Mercy’s Phone Call
The breathing on the phone is shallow, trembling in the static on the line. I wait before I repeat my words, hoping they will speak.
Nothing except a vague tinkling noise and the whoosh of a loosened sigh. I close my eyes, transported to years ago.
“Why are you calling?” My heart sinks at the thought of her mutilated tongue. “Just come over…”
The tinkling sounds again but louder and faster as if she’s shaking her head. My lips compress and my lashes part. Knuckles whiten around the weak plastic of the phone, coiled cord swaying as its tensed.
No response save for another saddened sigh. The realisation creeps around my throat and chokes me.
“I told you not to do this to me!” I utter. The phone slams down so hard the receiver bounces back out and I step away as if the thing has burned me. My hands shake.
Moving away from the connection, I head for the cupboard, pulling the bourbon from the back. It swills into my glass, sloshing the sides as old fingers tremble. Eighty years ago, we were in love.
Part of me pretends I don’t know why she’s called, but part of me accepts the truth. She would only do this if she needed me. That was the condition of our parting. She would only call me if it was all over.
I slouch down in my chair, green leather and buttons creaking beneath my old weight. A couple of sips of bourbon calm me. The familiar burn charming my throat. My reflection, skewed in the gold of the fireplace, makes for poor comparison to the youth she remembered.
“If they ever take them, I’ll call you, my love, and we can be together…”
I press the glass against my temple, eyes wrinkled shut. We couldn’t be together now. I wouldn’t let her watch me die only to leave her all alone.
After an hour and two more glasses, I pick up the phone, back rasping. She doesn’t answer when I ring so I wait until the dial tone has gone and speak instead to the air.
“I miss you…”
My throat unsticks from its whispery close.
“You can’t imagine how many times I’ve wanted to see you… to speak to you… So many words… If only He hadn’t been so jealous, I could still have heard your beautiful voice…”
That had been stolen from us too. She’d had such a lovely voice when she sang, but her voice belonged to her creator as did her love. Not to me.
The receiver slowly sets in its cradle and I stand for a moment before I hear the clang of the old doorbell. Confused, I reach the entrance. Nobody was expected this late. My fingers twist the key and crank open the tarnished wood.
It’s raining rivers outside. Her young, frail form is backlit by flashes from the fractured sky. She has stains on her face and a downturned mouth. I want to pull her to me, but I am not who she remembers.
And to put my arms around her shredded wings would only cause her additional pain.
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