Fiction · Scene · Short Story

Pink Bow Untied

Rain would have been more fitting. Clouds. Torrential downpours. Some freak hurricane. Not this nurturing warmth that was carried in the breeze along with the songs of springtime robins.

The boys were out with their father picking up new fishing poles and getting something for lunch. Patrick felt it best that Isabella, his wife, the mother of his children, would benefit from some time by herself. When he left with the boys that morning, he had whispered that phrase, “alone time,” to her, which she resented. For five months there was no getting away from the third little blessing to enter her life. Pat’s departure from the house that morning had truly left her by herself.

Reaching atop the refrigerator for the dusty bottle, its clear contents sealed with a red plastic cap, Isabella’s eyes caught the colorful scribbles of her youngest son’s most recent artwork, which was fastened to the door with three alphabet magnets. Her finger dropped three wedges of ice into a glass covered with cartoon teddy bears. It was once a jam jar. She followed the ice with a generous amount of vodka and a splash of orange juice, just enough to cloud the mix with a tinge of yellow. She picked up the glass and shuffled from the kitchen to the living room. It took a few minutes, but before long she was sinking into the cushion of the secondhand sofa. The clean, chemical odor of the drink stung her nostrils. It had been almost a year since she’d tasted alcohol. The first gulp brought a heavy mist to her eyes and warmed her throat. She heard a robin singing outside and instinctively looked up from the couch to the window, but the curtain was drawn. She lacked the motivation to stand and pull the cord and allow anything beautiful interfere with her misery.

“I never got the chance to fail,” she mumbled, incepting a stream of tears to drip down her taut face.

“You wouldn’t have failed, Izzy,” said a voice from the doorway.

Isabella briefly smiled through her tears and slowly turned to see her closest friend, Cynthia, standing at the threshold between the kitchen and the living room. Her purse was slung over her shoulder and she clutched a plastic container in her hands.

“Chicken and stars,” Cynthia said, shrugging her shoulders and shooting a feeble smile toward the sofa. “I know it’s not fitting for the weather, but I knew you wouldn’t be cooking anything and I thought we could watch Ellen and eat soup and get your mind off everything else.”

“Get my mind off what?” Isabella sniffled.

“Patrick called me earlier this morning. He told me about the baby. I don’t know why you didn’t tell me.” She put the dropped her bag to the floor and put the soup on the kitchen table and stepped into the living room. “It’s been four days, Izzy? Since you lost her? Have you left the house?” Cynthia went to her friend and held her in a tight embrace, absorbing the trembling quakes that accompanied Isabella’s sobbing. She gently caressed her pasty white cheeks and stroked the whips of her unkempt hair. As she did so, she noticed a clump of stinkbugs that were congregating in an upper corner of the room. There were cobwebs forming a lattice between all four legs of the coffee table. The room was different than it had been the last time she had come to visit. It was stale; the dismal afterbirth of an unrealized dream. Cynthia slowly pulled herself from Isabella and held her shoulders at an arm’s length away.

“What do I tell the boys?” Isabella asked.

Glancing down at the empty cup, Cynthia forced a smile. “Tell them a truth you all will believe. Tell them their baby sister needs more time to grow, but they’ll meet her one day.” She clasped the glass in her hand. “Let me freshen this up.”

A fresh set of tears ran down her face. Releasing her grip, Isabella swayed on her cushion as her friend rose and went out of the room. “No, I think I’d rather a glass of water. Why don’t you heat that soup on the stove?” Isabella called after her.

Her gaze fell upon the family portrait Patrick and she had done with the boys that past Christmas. It had been that week she found out about the third. “We’ll meet you someday,” she whispered, rubbing her belly. She stood from the sofa and walked to the window, pulling the curtain wide.

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