Echoes in Solitude
If you’ve followed me long enough to wonder about the title (“Hey, didn’t she already post a piece called ‘Echoes’? Man, how uncreative.”) — this piece, had the story been completed, would have taken place in the same universe as my original “Echoes” post HERE. As things stand, nothing directly connects the two scenes, and each can be enjoyed independently of the other.
The house had been silent for nearly three weeks, now. To Rea Hayes, its only occupant, it had felt like much longer.
Only occupant… She allowed the words to settle over her, and shuddered.
Unwashed laundry had begun to pile up in the corner behind the kitchen – work things, mostly. Somehow, when she came home she always ended up in the same old oversized t-shirt and sweatpants, staring at the blank TV screen, her tray table a line of phones.
The police had both her numbers – home and the cell – and the one chore she had carefully maintained in the past days was charging them, checking fervently to make sure that the batteries hadn’t run down, and then charging them again.
The third phone in the row was possibly the surest sign Rea had that the waiting was starting to drive her insane. It was one of her older cell phones, the oyster-white and shiny flip phone she’d used back when she and Ric had first met until, in a grand, romantic gesture, he had managed to topple the rowboat they’d been paddling across the stagnant duck pond. The resulting waterlog had shorted out the screen, and she had packed it away as nothing more than a memento.
And fifteen days ago, she was sure she’d heard it ring.
It had been four days after Ric was officially declared missing, before her tradition of sitting and staring had fully set in. Her coworkers and the authorities alike had begun sending her those horrible, pitying “left woman” looks, just because his car, wallet, and phone had all disappeared with him. Just because adult males like Ric were almost never the targets of kidnappers and there was no “activity” suggesting his credit cards had been stolen.
And so, after four days straight of wide-eyed stares and back-pats and “oh I just happened to buy an extra cup of soothing tea from the corner shop, do you want one?”s, she had headed home and dug the old box of mementos out from under her bed to remind herself that Ric wasn’t the type to just leave.
There’d been a tiny umbrella from the first drink he’d bought her, and the small drawstring bag full of cloth petals – “the fiercely allergic’s idea of romance.” There’d been the blue paperclip twisted into a ring from when he’d fake proposed to her four dates in “just to get all that ‘will they, won’t they’ tension out of the air. After all, we both know it’s gonna happen some day anyway.” And then there’d been the cell phone.
She’d picked it up, fiddled with it briefly, hit the power button and been more than a little surprised to hear it jingle to life. And when she’d been in the kitchen pouring herself a drink five minutes later, she’d heard the phone ringing.
At first, she’d mistaken the sound for her current cell’s ring, and gone digging through her purse before remembering it was in her pocket. Only later did she realize the call must have come from the oyster phone. Which had been disconnected for years.
With the broken screen, there’d been no way to confirm or deny the call, and all common sense said to forget it, but she still hadn’t been able to stop herself from digging through her closet for her bag of “things I’ll totally recycle one day once I figure out where to go with them” and pulling out the charger wire. And then she’d pulled out every other phone she’d ever decided to replace for one petty reason or another, and begun to recharge them too.
It wasn’t logical. It really wasn’t even the vaguest bit rational. But if Ric had been trying to contact her and, somehow, could only get in touch with an old phone… If there was the slightest chance that one of those other phones tried to ring and she left it off and missed it…
And so she sat, and waited, and listened.
And the house was silent.