Zest Lit Issue 2, October 2013 - Page 84

Just then, Joe started to bawl like a baby.

‘Tell me what happened,’ Nina said in a smooth voice. ‘Take your time.’

Joe dug a bandana from his pocket and blew his nose before continuing. He talked toward the window rather than looking directly at Nina, as if ashamed of what he might reveal next. ‘Marjorie was never one to order things from the Internet,’ Joe said. ‘Didn’t trust putting her personal information in there and not knowing who might steal her identity. But then something changed. She started ordering shoes and dresses from Macy’s online. Even ordered a battery-operated wall clock and a lamp from Crate and Barrel.’

Nina could see that bare space near the kitchen out the corner of her eye. It taunted her. Her hands began to tremble, her heartbeat quickened. The room seemed out of focus except for that small empty square. What if she picked up a nearby bag of paper towels and threw it into that spot and filled in the final puzzle piece? Could she excuse herself in the midst of Joe's despair? His voice had become strange and distant inside her ears yet she could make out every word.

‘There wasn’t a day that went by that a package or two didn’t arrive at our house,’ Joe said. ‘I even found unopened boxes hidden in a back room. Then I came home early one day and heard noises upstairs. I found a brown bag on the landing and a cap.’

Nina rubbed her sweaty palms against the top of her thighs and took a few deep breaths. She shut her eyes in the hopes that some knowing angel would float through her apartment and stack a few boxes or a pile of books in that unfilled spot. She wished for it, prayed