There is a long pause before Ophelia – Friday Fiction
There is a long pause before Ophelia continues the story and tells of how she bought a train ticket and went off to visit her mama in Atlanta. “I left on a Wednesday and Edward promised he’d be waiting at the train station when I got back on Sunday.”
She stops speaking, pulls a hankie from her pocket and dabs at her eyes. Several minutes pass before she continues. Wiping back the tears Ophelia tells how she arrived at the train station and Edward was nowhere to be seen. “I was in a panic,” she says, “I waited an hour and then took a taxi cab home. I didn’t care that it cost seventeen dollars, the only thing I could think about was Edward. I told the taxi driver to hurry, but the ride home seemed to take forever. The whole while I kept praying Edward had just mixed up the days and forgotten to meet me.”
That day comes back and Ophelia can envision it in her mind. Her chin begins to quiver and she raises a hand to her face as if to stop the flow of tears. It is useless.
“After all these years,” she sobs, “I thought I could speak of that day and it wouldn’t be so painful.”
Annie pushes back her chair and comes around to Ophelia. She kneels beside her and wraps her in an embrace. “You don’t have to do this,” she says. “I understand.”
For several minutes Ophelia allows the tears to fall then slowly they come to a stop. There is great sorrow in her voice when she finally speaks. “I’ve not told anyone the full story of what happened, but now it’s time.” She continues on, telling of how she arrived home to find Edward dead. As she speaks there are pauses between the thoughts, it is as if images of that day are passing through her mind and she is gathering the courage to go on. “Although Edward never told me of it, he apparently had a weak heart,” she explains. “The coroner said he’d most likely been dead for two days.”
Thinking she has heard the worst of it, Annie gives a sympathetic sigh. “I’m so sorry,” she says.
“I’m sorry too.” Ophelia’s voice is thick with the sound of regret. “Sorry I wasn’t here to save him. When I found Edward, he was in the loft, lying on that bed he’d made and facing toward the window. His eyes were wide open. For years I kept wondering if he was looking at the stars and wishing I was there to save him.”
Before Annie can say anything, Ophelia pushes her chair back and stands. She scoops up the two dishes and carries them to the sink. Annie follows along with the teapot and butter dish. They are standing with their backs to one another, Annie at the refrigerator, Ophelia at the sink, when she adds one last thought. “Doctor Kelly said it was a massive heart attack that supposedly happened in a few seconds. He claims it wouldn’t have made any difference whether I was there or not.”
There is thunk as Ophelia lowers the frying pan into the soapy water then she adds, “No matter what Doctor Kelly says, I know it would’ve made a difference if I was there beside Edward.”