I did not realize until I was in the middle of this one that it was pretty much a continuation of the last two pieces I wrote. That’s the way most of my flash fiction goes. I’m not exactly sure which direction it’s headed until I’m in the middle of it.
A stranger was knocking at the door. I had just come out from putting the baby down for a nap. Afraid the barking of the dog would wake her, I hurried to the door. I opened the door after quieting the animal and stepping in front of her. There was still a screen between me and the man standing on my porch. But, even I knew it would offer little protection if he harbored any ill intent. When he continued to stand there without saying a word, my heart rate began to pick up. What was he doing here? Why would he not speak?
“What can I do for you?” I finally asked.
“I am sorry to have to bring this news to you,” he said, and pulled something out of his pocket. As he turned it, I saw it was his police department identification. Instantly, dread settled in my stomach.
“What news?” I asked, feeling as if the words were trying to choke me. “Is it Frank?”
This strange man nodded. “Yes. I am sorry to inform you that your husband is dead.”
I saw his lips move but I no longer heard his words. I could not hear anything through the thoughts swarming in my head. No, it could not be true. He could not be dead. I had just kissed him good-bye before he left for work that morning. Only hours had passed. How could he be dead?
I did not realize I had fallen to my knees until I felt the pup beside me, nudging my shoulder. I shook my head and looked up at this man who had just destroyed my world. “No,” I whispered. Then again, stronger this time. “No. It cannot be true.”
But, the look in his eyes told me it was. “What happened? How could this happen? Are you sure it’s him?” I knew the questions rolled out one after the other, without giving him a chance to answer, but I could not stop them.
The man held a hand out to me to help me to my feet. “We’re sure, Ma’am. I’m so sorry.”
“There was a robbery down at the corner deli. He must have been getting some lunch.”
I felt myself nod although it felt like it was someone else answering him. Someone who was numb to the pain I was feeling. “He was running late this morning. He didn’t pack his lunch.”
“The robbers were running out of the store when we arrived.” He paused for a moment then and didn’t seem to be able to continue. “I’m sorry for your loss, Ma’am.”
My sobs choked me, and I could not ask the question in my mind. Did anyone survive? But, I didn’t need the answer. I didn’t care. I couldn’t care. Frank was dead. What else mattered? I felt the man leave my side and looked up at him again.
He seemed to want to make his escape now that he had delivered his news, but was not sure how to. “I need to get back. Once again though, I am sorry for your loss.”
Those words, how I hated them. They meant so little and so much at the same time. And I would hear them more times than I could count over the coming days. And each time, whether meant sincerely or just said in passing, they would dig their claws into my heart.