She parked on the front lawn, their cars filled the driveway and she didn’t feel like using the street. They stared at her as if she just fell from the sky. Her disheveled appearance probably didn’t help.
“Lizzy, what are you doing?” Wendy pretended everything was normal, a plastic smile etched into her plastic face.
Liz gathered up her seeds and stuffed them into a purple backpack. She would have to get Annie another one. “I’m going planting in the city.”’
“What? But, the game.”
“Don’t you want to play.” This time it was Nancy who spoke with her shrill voice.
“No. I’m going into the city.”
The four of them didn’t speak, appearing as if physically struck. Finally, Wendy says something. “But, you hate the city.”
“I did. I won’t anymore though. I have this wisteria to plant.” Liz turned to leave and then stopped. “Oh, and by the way, you’re all a bunch of shits for not calling me.” She left, her smile cemented, a regular fixture in her life.