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By Leah Pryor
The room had been cleaned out. Void of anything that resembled the life they made in it. The pictures that adorned the walls were gone. So were the vases that once held fresh cut roses from the garden, the bookshelves that were filled with the classics and catalogs, even the furniture that had been purchased with the dowry money from their wedding, were all gone. It didn’t matter, she could point out where everything belonged. She saw it in her mind the way it used to be. But it wasn’t that way anymore. The only thing left was the chair that sat in the corner by the small green closet door. Only it wasn’t by the door now. It had been pulled up to the small fireplace that once kept the cold out and the newlyweds warm. The warmth was gone now too. The cold found its way in through the old and dilapidated structure. Gone were the memories but not forgotten.
Martha didn’t want to remember this place as just another bare room. Her best memories were in this room. This was first place she had ever felt comfortable enough to call home. It was the room that she birthed their only child in. It was the place that they celebrated birthdays and holidays in. Just the three of them. Cramped but exceedingly happy. She hadn’t been here in nearly twenty years but could still feel the essence of the home that they made it.
She shook her head as she turned in the middle of the small area. She took in every inch of it. The cradle that never got used for more than storage once stood by the window. Adeline had slept in the bed with her and Frank until she was two. Than the cradle was sold and a small mattress was purchased. The mattress was placed at the foot of their own small mattress. During the day both mattresses were laid up against the wall and the small loveseat was put in the center of the room. The food was prepared in a Dutch oven that hung on a metal bar in the fireplace. She could almost smell the stewed meats, potatoes, and vegetables that would waft from the fireplace. Enticing smells that would bring the neighbors knocking. This was once home. This small green room that once was the cradle of their lives, held nothing now but her memories.
Martha sat in the chair. Her strength was waning. She was an old woman now. Frank had passed away some years back. Adeline was a mother. Her two grandchildren were no longer children, but young adults on their way to universities. They both had lives of their own. “What happened to the time?” she thought out loud. Her voice echoed off the hollow walls. It crackled back at her reminding her of an old phonograph. Reminding her of the fact that she was old enough to have owned a phonograph.
“It seems like yesterday, Frank, you were carrying me through the door of this place. Oh, Frank. If you could see it now. How small it really is. How many years did we spend here? We were happy, weren’t we, my love?”
Her echo was the only answer she got back.
“This place is going to be demolished, Frank. A big fancy motel is going to be put here instead. I don’t know why it bothers me now. I guess I thought it would be here forever. But forever is a long time, isn’t it, Frank? It was too long for you. Hell, it’s too long for me too. So I suppose it’s fitting that it should be torn down. Something new and useful should go here, I guess. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could go back? Do it all over again? I miss it, Frank. I miss Adeline when she was a wee babe. I miss you. I miss this place. I want to go home, Frank. I’m tired. I have nothing to live for. Nobody to care for. Now they all take care of me. I feel like a… like a… well, like I am an old fart. There, I said it. I feel old. And without you, I feel… I feel like I’m just waiting to die. Frank? Are you even listening to me? No. I suppose you aren’t. You barely listened in life, so why would death be any different. I came here to tell you that I love you. I always loved you. I loved our life. I loved this room.”
The tears were forming in big glops around her eyes. They stuck to her long lashes and dropped down her paper-thin cheeks. She felt as if this room was holding on to the last bit of life she had left. Once it was demolished she was sure she would die shortly after.
When Frank had come back from the war he had purchased a new tract home on the other side of town. They moved out of this room and into the new home when Adeline was nine. But the rent was so cheap on the room, they kept paying it. When Adeline turned sixteen, she and her friend moved in, but soon found the small room too confining for women of their style. They moved out, leaving the place empty. It didn’t stay empty. They were able to supplement their income by subletting to young couples and single people. It had been a godsend during times when money was tight. But it hadn’t been rented in years.
The building creaked and shuddered as the cold seeped in through the old home’s bones. Martha shivered from the cold. She felt it in her bones too. It was time to say goodbye. The space was starting to feel as empty as her heart. It took her awhile to stand up and straighten out. Before she left she would open the small green closet door just to see if anything of value might have been left behind by any of the room’s other occupants. The old bulb flickered as it warmed up and set the small closet ablaze with light.
The light blinded Martha. She put her hands over her eyes until the bright streaks faded from her vision. When she removed them she gasped in awe. She was no longer standing in the small empty closet of the empty room she once loved. She was standing in her home. The room was filled with all their things. The cradle was against the window where it belonged. She could smell the stew cooking in the Dutch oven as the fire crackled. Frank was sitting in the corner rocking their baby girl. Their sweet Adeline asleep in her father’s loving arms. He smiled brightly at Martha and her tears flowed freely.
“We’ve been waiting for you. You’re home now,” he said to her. He held their baby out and she took her child from him. She held her in her arms while she cried tears of joy. Frank stood and kissed her deeply. He welcomed his loving wife back to their happy life and back to her first home.
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