Tale As Old As Time

Well I found an old short story I wrote in like 8th grade. The writing is not so grand but I still really love the idea of this story. Maybe with some refining later on…

 

          He watched from his overstuffed recliner as her chocolate eyes darted back and forth, widening further and further, the more she read. Quietly, so as not to disturb her he rested his own book in his lap and reached for the Polaroid camera on the end table next to him. As he peered through the lens, her eyes widened again at the intensifying story and he stifled a chuckle, adjusting the camera once more and then SNAP! She jumped out of her chair when the camera startled her and laughter burst from his lips like lava erupting from a volcano. She slammed her book down and ran to where he slid onto the floor, toppling over with laughter.
           “Let me see,” she demanded, reaching for the picture in his hands and sliding down to the floor to sit with him. A giggle escaped from her own mouth when she saw the suspense of her book accentuated on her face. His laughter slowed and he breathed heavily, trying to recover.
          “That was great,” he smiled, “I told you that book was good.”
          “I know. I have the picture of you to prove it.” She reached for the blue ink pen from beside where the camera had returned. Setting the picture face down on the hardwood floor and leaning over to neatly write the date on the back in crisp, neat handwriting. When she finished, she stood back up and slid the picture between the back cover and the pages next to a similar picture of him. He lifted his hand towards her and she took it, pulling him to his feet and nearly toppling over backwards at the force of his own pull. He reached out with his other hand and steadied her, pulling her into a loving hug as he did so.
          “I don’t want to leave tomorrow,” he whispered with his head resting atop hers. “I ‘ll miss you too much.”
“Then don’t because I miss you already.”
           He met her eyes, “I wish. But I will try bring you home something you’ll like, he promised and she knew he meant another book.
***

            Business pulled Conner Sage away at least a once a month most often more. Sometimes it was only for a couple of days, other times for weeks. Although he enjoyed his work, he hated the loneliness he felt when he was away from his wife. He hurried the time as much as he could and as often as possible handed the traveling off to another co-worker in exchange for work that he could do at the office, even though the pay was less.

When he got to his hotel on this particular business trip it was already late evening. He had missed his flight and while waiting around for another flight, the plane that he was supposed to be on crashed due to a problem with the engine. Although it was good that he hadn’t been on the plane since there had been no survivors, he was now running late and he called his boss to arrange for the meeting to be moved to the next day. He took a cab to a nearby train station and waited another few hours for a train that probably would have been a better option than waiting for another plane in the first place. He turned on the television set and sat down on he edge of the bed to untie his shoes. After several hours of distracting himself from being lonely and trying to get to sleep, he gave up and turned off the tv. Around midnight, exhaustion finally won over and he collapsed onto the bed.

***
           Lillie Sage also hated when her husband was away and planned for the days he was to be gone to be busier than ever, filling her days with interviews for her writing and when those were done, writing itself. She sat on the bench under the honeysuckle and ivy vines that laced the trellis in her rose garden and let the ink from her pen bleed onto the page, weaving a symphony of words.
            After several hours, and fewer pages, she went inside and heated leftovers from last night’s dinner in the microwave. Their housekeeper, Helga, walked briskly through the room, greeting her in thickly accented English. Lillie said a quiet good evening and that she might later take a walk. Helga mumbled something else that Lillie didn’t hear before walking away. The lasagna was warm and burned her mouth a little when she took a bite. She ate quickly anyways and washed it down with a glass of milk. Lillie was eager to get back to her writing and get her mind off being alone. Although the housekeeper was still there, and she could keep his hamster company if she really wanted, she preferred her husband’s presence.
           The sun was nearly set by the time she reached the railroad tracks. Yellowy-white light drifted down from the walls of the building next to the tracks and she dragged an empty wooden crate against the paneling. Pulling her notebook from her bag, Lillie realized her pen had dropped somewhere. Frustrated, she stood up and shoved the notebook back in the bag. Lillie didn’t notice when a breeze lifted from the ground and blew a few of her pages away towards the building.
***
            The next morning after a quick breakfast offered free by the hotel, Conner left to go to his meeting which was being held a few blocks away. He walked down the sidewalk, keeping mainly to one side and only straying when an obstacle blocked his path. The people selling things at vendors left him alone for the most part, except for the persistent ones that had had slow business and couldn’t see that he was going to work. One man selling newly-released books got him to stop and look but he didn’t buy anything, since he and his wife preferred lesser known books instead of the ones that came with raving crowds of fans.
             He arrived on time to his business meeting with only a few minutes to spare. His clients were already there, so he worked at getting his advertising display set up. The presentation went well and the clients seemed interested so he called his boss after the meeting to inform him on what the clients had said.
             That evening while waiting for a phone call from the clients, he turned on the tv and laid on the bed. Dozing off, he wondered why his wife hadn’t called him since he had been here. She usually did and he looked forward to her calls. He was nearly asleep and forgetting about it when the phone rang. He jumped up and rubbing his eyes with one hand, picked up the receiver. He couldn’t help but let his smile fall a little when he realized that it was just his housekeeper. The German housekeeper was babbling in incoherent mess of German, English, and sobs.
            “Hold it,” he said into the phone, causing her to pause for a moment and then returning to her chatter. “What’s going on, Helga? Where is Lillie?”
            She sobbed heavily into the phone again, making it even more difficult to understand her English through the thick accent masking her voice.
             “I am so sorry Mr. Sage, There was an accident. I am so sorry. I know how much you loved her. Lillie’s gone. I—” Helga broke off again wailing and whimpering.
            “What? What are you talking about? Where is Lillie?” through his rushed words he could hear the worry that had developed in his own voice.
            It took several more minutes for her to calm down and even then she was still crying.
            “Goodbye, Mr. Sage,” She hung up the phone before he could stop her or understand anything more she said.
            Confused, he set down the phone and stumbled over to the chair sitting by the window. What was that all about? Had she said Lillie? No. It can’t be.
***
After interviewing a group of kids that morning, Lillie went home and fixed a sandwich for lunch. Helga was taking the afternoon off so the house was quiet. Even the sound of Conner’s pet hamster skittering around its cage was absent. The phone rang reminding Lillie that she hadn’t heard from Conner at all. She answered, expecting to hear his voice but it wasn’t him.
        “Hello? Mrs. Sage?”
        “Yes, this is her. May I ask who ‘s calling?”
        “This is Amelia Sorenson. I am calling in regards to your husbands flight yesterday.” Lillie ‘s heart started beating faster and louder. “It seems that the flight your husband was on yesterday had some engine problems and went down somewhere in the middle of the flight. There were no survivors. We are very sorry.” She stopped waiting for Lillie to say something but she said nothing. “Mrs. Sage? Are you there? “
         Lillie ‘s voice came out as barely a whisper, “I am here…Are you sure? “
         “Yes, ma’am they are quite sure. I am so sorry. If you’d like I can get someone to come to your house and help you make arrangements for a funeral.”
          “No. There will be no funeral. We have no family.”
           “Alright then. Is there anything else I can arrange to be done for you?”
           “No.”
           “Well just call the airport and ask for me if you change your mind.”
           Lillie hung up the phone and sat at the kitchen table. What was she supposed to do now? She had to leave. Leave this house. Now.
***
          His understanding of the conversation with Helga was still obscure when the phone rang again. He had all but forgotten that he was still expecting a call so his voice came out wrong, with a barely noticeable edge of unease.
           “Hello?”
           “Mr. Sage?” The voice was a man’s this time, the deepness and clarity of it almost laughable when compared to Helga’s. He recognized it after a moment as the client’s.
           “Yes sir?”
            “Our company has decided that your agency is the best of our options for our account on the condition, that you sir are the one to take us on.”
            “I would be delighted, Mr. Lowel,” he may have overly emphasized the happiness he put into his voice, while trying to compensate for the earlier emotion of worry. “I will get started right away, sir.”
           “Thank you, Mr. Sage. Oh-and one more thing. Would you mind meeting with us again tomorrow?”
           “Sure thing, Mr.Lowell.”
           They hung up the phone after planning when and where to meet. Since he had nothing to do until the next afternoon,  he decided to see if his town’s newspaper’s website had any information on whatever and whomever Helga had been talking about when she called earlier. He walked down the street with his laptop in his briefcase to a little diner that offered free wi-fi and ordered a cup of hot chocolate. While waiting on his order he sat down at an unoccupied table and pushed the power button on his laptop. The hot chocolate came just as he got to the website and he took a sip as he scrolled  through the headlines.
          At first, he saw nothing that seemed related. Then he saw it, close to the top and that was when his greatest fear came to be. It was a longer heading so he hadn’t read it all before, “Local Woman Hit by Train”. He quickly scanned the article but no names had been told. He read through it again slower, every word adding to his despair.There wasn’t much information since the woman had been shred to pieces. His eyes stopped on the third paragraph: “People who had been around the tracks said that a woman with light brown had walked alone and sat down with a notebook and pencil. Neighbors of a couple who lived on Cedar Street said that their neighbor often walked down by the train tracks to write when her husband was away. Pages thought to be from the notebooks had been found, some intact and are being examined for fingerprints.” He reread the paragraph several times more, feeling as if the world had stopped spinning.  It was her. She loved to write by the tracks. The realization hit him like a bullet train. Helga’s call. The article. Not hearing from his wife. And he had even been on a train that evening.
***
           Recovering from her shock, Lillie picked up the phone and dialed Helga ‘s number.
Helga answered in German already ranting about something.
            “Helga!” Lillie said shouting to get her attention. “It’s me. Mr. Sage is gone. I am going away for a few months. Can you just clean about once a week and clean out the fridge and food sometime soon? I will mail you checks still monthly.”
             “Okay. I will Mrs. Sage.”
            “Oh, and don’t worry about cleaning the library still.” Lillie ‘s eyes filled with tears.
             “Yes, Mrs. Sage.”
             She hung up the phone and put on her shoes. Throwing her purse and jacket over he shoulder she opened the door and walked to her car.

***

            The sound of his alarm clock blaring shook him from his shock.He hadn’t slept a wink after coming back to his hotel room and now he had to decide what to do with his life since it had changed so dramatically in the blink of an eye. First, he showered, in an unsuccessful attempt to clear his mind. Then he dialed his housekeeper’s number and hardly waited for her to say hello before he began speaking.
           “Helga?”
           “Yes, Mr. Sage?”
           “I’m not coming home. I have to go somewhere else. Just do your normal routine but only once a week. And clean out the fridge this week please. And don’t worry about the library or the garden. Just leave them be.”
           “Okay, Mr. Sage, but—” he interrupted her.
           “Thanks Helga. I’ll mail you your checks.”
           “Yes of course but—”
           “Bye.”
***
            The next few years passed by painful and uneventful for Lillie. There wasn’t a day that went by without something reminding her. The way some men walked,  or when she heard someone say something that sounded like something he would have said. Conner was everywhere. A hairstyle, a laugh,  a reflection caught for a split second in a window. And talking to Helga was all but impossible, especially because she still went to the house
           Lillie couldn’t bear to sell it or rent it and because her father had died the previous year, there was more money than she’d realized was saved for her. She hadn’t brought herself to go back to the house yet. The street was as close as she had ever got because it was too painful.
          Now she stood with the key in the front door, after riding in a cab to get there so she couldn’t just drive away, daring herself to open it. After what felt like an eternity, she turned the knob and pushed the door open wide. Slowly, she stepped into the vestibule and took in a breath of the stale air. It smelled clean but foreign,  the way other people’s houses but never your own smelled. As her eyes came to rest on a picture of her and her husband together hanging on the wall, her eyes dampened and she willed the salty tears not to come.
          She walked through the house, remembering, opening every door, to every room. At last she stood in front of the library the door was shut tight. Lillie gripped the knob tightly and pushed open the door, the hinges creaking.
***
           Conner ignored his flirtatious secretary as he had done every day for the last year and walked out the door with his heart already racing. It was Friday and he was going as he always did on the last weekend of each month since her death to their home.
          The few years since his wife’s death had passed slow and difficult with every woman reminding him of her in one way or another. This ones smile or another ‘s laugh but the longer he looked the more different they became.
          He had considered selling the house but hadn’t ever made plans to truly do so since that would require him going through her things. He hadn’t even retrieved his own things, just bought new.
***
           The library had once been beautiful:  Tall bookshelves lined the wall from the small lonely window on one side of the room to the door on the opposite wall. A rolling library ladder stretched from the ground to the top of the shelves that were filled with not only books, but memories of their  lives. Some days, the room had smelled of roses and other days of lilacs, accompanied by the everlasting smell of importance and books. Polaroid’s depicting happy and teasing smiles stuck out of random pages of the books that were being read when the photograph was taken. On the back of most of the pictures were long ago dates, some scrawled in a barely legible scribble, others neatly printed and equipped with a heart, all in blue ink. But now, the room was tired and worn after years of use and then many more of neglect. The large chairs and couches were worn and made homes by bugs and small animals. The books were yellowed, smelling musky and covered in a thick layer of dust that would not easily be swept away. Sunbeams came in through the open window, dancing through the dreary room to the floor where the shadow of the window panes lay. Framing the window, heavy drapes still hung although the color was faded and bleached by the sun.
***
         When Conner found the front door unlocked, he assumed Helga was there to clean. He walked briskly through the house looking for her but she didn’t appear to be there. Nothing had changed much since the last time he had been there. On his way to the living room, he noticed something wrong. The library door was cracked open. Helga never went into the library. Nobody had been in there since the day before she had died more than a year before. Hesitantly, he shuffled his feet towards the library. The hinges creaked again as he pushed it open the rest of the way, holding his breath. She turned at the sound and was caught off guard. They stared each other in the eye for what seemed like years and then slowly, walked towards each other. He pulled her into a hug.
         “I thought you had died,” she whispered.

         “I thought the same about you. Come on,” They walked together to the dust covered couch and sat. “We obviously have a lot to talk about.”

The End.
I used to write short stories all the time. I love writing. I miss writing fiction and I don’t do it much anymore. There aren’t stories in my head like there used to be.
Better Shake, Rattlesnake!
❤ Annee
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