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Gloria's Bed

Flash fiction
(1005 words)

Night had fallen. She got ready for bed early. She didn't want to do anything else--television or a book didn't appeal to her. She felt a bone-deep ache, although she hadn't done much more than accept condolences all day, and mechanically move food into her mouth.

It was as she climbed into her side of the bed that she felt the sudden tightening in her gut.

The sensation startled her. All day, she had walked about in a hazy cocoon--her mind distant, her words meaningless. She hadn't felt anything except a slight chill when more mourners walked in the door and brought a brief smell of autumn inside.

The funeral was over, the people all gone. And she was curled up on her side of the bed, as if at any moment David would shuffle out of the bathroom, dive under the covers, and attack her with his clammy feet.

The tension balled up low in her stomach, then reached up her esophagus to choke her. She swallowed, but only felt a dry, raspy click in the back of her throat, making her want to gag and cough. She lay on her side, staring at his empty pillow, following the curve where his head should have lain.

She had been in bed when the phone rang last week. She had been so happy for the chance to sleep in. David had awoken earlier, and she vaguely remembered him murmuring to her about donuts with their coffee.

The shrill ring startled her, but once she realized it was the phone, she moaned and turned over. Maybe she could ignore it. But with the insistent second ring, she reached to her nightstand and yanked the offending thing toward her.

"Hallow?" she grunted.

"Is this Mrs. Iwamoto?" The voice was low, sharp, unfamiliar.


"Your husband is David Iwamoto?"

Alarm pierced her sleepy fog. "Yes."

"I'm sorry, ma'am, but there's been an accident..."

Now here she was, staring at the hollow on his pillow. Her jaw clenched until her teeth scraped. She felt the pressure in her gums, all the way up to her cheekbones.

She reached out a hand.

No, don't do it! But her body wasn't obeying. Her hand touched the cool sheet, sliding into the shallow dip in the futon mattress, where his rear-end nestled as he settled onto his back. Her fingers caught in the wrinkles in the cotton, like water flowing over river rocks.

She felt tingling in her nose, in her eyes. She sniffled once. Then her hand grabbed his pillow and dragged it to her face.

She inhaled his smell--familiar, light, musky. Her throat clogged. She squeezed her eyes shut and felt beads of tears on her lashes. She sniffled again, then exhaled her breath into the soft goosedown, feeling the warmth against her face.

Wetness seeped from tightly closed eyelids. Then sobs came hurtling up from her gut, one after another. She ran out of breath and gasped, and suddenly her grief pried open her mouth in an endless scream. Her cheek touched the cool damp of her tears dotting the pillow.

She felt the darkness pressing against her. She struggled for breath and strangled the pillow as if it were to blame for the pain and rage and emptiness.

She felt angry, suddenly, at all those people who had come today. "I'm so sorry for your loss." How in the world could she respond to something like that? He was gone.

She had an appointment with their lawyer. All the stupid, mundane things that needed to be done now, pricking her safe, numb world with demands for action. She felt crushed--no, splintered by the weight of it all.

All she wanted was for David to walk out of the bathroom and tease her about hogging the bed. She wanted him filling those hollows in the mattress, pulling his pillow out of her hands, dropping a kiss on her forehead.

Instead she lay in her bed all alone.

You're not alone.

She ignored the voice at first, letting her noisy sobs drown it out. She beat the pillow with fists like bullets. She wanted to feel pain, to stab it into her heart like a knife, over and over again, as if hurting herself would somehow numb everything. Then she wouldn't feel so lost.

You have Me.

She paused, her breath coming in gasps, peering into the darkness through her tears. She clutched the pillow close to her, as if pressing a seal upon her heart to keep it from flying into pieces.

She listened, but the Voice didn't speak again. Silence fell upon her, isolating her--like when she stood in the rain and the drops muted everything else around her.

She took a deep breath, and felt her diaphragm spasm. She took another breath, feeling the air widen her tight throat. She loosened her grip on the pillow.

The ache was still there--lightly squeezing her heart. But only lightly. She breathed deep. It made her feel better--calmer, saner.

She buried her nose in the pillow again, and inhaled his scent. But this time she remembered the feel of his hand holding hers as they prayed in bed each night. She remembered the sound of his voice--honest and earnest, his prayers hopeful and humble. She remembered the peace she felt, as they lifted their marriage up to Christ.

She didn't feel a hand holding hers, but she felt as if a palm cupped her heart, promising to keep it safe. In the silence she heard a Voice that spoke without words, wrapping her in an intangible embrace she couldn't quite feel with her body. She still felt a vague tension in her gut, but she also felt an indescribable comfort that soothed her, reminding her of the touch of her mother laying a quilt over her sleepy body.

Something inside her let go, and she relaxed. She could sleep now. Tomorrow was not such a terror.

She wasn't alone in bed anymore.