Judith sat by the window with the steaming cup of coffee before her. She placed her cheek in her hand and gazed at the gunmetal overcast sky. Thunder rumbled in the distance and Judith’s placidity contrasted with the encroaching storm.
Once upon a long time ago, she had spent summers at her grandmother’s house in the country. Days of dense heat and cicadas, and nights speckled with the green glow of fireflies danced to the soft, melodious waltz of her memory.
She hummed her grandmother’s old lullaby. The fog of the past parted and showed her a child in bobby socks and stained pinafore laying on the grass, watching the clouds roll in the endless sky. The clouds descended; then, the same girl, though older, sat on her grandmother’s porch swing with a tall glass of cool, tangy lemonade in her hand. The soft click-click of Grandma’s knitting needles beside her.
The click of the needles soon became the rattle of a train. Grandma’s smiling face blurred as the train sped away until she was only a speck on a station platform.
So sat Judith by the window and let the memories sway and tumble like autumn leaves in the wind.
Judith’s twisted fingers ached as she lifted the cup to her lips. The lukewarm coffee surprised her and brought her mind into focus with a sharp thwack. Had it been so long since she had sat down at the table?
Judith glanced about her; shadows lurked in the darkened kitchen. She gazed out the window. The storm had lumbered in, and lightning flashed across the rain-filled clouds. Then, the rain fell in torrents, as if a dam had burst in heaven.
Drops spattered on the windowpane, and images flashed through her mind to the rhythm of the pitter-patter of rain on glass. This time, she recalled a young woman with cold toes in high heels sinking into wet grass as the rain fell all around her. Her fingers held on to the umbrella that threatened to overturn in the whipping wind. The certainty of no more summers buckled her knees and beat in her chest to the sound of earth falling on a coffin. Grandma had left, and she had taken the peace with her.
Rat-tat-tat of rain on the roof mingled with the rat-tat-tat of gunfire in the distance. Judith’s hands, now sticky and murky with blood, flitted from body to body, trying to keep life bottled inside the flesh as it seeped into her Army nurse’s uniform.
Lightning lit up the kitchen. Judith saw only the ashen face with unseeing eyes and the gaping hole in the man she loved, as she cradled his grimy head in her hands.
Judith sat with her empty hands before her as the wind howled outside her window. Her mouth gaped open as the wail of heartbreak snaked up her arteries and out of her throat. For an instant, the wind and Judith were one.
Night entered through the window as the storm thundered and raged, but Judith was long gone down the path of remembrance. Her memory now danced to the whirling rhythm of the howling wind. Years of loneliness in a perfunctory life with a perfunctory job passed. Yet, in the distance, the promise of a new love, a parallel universe of sunlight and happiness, waved a warm welcome.
“Judith,” a soft voice whispered and ripped through the film reel of yesteryear.
Judith turned towards the sound. A figure hovered on the threshold beside the humming refrigerator. It approached, passing from shadow into light.
“Grandma,” Judith whispered.
“It’s time to go, sweetheart,” Grandma said.
“But I only just glimpsed Raymond in the distance. He’s coming, I must wait for him.”
“No, sweetie, he came and went. Remember the years of happiness at his side? We are waiting for you. Now it’s time to join us.”
A flash of lightning lit up the crumpled body by the window with its smiling face upon the kitchen table and the cold cup of coffee at its fingertips.