All We Are
by Joni Haws
The tock-tock of the grandfather clock echoed beside her as she slumped against the wall, twisted carpet between her fingers. Large swaths of afternoon light cut through the living room windows and she let her head fall back, fixated on the illumined dust particles and their lazy drifting. What was dust, anyway? Flour so fine it had escaped the inferno? Kicked up dirt, meandering its way back home? Perhaps, she realized, it was itsy bits of people, flaked-off pieces of themselves transcendent enough to defy petty laws like gravity.
Was she, right now, breathing in parts of herself? Of Jeff?
Maybe, at this very second, she was surrounded by teeny little pieces of Lily, still floating, silent, everywhere.
The AC kicked on.
She heard Jeff’s slow step down the stairs behind her, knew he spotted her legs jutting out from behind the clock. Silence. She felt his stare, the weight of speech growing on his tongue.
Finally, he sighed. “Mel, you can’t-”
Her words, quiet, were measured in teaspoons. “Please. Go. Away.”
Another long silence. The garage door opened. Shut.
A robin hopped across the porch, its rusted belly plump as a bean bag. She watched it through the plated window of the storm door.
And then she saw Lily’s handprint, greasy and perfect, like stamped butter on the glass.
Crawling to the door she nearly touched it, withdrew her hand, and the AC chilled fresh trails on her cheeks.