One of the phrases that goes through my head on a fairly regular basis is, “the best laid plans,” and it’s true more often than I’d like. That’s why, instead of publishing this the week after the first excerpt, it’s a little more than a month late. So I guess I should adopt a new saying, right? “Better late than never?” Nope. I used to be on time for everything – and I will be again. I will. But until that actually happens, we’ll just hope for the best. In the meantime, please enjoy the second snippet of Holding On To Yesterday.
Photo Credit: Pixabay.com
“What is going on?” Kyle whispered, his eyes wide, his heart pounding.
Before him sat the dinette set he and Maggie bought at a clearance sale immediately after signing the papers for the house. He remembered how excited they’d been to buy the first piece of furniture for their new home.
And it was the same table. There was no question about that. From where he stood, trapped by the slivers of glass surrounding his bare feet, Kyle could clearly see the burn mark from the frying pan he’d sat in the middle of it, without a pot holder to protect the surface. And there. The gouge from when he was trying to pry the lid from a jar of mayonnaise. The knife had slipped, scratching a deep groove in the fake wood laminate.
Almost against his will, his eyes traveled around the rest of the room. The curtains were the same as the ones that had been hanging there three years ago.
Blue glass canisters were sitting on the counter, too. One was filled with the flour Maggie bought but never intended to use, because Maggie couldn’t cook worth a darn. She just thought they added an air of hominess to the kitchen.
And there, on the windowsill, were her little owl-themed knickknacks. The picture of a wheat field was hanging on the wall behind the table again, too.
“No,” he mouthed, rubbing his eyes with his fists.
Had he finally had a nervous breakdown? Maybe the drunk hadn’t worn off yet and he was seeing things. Things he wanted to see but that weren’t really there. All he knew for sure was that he needed to get out of here. To check out the rest of the house.
Hoisting himself up on the counter, he scooted down to the small utility closet next to the refrigerator. Executing a few moves that would be the envy of any contortionist, he managed to get hold of the broom handle, and eventually swept himself to the doorway, gaping at the scene before him once more.
“This can’t be happening.”
As he ran from room to room, his chest felt like it was being squeezed by a giant fist. Everywhere he looked he saw furniture, decorations, and drapes he’d given away long ago.
The utilitarian futon he’d bought was nowhere in sight. There wouldn’t have been room for it anyway, not with the polka dot overstuffed sofa Maggie had loved sitting there in its place. The matching love seat sat across from it, both flanked by glass-topped end tables.
Scared, he made his way to the front window, his forehead smacking the glass as he looked outside. He vaguely recalled parking in the driveway instead of the garage when he’d gotten home this morning, but the car wasn’t sitting there.
On feet that felt like they were weighted with lead, he slipped his shoes on and walked back to the kitchen, holding his breath as he opened the door leading to the garage.
And there it was. The bright yellow Mustang. The symbol of his youth and freedom. The one thing in his life that had shouted, “Kyle Ferguson will not conform to the standards set by the world!”
He remembered how it felt to own it. It was a feeling he’d never wanted to lose, that he wouldn’t allow anyone – not even Maggie – to guilt him out of.
He’d sold it less than two weeks after she’d died. His desire to be his own man, to never be chained down, had cost him too much, and he couldn’t bear to look at it again. Yet there it was, parked in the center of the garage, taking center stage like the beloved trophy it had once been.
Kyle felt lightheaded, rubbing his temples as he leaned against the doorjamb. Maybe he’d gotten hold of an expired bottle of whiskey last night.
That was it. It had to be it. He’d poisoned himself, and was actually lying in bed, maybe even still on the beach, delusions of what he wanted most filling his mind. Or maybe it was nothing more than another nightmare in a long, endless string of nightmares, showing him what he could never have again.
Maybe he was dead, and this was his own personal hell. Everything Maggie had loved surrounding him, but no Maggie in sight.
No. No, he wasn’t going to accept that. He was going with the bad alcohol, maybe even alcohol poisoning, and he spun around, taking off at a run for the bedroom. He’d find himself passed out somewhere, barely breathing, and then he’d stand there, watching as he slipped away into nothingness – forever. Then the pain would be gone.
Except the bed was empty. The cherry wood four-poster bed they’d shared. The green, yellow and white comforter Maggie had fallen in love with was mussed and rumpled, as though they’d just crawled out of it.
Is that what he’d slept in when he’d gotten home, he wondered. In their bed? Shaking his head, his eyes fell on the jacket lying on the floor, a spherical object bulging in one of the pockets.
A chill surged through his body as he remembered tripping over the weird old bottle. It was all kind of hazy, but he remembered landing in the sand and picking it up, holding it in his hands. He also recalled wishing it was a magic bottle because if it was, he’d go back in time so he could save Maggie. Then something about Fred, and carnivals, and fuzzy doorways that vanished before his eyes.
His knees gave out then, and he sank to the floor, picking the jacket up and staring at it like it might attack him. With hands that trembled, he reached in and pulled the bottle out. It was kind of a nondescript thing, the color not quite white, not quite silver, with strange drawings etched into the glass. Nothing that looked familiar. Maybe a foreign language rather than the artwork he’d presumed it to be?
It didn’t matter what it was. He just wanted to know whether…
“Please don’t be there,” he whispered, turning the jacket so he could get to the inside pocket. But the envelope was right where he’d tucked it, filled with everything he’d taken to the beach.
If she was somehow miraculously alive, wouldn’t these be gone? But what about the other stuff? The furniture, the curtains? For crying out loud, he could see her jewelry box sitting on the dresser they’d shared.
Crawling over to the nightstand, Kyle grabbed the cordless and, with hands that shook so hard he could barely hold it, he pressed buttons he hadn’t used in three years.
“Hi, this is Maggie. I’m sorry I can’t take your call right now, but if you’d leave your name and number after the tone, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Have a wonderful day!”
Scrambling to his feet, Kyle ran to the bathroom, dropped to his knees, and emptied the contents of his stomach in the toilet.
He’d once had a reaction to a shot, something about it causing his glucose to drop dramatically. All he remembered was that his body shook so violently he hurt all over. His teeth had chattered hard enough that he’d been afraid they might break, and the entire time he’d thought he was cold. Freezing, in fact. But it was just a reaction to the medicine and all he’d needed to do to remedy it was to eat a few bites of a candy bar.
He was having the same sort of reaction now, but he didn’t think candy was going to help much.