Laura ignored the doorbell that echoed through her aching head. She covered her ears with her hands until the ringer gave up. When the door opened and an unknown voice called out, she laid still even when the sound of casters began rolling across the floor and moving closer. They seemed to stop just inside the next room. Four times the stranger entered and exited her home, rolling heavy items into her dining room that made the hardwood floor groan at the disturbance.
“What the hell is this?” her husband’s voice was wild with outrage when he entered the room where the man worked.
“Hey man, I’m just doing my job,” a defensive voice replied. “This was the address I was given and I was told to leave them here.”
“Is this some kind of a joke? Who orders something like that? Get them out of here! Now! If my wife were to see those…”
“I’m sorry, sir. I can’t take them back. For one thing they just plain creep me out, and for another, I’m not allowed to take a return with me until you’ve gone through the proper channels. My hands are tied here.”
“You don’t understand,” her husband’s voice softened into the buttery, desperate tone he’d gotten so good at during the last month. “We have to get these out of here. Please, my wife’s just lost her mother. If she sees these, it’ll tear her up all over again.”
“I’m sorry,” an uncaring voice echoed back before the door slammed.
Laura sat up when she heard her husband mumble a slur of curse words. Fear fluttered inside her momentarily until his ritual pacing hypnotically made her lay back down and fall easily asleep on the sofa.
She opened her eyes in time to see her husband, Mark, hovering above her.
He put a hand on her cheek. “It’s all right. I just wanted to tell you I was going out for a little bit. Just do me a favor and use the back steps to go upstairs when you finally go to bed for the night, okay?”
“Are you going to be out all night?” Her voice was hoarse from crying and not speaking to anyone for days.
“No. Of course not. Go back to sleep now,” he said lovingly.
She agreed by closing her eyes again.
Whining and creaking rustled through her dreams until the irritation of the noises drug her senses to alertness. The loud sounds stopped when she awoke, but were replaced with the shuffling of feet in the next room.
“What’s this? Harold? Oh no! Harold won’t like this at all!”
Laura sat straight up when she realized the older woman’s voice wasn’t from her dreams but coming from the dining room. It was a familiar voice, but one from her distant past.
“Calm down you two. We’ll get to the bottom of this.”
Laura stood immediately when she heard her grandmother’s voice.
“Is that you Laura, dear? Come in and join us. I’m just making some sandwiches and tea.”
The whistle from the teapot made her jump, but the sudden scare helped propel her frozen body to move. Slowly, she walked towards the dining room, completely aware that her grandmother had been dead for over a year.
Four coffins lined the back wall of her large dining room, one was closed but three were open wide.
Laura stared at her grandmother, her thin form moving as gracefully as it had in her younger years. Bone was showing through her charred flesh in several spots but when she smiled and waved like she always did, Laura smiled back at her. Rosalie continued on, moving about like a busybody, setting plates and cups on the table before she disappeared into the kitchen.
“Hi dear,” another voice said, drawing Laura’s attention from the kitchen door.
Laura turned to the big-boned woman. She walked closer, mesmerized by the deep gash in her forehead. “Donna? Donna, is that you? I worked with you for five years, right? At the factory. What happened to you?”
“Oh, I’m not worried about me, dear. Harold and I were in a car accident last week.”
“That’s terrible!” Laura’s hands flew up to her agape mouth. “And I was too upset to even hear the news. My condolences to you both, I feel terrible.”
“Oh that’s all right, that don’t bother me no more. What’s got me over a barrel is Harold. If he wakes up and he’s not where he’s supposed to be, he’s not gonna be happy.”
“There must be some kind of delivery mistake. It’s got to be here in these papers but I can’t seem to read them. I think I’ve gone blind!”
Laura’s heart started racing as her eyes darted towards the third woman sitting on the sofa. She was beautiful, just like she’d always been. A tear formed in Laura’s eye.
“That’s what happens when you get old,” grandma spouted when she reentered the room with a large plate of finger sandwiches.
“Well, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I could read just fine last week.”
Laura slowly went over to the sofa and sat beside the beautiful woman shuffling the papers.
Her mother put the papers down and stared at her. “Laura? Laura is that you? How have you been?”
“I know.” Kay frowned, looking down.
Grandma sat down at the table and picked up a sandwich. “Come and eat you girls so we can figure out what to do about Harold. I need to get home soon too or my husbands going to come out of his casket.”
The women obeyed, sitting down comfortably around the table. A calm serene feeling came over Laura as she looked from face to beautiful face. She was eating and drinking with people she loved, people she missed, and this time, she would get to say goodbye.
“I’ve got it!” Donna exclaimed with pride. “The number for this house and the number for the funeral home got mixed up. We were supposed to be delivered to 1436 instead of 1643. And it’s Trinity Street not. That boy must have been seriously dyslexic.”
Laura shook her head. “Was he? Or was it fate?”
“I think it was fate,” her mother agreed. “How is your father?”
“It’s alright,” Donna blurted as she punched the numbers into the phone. “I’ll take care of this and we’ll be out of your hair in no time.”
“No!” Laura panicked. She felt her throat closing up and the dull ache returning to her head. Without a thought, she hugged her mother firmly. “I love you, mom. I’ve missed you. Please, don’t go. I don’t want you to go!”
Her mother returned the hug and then pushed her away far enough to look into her eyes. “I know honey. It was a surprise to me too. I was scared, angry, lonely. I missed you all so much. But I’m home with my mom and dad now. Back where I started. And one day you’ll be with me again and your father too, but you’re not ready yet. You have to finish living first.”
“I never got to say goodbye to you! It all happened so quickly.”
“It happens that way sometimes, but sometimes that’s better. Remember grandma’s illness? It kept us all sad for months when we couldn’t do anything for her but watch her pain. Mine was a gentler death. Less painful, don’t you think?”
“I love you, mom.”
“I’ll always love you too, Laura.”
“The truck’s here! Get back in your coffins girls. We’re going home!”
Laura gave her mom one last hug. The tears ran freely until her vision was obscured and when she heard the coffin lids close, she fell to her knees still sobbing.
“Laura? Laura! Are you all right? Why are you crying?”
Laura awoke in her husband’s arms. Her face was drenched and she was still crying what seemed to be an endless flow of tears. The tears lasted through the shower. They lasted through the careful wardrobe choice. They didn’t stop until her first cup of morning coffee.
At exactly, she picked up the phone and made the call. “Hey mom. How are you?”
“I’m fine,” Kay said. “What’s wrong?” Her motherly intuition was right on as usual.
“Nothing. Do you want to go out for dinner today? I’d really like to start spending more time together.”
“I’d like that Laura.”
“How about at the luncheon hall at noon?”
“I’ll meet you there.”