A man hovered over the crumpled body of the woman at the bottom of the cellar stairs. An awful, guttural sound forced its way up from deep in her lungs. A cavernous head gash bled profusely, the blood pooling, forming a red halo around her auburn hair. Her glassy, fixed eyes looked up at Callie, pleading for help. I must stop the bleeding, Callie cried. She hurried down the stairs, her feet heavy, her heart pounding. Why can’t I breathe? Why can’t I reach her? Why won’t my feet move faster? She was only steps from her aunt when the grimacing man turned toward her, then looked back to Laverne and raised his hand for a final blow.
Callie awoke with a start. Sitting on the side of the bed, she ran her hand across her forehead to feel the perspiration. Since the funeral, she’d endured recurring dreams about both her father and deceased aunt. It’d been two weeks, and still, she couldn’t shake the nightmares.
She looked at the bedside clock. In an hour, she had a scheduled meeting with her brothers. Wanting to arrive a few minutes early, she dressed, skipped breakfast, and drove to her vacant childhood home.
A heaviness surrounded Callie as she unlocked the front door and walked into the quiet house. Turning on lights, she paused in the family room. For a moment, she imagined she could hear pots rattling in the kitchen. She turned her head to one side to listen to the ghostly strains of her mother singing her favorite hymn. In her mind, Callie could see her father sitting in his recliner, reading the newspaper with his feet propped up. Her two brothers were roughhousing as they came through the door, all sweaty and dirty from playing football in the front yard. So many memories…
Walking down the hall, she opened the linen closet where years ago she’d found the newspaper article about her aunt. I didn’t know Laverne, yet I can’t seem to get her out of my head. Reaching under the sheets on the top shelf, she slid her hand side to side across the cedar boards. She checked the remaining shelves, then closed the door. Empty-handed, she wandered into her father’s bedroom.
On an impulse, she walked to the dresser and opened the bottom drawer to see several sets of folded pajamas. Beneath was a sheaf of papers. With her heart fluttering, she pulled out the stack and took a seat in the nearby chair.
Carefully unfolding the papers, she spread open a section of the Boston Globe. Front and center was her Aunt Laverne’s photo. With anticipation, she read the ensuing article. It confirmed her aunt’s body had been found in the cellar of her Richmond, Maine home. It established the brutality of her death. Otherwise, not many details were divulged. Sighing, Callie folded the newspaper back into its original four creases.
Sitting beside his empty bed, Callie attempted to remember every word her father had uttered about her Aunt Laverne.