Answering Machine

May 18, 2010
The night Alice watched her house go up in flames was the same night her boyfriend left a message on her answering machine. The message recorded as fire engulfed the roof in a raging inferno. Her memories burned as Robert’s somber voice played on through the smoke that choked the air. He finished his break-up call just as tongues of sizzling red and yellow crept up the telephone table in the main hallway. He said farewell as the white plastic began to warp and brown.

At her neighbor’s house, Alice dialed her boyfriend’s number with shaking hands and tears spilling from her green eyes. She pushed her red hair back from her sooty face obsessively as she waited through each ring. When he finally answered, he assumed her tears were because she had listened to his cowardly message, but soon realized how wrong he had been once she had explained the whole tragic tale.

She had showered. Blow-dried her hair. Left the straightener plugged in as she made dinner…forgot about the straightener as she ate her dessert and watched her favorite Tuesday night show.

Robert was thankful for such an unfortunate reprieve. Before hanging up, he promised her would drive over to see that she was alright. Alice watched from her neighbor’s bay window until his silver Honda pulled up on Green Street. She banged open the front door, sprinted down the wooden steps into the cool September night, and flung her arms around his shoulders.

She sobbed into his shirt. “I don’t know what I’d do without you!”

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