They’re eating an early dinner at Little Mo’s Spaghetti House, and he turns away to ask the waiter for more Parmesan. When he looks back, she’s gone.
He remains at the table, picking at his green salad, but she doesn’t return or answer when he tries her number. So he pays the bill and leaves.
Back home, he calls her name, checks every room, turning on all the lights.
In their bedroom, her wardrobe door is open. He peeks inside. There’s the blue dress she wore at their daughter’s graduation, last summer. He presses the dress to his face and inhales.
By the dressing table, he catches his reflection in the mirror. He no longer looks younger than his age, he thinks, rubbing the back of his neck.
Downstairs, he faces the brick open fireplace, feels the solid oak flooring under his stockinged feet, and considers these and all the other home improvements he’s made lately.
He remembers when they first saw the house and met the previous owners. An old couple. The woman had stood at the kitchen window talking to them, but keeping an eye on her husband, outside tending the vegetable garden. After a time, she wiped her hands on her apron and leaned forward, searching. Then she yanked a rope that hung by the door, and a bell rang. It sounded like an old school playground bell. Moments later the man appeared from behind some tomato plants, waving to her, and she went up on her tiptoes as she waved back.
Those people must be dead now, he realizes.
Grey, filmy light fills the living room. He thinks he hears footsteps on the front porch and springs up from the sofa. There are things to say. And time is running out. He steps into the hallway, listens for the key in the lock, then everything goes quiet again.
Digby Beaumont is an English writer. His flash fiction has appeared widely, most recently in Bartleby Snopes, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Camroc Press Review, Change Seven Magazine, Flash Frontier, Jellyfish Review, 100-Word Story, Cosmonauts Avenue and Olentangy Review. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Anthology. He made a living as a nonfiction author for many years, with numerous publications.