*editor’s note: This is a prequel to last year’s story, Annual Spirits, also by TammyJo Eckhart.
“In Remembrance of Me”
by TammyJo Eckhart
I found Doreen’s plans for our first wedding anniversary two months ago. She’d laid out everything hour by hour. She was always so organized. Yet somehow she forgot the roast and had to run out to get it. My hands started fisting at some point when I read over the list and diagrams until I heard her voice say, “Nicholas Gerard Denison, don’t you dare spoil a perfectly usable piece of paper.”
I looked around for my wife but all I saw was the empty kitchen, the plants dying on the windowsill, and the grime that covered it all. “Look at what you’ve let my beautiful kitchen become,” her voice continued.
I spun around, sure I’d see her with hands on hips, head cocked to one side, giving me that commanding look that made shame and arousal thump through my body at the same time. All I saw was the dining room with its scattered newspapers, bowls and plates that needed washing, and unopened mail. “Darling, I can’t come back to the house in this state,” she told me in a softer tone. “Don’t you want me to come back? Don’t want me to be happy?”
Maybe it was because my mother was too bossy or not bossy enough, but that tone of feminine voice always got me moving. I spent the next two months cleaning the house inside and out, working on getting the yard back in shape, and going through the rest of Doreen’s things.
Neighbors would stop by while I was outside trimming the hedges Doreen had loved and say, “Good to see you back at it, Nicholas,” and, “About time you stopped mourning, Nicholas.” They didn’t realize how many tears I cried while getting our home back into a shape that she would approve of.
Doreen was not my parents ideal choice for a daughter-in-law. Doreen was not a good Christian girl, though I never did tell them exactly what her faith was; they just knew that she seemed out of place the few times I brought her to services with me. She stood up and met everyone’s eye directly, even the minister and the city councilman who was a client of my father. She even had the audacity to reply to my mother’s baiting comments instead of looking down and squeaking, “Yes, Mrs. Denison,” as had all my previous girlfriends.
Doreen was a spunky gal, the kind who could hang with the boys but still not be a tomboy. She quickly assessed me and knew exactly how to wrap me around her little finger. I loved it. I loved her.
I love her.
As I pulled weeds and revived the vegetable garden I could hear her approval in my ears. As I washed the dishes after every meal and watered the new plants on the sill I could feel her gentle touch on my face and hands.
Only the Halloween after I found her anniversary plans brought me back to my mourning habits. I was sitting on the porch with a bucket of candy that my sister had dropped off so my place wouldn’t get egged again. I was drinking and remembering, letting the kids grab a few pieces with little notice.
I remembered the smell most of all, when the police brought me to the clinic to identify the body. The mortician hadn’t done anything to her body yet, but since I worked right across the street, the police thought it was best to get identification as soon as possible. She was covered in blood, but the smell was something that made my stomach threaten to empty itself on my shoes.
“The smell isn’t her,” the mortician quickly explained as his assistant helped me sit down and put my head between my knees. “She had a raw roast in the front seat. Since she was traveling the county roads back home, no one came across the accident for a while. Raw meat wrapped in paper doesn’t do well for long without refrigeration or cooking.”
I looked up. “How long was she out there before someone noticed?”
“It’ll take an autopsy to be certain, but given the smell I’d say five or six hours,” the mortician said.
I sat up in indignation. “Was this an accident?” I asked the police officer standing nearby.
“Yes, Sir. We also found a truck nearby, badly damaged but no sign of who was driving it. We have a warrant for the arrest of whoever was in it. Given the state of the truck, he’s got to be injured. We’re hoping clinics will report in if they see someone.” The officer and the mortician started talking about who it might have been, spewing out what Doreen called racist nonsense, so I just tuned them out.
No one stopped me when I walked back to her body. Even under the blood she had that adorable heart-shaped face that had reminded me of Betty Boop the first time I saw her, even though her brown hair was much longer and not as dark. I couldn’t see her brilliant blue eyes, because there were little pieces of something on them. Her mouth was slightly parted; blood covered it and stained her chin, neck, and chest, as well as the entire top half of her simple blue dress – the one she called her “farming outfit” for when she went to the Amish family she bought a lot of fresh food from.
“Did you talk to the Bylers?” I asked, turning back to the police officer. “We got a lot of food from them; they were our main butcher.”
“I did go out and see them. Mrs. Byler said you were in their prayers, and Mr. Byler said they’d stop by to offer anything you might need. Strange people, but very sincere,” the officer was saying, more to the mortician again so I tuned him out and looked back at her body.
When I put my hands on hers to be sure she wasn’t waking up, it took both men to drag me from the room.
Tonight is the third anniversary of her death. I got a small roast from the Bylers and made the meal Doreen intended as best I could. I sat on the porch with candy and a second glass of wine. I handed out candy with a half smile and few words until the officially approved city trick-or-treating hours were over.
Now I’m sitting on my bed with the third glass of wine, thinking of drinking myself to sleep. At first the temperature of the room seems off. The curtains are closed, but I know the sun is setting. The air should be cooler, not warmer, edged with humidity. The air seems to flow up my bare arms, and I jump up and look around the room.
Warm moisture trails up the side of my face, but when I step back it follows me, pushing through my hair.
“Ouch,” I gasp as my hair feels like it is being gripped hard. I feel something nudge me back toward the bed until my legs are hitting the side. The strange air cascades down my arms. I see my shirt move and the edge of my belt jerk a few times. Two eye-shaped silver spots appear at the level of my belt, which moves as though something is trying to release it.
Then I know, I just know, what I have to do.
I reach down, shuddering as the moist air caresses my hands, following my movements to undo my belt and fly so that my pants slip down my hips.
The silver eyes now float in heart-shaped smoke.
I sit on the bed and toe off my slippers so I can remove my pants.
The smoke and silver become an outline in brown curls falling gently over pale shoulders and around a long neck.
I toss my t-shirt to the floor, and the silver eyes follow it, the smoky figure fading a bit.
Her form becomes clearer as I retrieve the item and put it in the nearby laundry basket. I can see her breasts now, the slight swell of her belly that makes me remember what the mortician said about her child. I sob once, and the eyes look up at me, the head shakes no several times.
I get control of myself and sigh as the moisture warmly meets my mouth in a demanding kiss. The touches are hers across my face, over my chest, and down to my boxers. I’ve been so lonely that it only takes a few strokes over fabric to make me come.
I sit there and try to plan out what I have to do to get her to come back.
TammyJo Eckhart has authored and contributed to multiple fiction and non-fiction publications since 1995. A skilled storyteller, TammyJo enjoys reading her fiction to live audience so she is happy to travel in her region to perform readings, sell/sign books, and lead workshops and discussions on various aspects of BDSM, gender & sexuality, various types of speculative fiction. Feel free to learn more about TammyJo and find links to all her publications at http://www.tammyjoeckhart.com/. Follow her on various online communities you can find at her main website to stay up-to-date on her latest adventures.