by Ed Nichols
Raymond stood at the casket for a long time. It was early in the afternoon and the family would not be back to the funeral home to receive visitors until six o’clock. He reached in and put his hand on her lovely folded hands lying across her chest. She looked so good. He was devastated. He remembered the last time they had made love, and she had said to him, “You are the best thing that ever happened to me, Ray.” Then, only a week later she was gone, a massive heart attack. He didn’t know, didn’t understand—what had happened to her heart? She had always been so strong, who would’ve believed it, only thirty-five years old.
He said aloud, “You were the best thing that ever happened to me, too, honey.”
Looking at her closed eyes, he knew how blue they were, and how they would sparkle when she laughed. Her hair looked great, and he knew that her best friend, Polly, had probably fixed it, just the way she always liked it. She had the same soft red lipstick on she always wore.
But, she was dressed in a silky burgundy dress that he didn’t recognize. He couldn’t remember ever seeing her in the dress. Of course, they never shopped together; she could have bought it recently without telling him.
Raymond stood at the casket and remembered the last time they were together all day. It had been a quick trip to the mountains in his little MG; a picnic and spending the afternoon sitting by Tallulah Lake watching the ducks and geese frolicking. Holding hands, dreaming of what the future might hold for them. He touched her cheek ever so softly and his eyes glassed over. She became blurry and he wanted to burst out crying. He inhaled deeply several times, glancing around the room to see if anyone else had come in. He was so glad he was alone; he never wanted to leave her. Wanted to climb in the casket and go with her.
He thought back to another time, a time when she had decided that she could not see him anymore. She told him he’d be better off without her. His life would be much simpler, and less stressful. They had argued, before he finally convinced her that he truly loved her, and wanted to be with her as much as possible.
He stood beside the casket, wishing for one more afternoon with her. Riding in the MG in the mountains. Looking for a secluded spot beside a lake or river. Tears ran down his cheek. Raymond felt a slight movement in the room. He removed his hands from the casket and turned around. His eyes looked straight into the barrel of his wife’s 9mm pistol.
Ed Nichols lives outside Clarkesville, Georgia. He is a journalism graduate from the University of Georgia. He is a short story award winner from Southeastern Writer’s Association. Ed’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in: Every Writer’s Resource, Fiction On The Web, Short-Stories.me, Vending Machine Press, Floyd County Moonshine Magazine, Beorh Quarterly, Belle Reve Literary Journal, Work Literary Magazine, Drunk Monkeys, Crack the Spine Literary Magazine, The Literary Yard, Decades Review, Swamp Lily Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Literary Orphans Journal, Front Porch Review, Chiron Review, Snapping Twig, Deep South Magazine, and The Literary Hatchet.