Welcome to the Spot Writers. The prompt for this month is to use the following five words in a story: candy, whistle, ferry, ring, and kitchen.
Today’s contribution comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Check out her books on Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/camack.
(Cathy’s print books are available on Amazon/Create Space, and e-books are also available on Kindle.)
by Cathy MacKenzie
In the distance, Shelly heard the shriek of the ferry’s whistle. Tom, her husband, had been an employee of White Sail Ferry Company for many years, so she was aware of the difference between the alarm bell, which served to alert crew inside the ship, and the whistle, which warned those beyond the cabin area.
She had never heard the ferry while she had been in the house and never had it awoken her from a deep sleep. She lay in bed and rubbed her eyes. Could it have been a dream? No, she was certain she heard it. She hadn’t slept soundly for the past couple of weeks, not since Tom died.
A tear plopped to the pillow. She wished she hadn’t buried him with his ring still on his finger. Women often kept their spouses’ wedding bands, either wearing them from a chain hanging from their necks or wearing them on their fingers. Her own mother wore her husband’s ring on her thumb.
When a noise, sounding like it came from the kitchen, startled her, she stifled a scream. She dried her face with the edge of the bed sheet and listened.
She got up, slipped on her housecoat and slippers, and crept down the hall. Darkness overwhelmed her. She tried to remain calm. But what was it? How she wished Tom were still alive. He’d protect her. He’d tell her to stay in bed or hide in the closet if he thought danger existed. But Tom wasn’t alive any longer.
When she reached the end of the hall, she paused. A dim light shone on the stainless steel refrigerator. The glow reminded her of the headlights from Tom’s truck when he used to pull into the driveway at night.
She advanced a couple of paces and stopped again. What was it? A sound like papers crinkling. Mice, she thought. She’d always been careful to seal foodstuff into jars or store food in the refrigerator. Tom had thought she was crazy, but one never knew when bugs might come out of hiding. Or a mouse.
“We had mice once you know,” she had told him.
Tom had laughed before hugging her tight. “You’re a silly woman, but I don’t want to let you go.”
“Then don’t let me go,” she had said.
But he had let her go. Without warning, he had loosened his grip on life, leaving her to fend alone just as she found herself that night—alone to contend with whatever had intruded into the kitchen.
She rubbed her eyes again. Despite having gone to bed before eleven and immediately falling asleep, she hadn’t slept well. She wished she hadn’t heard the noise, whatever it was, for surely it was nothing, simply a false alarm, something to cause haywire to her adrenaline and make her heart beat uncontrollably.
Just before she took another step, she heard rustling again. Candy, she was certain. She had left a bowl of wrapped caramels on the counter instead of sticking the bowl in the fridge. Mice, she thought. I can handle a home invader more than I can a creepy critter that’ll run off and hide until the next opportune moment. She shivered and pulled her robe tighter.
When the moon seeped through the window, she noticed the missing sparkle from her left hand. She had removed her ring and had forgotten to put it back on after washing dishes.
Her heart thumped louder. Certain the intruder or intruders could hear, she pressed her palms against her chest. Someone stealing her ring spurred her toward the kitchen. She would never forgive herself if it were stolen. The band of diamonds, which served as her engagement and wedding ring, was her main tie to Tom. Again, she wished she had removed his gold band before the burial.
She stomped her feet though the fake fur sole didn’t lend itself to scaring away intruders. She breathed deeply before reaching the kitchen’s archway and flipping on the light. Though the suddenness of the glare blinded her for several seconds, she was positive a whitish shadow floated from the kitchen toward the pantry.
Did she dare follow? She stifled a scream when she realized the alarm hadn’t sounded, which meant an outside door hadn’t opened. How had someone gained entry into the house? No matter how soundly she slept, she’d have heard the tell-tale alarm. And the individual had to still be in the house, for the security system hadn’t sounded at his exit. He had to be in the pantry.
She walked across the kitchen and stepped into the hallway leading to the pantry and the back door. All was quiet. She turned on the light, slithered against the wall, and then peeked around the corner into the pantry.
No looming monster and the exit door was closed.
Puzzled, yet frightened, she returned to the kitchen. The overhead fluorescent light highlighted a crumpled pile of wrappers that lay on the counter. Wrapped caramel candies glittered from the bowl. The crinkled, silver wrappers reminded her of diamonds’ facets. Her ring!
She turned to the sink where she had left her ring the previous night. Her eyes bulged and a scream caught in her throat. Tom’s plain gold wedding band lay beside hers, glowing as if it had recently been polished. She latched to the counter with one hand and touched the ring with her index finger of the other. Warm air swept across her face. She slipped the too-large ring onto her left thumb.
Caramel wafted around her, and her stomach growled. She and Tom had bought a bag of caramels every couple of weeks, allowing themselves one a day. Shelly hadn’t had hers that day. In fact, she hadn’t eaten a candy since Tom’s death.
Curious, she separated the wrappers in the discard pile and counted them: sixteen.
Sixteen long nights had passed since Tom’s death.
She unwrapped a candy and popped it into her mouth. Slowly she chewed and savoured the sweet goodness. Before she knew it, she had her own pile of sixteen wrappers resting beside Tom’s. For it had been Tom, hadn’t it? Who else could have returned his ring? And who else could have played catch-up with the caramels?
The Spot Writers – our members.
Catherine A. MacKenzie