|image courtesy of D.B. McNicol|
June burst into the house. “Mom?”
“In the kitchen, Honey!” Ruby had intended to get some food going but was just at that moment opening the refrigerator. She saw her deli sandwich from her uneaten lunch sitting there and was stalled. Her brain saw it and stopped.
The deli sandwich was from a world of doubt.
It was a Schrödinger’s Cat sandwich.
At the moment she purchased it, her eldest daughter was missing, but there was no true knowledge about what happened. She was both reassigned, and not. Like Schrödinger’s dead and alive cat. If she hadn’t been reassigned, would it have been better? What then? What was the alternative - missing? Dead? Reassignment, the way the People handled it and May's counselor had explained it, was something between the two.
Ruby had no real answers, no information about where the reassignment had taken May, so she was essentially missing. They assured her she wasn’t dead… at least not yet. Would anyone call them if she died at her new location? Probably not, because they didn’t acknowledge any true family connection.
“Mom. Mom?” Ruby came to herself, holding the fridge door open and staring at her sandwich. She didn't move. June was standing in the kitchen looking at her with concern on her face. “Are you okay?” Ruby was still paralyzed. June stepped closer. “You’re not.” She peered over her mother’s arm into the fridge, looking for the cause of the shock. Standing so close to her mother and seeing nothing shocking in the fridge, she gently pushed the door closed. “So I guess she’s gone? For good?”
June had never seen her mother this way. It worried her. She put an arm around her and escorted her to the kitchen table, pulling her through some invisible molasses that dragged at Ruby’s feet. Seated at the table, Ruby’s head collapsed onto her arms and she started weeping. Quietly. Like a whisper of sadness had entered her heart. June didn’t know what to do with the tears that were rising in her own eyes. She pulled a chair close to the woman who gave her birth, put an arm tenderly across her shoulders, and allowed tears to spill down her own cheeks. But she permitted no sound out of her mouth. This was not her turn to cry for her sister, yet she couldn’t stop the tears from falling.
After a few moments of time standing still, June tried again. “Mom?” Her voice barely made a sound, she was so hesitant to interrupt her mother’s mourning.
“Gone,” was all Ruby could manage to say.
June let another moment slip by while a crease deepened on her brow. “The farm?” For some reason she found herself mirroring her mother’s brevity. Her mother just shook her head, rolling it from side to side over her folded arms. Finally, raising her head as if awakening to a new world, she took June's face in her hands and, with tears streaking her cheeks, said, "You're my only daughter now."
It's FICTION FRIDAY!
Every Friday, a new flash fiction story, inspired by reader comments, when possible. Feel free to leave a prompt for future use in the comments below. Today's Fiction is part of my project for NaNoWriMo. As I write a new novel this month, I may be sharing occasional short scenes that may or may not end up in the finished product.