Hello Internet! Please welcome Evelyn Elliott for this edition of Flash Fiction Friday! She’s here today with Bereave, a very touching piece about one woman mourning the loss of her wife. Hug your loved ones on this special day.
by Evelyn Elliott
When Joan woke that morning, she had a pounding hangover. Dirty light filtered through the shade slats on her window. Awareness came gradually.
Her phone sang at her—good morning! Wake up, sleepyhead! She called it a few rude names, then turned off the alarm. The late alarm, set to make sure she was absolutely up by noon. She looked around the room with swollen eyes.
Waking up was the absolute worst thing she did all day. In between dreaming and awareness, she often forgot about the funeral. She’d roll over to kick Tasha out of bed, then remember Tasha wasn’t there. Today the house smelled like sausage, like Tasha used to cook. Maybe it was a neighbor grilling brats outside, and the smell was coming through the window. Joan couldn’t breathe with that taste in her mouth.
She didn’t cry. She didn’t want to cry. Instead, she grabbed the vodka bottle next to her bed and tipped it into her mouth. A few drops on her tongue helped erase the smell.
The bottle was empty.
Joan pressed her face to the pillow. Felt the ring on her finger. She and Tasha had a shotgun wedding. A romantic surprise to celebrate same-sex marriage becoming legal in their state. A short honeymoon before Joan was deployed overseas. She was only supposed to be gone a few months.
Then the news had come that Tasha was sick. Real sick. Joan’s commanding officer had given her leave, sure, but only once Tasha was bad enough. They’d only had a few weeks together. Now, after the funeral, Joan could not imagine going back. She was supposed to get on a plane tomorrow. Maybe she should just lie here instead.
She was out of vodka, though. And food.
She crawled out of bed and put on some pants. Her keys were gone from the kitchen counter. Motherfucker. Joan checked in couch cushions. Her bedroom. The pockets of her pants.
A panicky feeling set in. She set the keys down on the counter yesterday. Did she… did she move them? Did she drive last night?
No. No, she wouldn’t do that. Except she had been pretty reckless lately—
A quick look outside told her that her car was in the same spot as last night. The more she looked for her keys, the more she saw bits of Tasha. Tasha’s lost bra behind the laundry hamper. Her jewelry in the bathroom. Her toothbrush.
Joan remembered running out of vodka last night. She remembered looking for her keys, but not finding them. Had she lost them?
Joan yanked open drawers in the kitchen, rifling through. Where would Drunk Joan hide her keys? A flash of light caught her eye. There was something under the drawer, between the bottom of the drawer and the bottom of the cabinet. A little cubbyhole. Joan carefully lifted the drawer out, hands shaking.
Tasha liked to squirrel things away. Joan was always finding shit in stupid places. A bag of caramels under a loose floorboard. A birthday present under the guest bed. She kept a bottle of Joan’s favorite beer hidden in the produce drawer of the fridge for whenever Joan had a bad day. And for some reason—despite the fact that Joan never had a drinking problem before Tasha died—Tasha always stole Joan’s keys when Joan drank.
Joan’s hands closed on something cold and metal. She pulled her keys out of the cubbyhole. Her legs gave out as she stared at them.
The smell of sausage was back, and Joan—
Joan didn’t believe in the supernatural, but in that moment, she swore she could feel someone watching her. She’d tried to drive last night, and somehow her keys had gone missing and ended up in one of Tasha’s hiding spots.
Joan curled up, keys digging into her fist. For the first time, she cried, and she didn’t feel like she was alone. She held tight there for an age and wept until she was empty.