Fiction: Sunday’s Survival

By a.m. consalvo

Sundays used to be her favorite day of the week. They once meant time spent with the family, early mornings filled with laughter and children’s feet pattering down the halls, the smell of coffee whirling in the air as bacon sizzled in the pan. Later, when their girls were grown, with children of their own, Sundays meant sitting with David on the front porch, watching the neighborhood wakeup slowly with the morning sun, sipping coffee and reading her latest book from the library in the town over, while David did the crossword in the paper or read the sports section. When he’d get stuck on a crossword puzzle, he’d ask her thoughts, or when there was a particularly witty clue, he’d read it aloud – those were her favorite times. 
They’d always planned to grow old and gray together. Watch their grandkids grow up, maybe get to see their children become grandparents themselves. And then someday, pass in their home together, always together. She never thought that one bright and beautiful spring Sunday morning, she’d wake up and David wouldn’t. Sundays stopped being her favorite day of the week, and her world was turned on its end. All their plans and dreams had disappeared overnight, and she didn’t know how to go on. How could she continue with everything they’d talked about doing, and seeing together, when now she’d being doing them without him? He’d only just started to grey at the temples,a match to her salt and pepper. She never planned for growing old alone in their big house. And so, when a few months ago her eldest daughter asked her about moving in with her and her son-in-law and her grandkids, to help look after the house and be an extra hand with the kids and new baby– she told her, of course, it only took some further prodding before she said yes.
Selling their home, where they’d raised their family, and which held so many memories; where they’d planned to grow old together, was bittersweet. She watched as all the things inside, the things that had made this place a home, were taken out and packed up. Some things being claimed by her daughters– like the fancy blue rug from the dining room and the China set for Easter Sunday. The rest was headed for storage until she was ready to finish going through them, until the constant ache in her chest didn’t feel quiet so raw anymore. She felt heavy hearted as she did a final walk around the house and she thought of how hard she had laughed when David had put that gouge in the kitchen floor when he’d nearly dropped a hammer on his own foot while installing the cabinets, he’d always been a terrible klutz. She looked at the random pink wall in the beach themed living room, where they’d painted over a spontaneous fingerpainting mural done by their girls when they’d looked away from them just a moment – distracted by one another during a stolen moment in the kitchen and couldn’t help but laugh as she remembered their little faces covered in paint and the gob smacked look on her husband’s face. Until finally, she was left alone standing in an empty house, that was no longer her home, simply a skeleton of what once was. The house had sold to a lovely young couple with two young boys. She could only hope that they would have as many happy memories here to look back on one day as her own family did.
Moving into the spare bedroom at her daughter’s home was an adjustment at first, but slowly they all started to get into the swing of things as time passed. She started to enjoy her mornings again, helping to get her little grandchildren ready for the day. Their giggles brightening even the darkest of days, and their grumpy scowls bringing joy where she had started to think she’d never feel it again. Each morning she’d get the little ones ready and help pack them into the car before waving everyonegoodbye for the day. She’s wave until the car left her sight; some mornings, she stood out front for a long moment, lingering, to avoid going back inside the big, empty, quiet house. She began most days by going grocery shopping, followed by a visit to David’s resting place. He had a lovely spot to lay for eternity, lying beside their youngest baby, beneath a sprawling wise old oak. She spent many hours each morning talking to David, telling him about the girls and their grandkids, about what he had missed, before packing up for the day with a promise to see him the next morning. Most days she returned shortly before her daughter and son-in-law, just in time to start the evening rush for dinner and bath time. A familiar and welcome battle of wrestling three small children under five through the nighttime rituals, and an often welcome distraction.
On a sunny spring day, she decided to stay home instead of visiting David. It had been several years now, and while she still missed him desperately, still looked for him in every room, often turning to tell him a snide joke only to realize he wasn’t beside her; she was doing better. Sundays were finally starting to feel bright once more and her mornings were filled with little pattering feet and laughter again. Things hadn’t gone as planned, but they rarely ever do, and things were getting better. She was softly humming a cheerful tune as she made a pot of coffee, planning to take a cup out and sit on the porch swing to enjoy the sun and warmer weather. That had finally arrived, before she would head out to go do the shopping. Carrying her mug on the way to the door, she stopped to grab a book from the dresser in the front room, before going to step out. Only to be met with a man on the other side of the door.
They both stared at one another frozen in surprise beforeshe tried to slam the door shut. Only, she had reacted to late. He bodily forced his way through the door, pushing her back into the front hall, spilling her coffee onto the both of them and knocking her book to the floor. Her mug shattering loudly across the floor. He had a firm grip of her upper arm, dragging her forcefully though the room where he shoved her roughly into a chair. She futilely tried to fight him off, but at her age and stature, he easily overpowered her. He handcuffed her to the chair and continued to move through the house. She could hear the crash of items in the other rooms as he rummaged through for valuables.
Her bedroom was situated on the first floor, barely a few feet from her current seat. Within her room she has David’s old safe with his service weapon from his military days. She had seen the man had a knife, and with how aggressive he had been, she has no doubts he would use it. When she heard him stomp up the stairs to the second floor and heard his steps making their way down the hall to the main bedroom, she jumped into action. She makes her way to the gun safe in her bedroom, taking the chair with her. She moves as quietly, but as quickly as she can. Going to her bedside table and opening the middle drawer to reveal the gun safe, she enters the code – her wedding anniversary, and removes the weapon. She quickly returns to her previous spot and hides the gun in between the cushions of the nearby couch. She then sits silently, holding her breathe. She strains her ears for any indication that he’s heard her from upstairs. When several excruciating beats have passed, she releases a breath and relaxes into the chair. She continues to listen to the man rummaging through the upstairs, knocking things over, stomping his way around, among muffled curses. 
It's hard to tell how long it’s been since he first forced his way past her into the home. The sun is still shining brightly, high in the sky, through the front window, meaning it can’t have gotten too far into the afternoon. This is a relief. It means there are still several hours before anyone will return home. By then the intruder will be gone and this whole mess over with. Soon, there is the telltale sign of the man’s return downstairs, as he loudly stomps down the stairs onto the first floor. When he returns to continue his perusal of the room she’s sitting in, he drops her son-in-law’s duffel bag filled to bulging near the front hallway and makes his way to the shelves closest to her seat. He begins muttering about how no one was supposed to be home. How he’d been watching the houses on this block for weeks to find the perfect time to break in to one when no one was around.She’d ruined his plans. “I’m not going back to prison because of some old lady,” he exclaimed. He went on to discuss how he’d have to kill her since she’s seen his face, something he can’t afford – a witness.
Her heart has begun to race wildly in her chest, as though it were trying to run away from her. She knows what she must do in that moment. It’s her or this man. She’ll be damned if she goes down without a fight. Still muttering to himself, he turns away from her to dig through the chest of drawers below the TV. Opening each drawer roughly, he dumps the first drawer on the floor, before digging around and tossing things aside from in the second. She knows that this is her chance to catch him by surprise and make her move. There’s a rushing in her ears, so loud she can’t hear herself think in that moment. She quietly reaches over and draws her weapon from between the couch cushions. Taking aim at his back, and fires. One, he shouts. Two, he falls to the ground. He’s groaning, but not moving. She notes absently that he’s stained her fancy rug – a wedding gift from her mother-in-law. She always hated that damned rug.

a.m. consalvo is an American writer and poet who enjoys writing about nature, the transitional periods of grief and coming of age.


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