Ashley stared at the red numbers projected onto her wall by her bedside alarm clock: 11:58. For two nights now, the phone rang at precisely 12:15. Each time she answered, there had been a pause and then the connection broke. Intrigued by the timing (not many people call after midnight) and the origin of the call (The Morrow House, an assisted living facility) she anticipated the shrill staccato that would disturb the gentle snoring of her beagle, Elvis.
As if sensing the internal restlessness of his motionless companion, Elvis, curled at her feet, raised his head and gave her a tilted head glance.
“Come here, boy,” she whispered. That was enough to convince him to bathe her face in slobbery kisses before collapsing in her arms; his exposed underside the not-so-subtle invitation to rub his belly. She didn’t know the precise moment when she became lonely enough to look forward to a late-night hang up call, but she suspected it may have been when the door clicked behind Brent as he carried the last of his belongings to his Chevy Blazer. The thought had crossed her mind to beg him to stay, but as much as she wanted to, she could sense he wanted to leave more. So she let him go.
Six years together disappeared in two carloads. For the first few months, Ashley expected him to come back, realizing the error in his choice. Now, going on the fifth month, with divorce papers on her nightstand waiting on her signature, she’d learned that setting one free with the notion he’d return was just foolish hope harbored by the naiveté of a romantic heart.
She’d never make that mistake again.
The sharp ring of the phone cut through the silence, startling Ashley. Elvis barely raised his head.
“I know you’re there. Please talk to me.” She detected two shallow, raspy breaths that made her question her sanity. I’m asking for trouble.
“Edith. Is that you?” A man asked.
Ashley let out a surprised gasp. “My middle name is Edith.” She rarely admitted it because, although she was named after her great-grandmother, she found it too old-fashioned. “Who is this?”
“David. They won’t let me come home to you. They say this is home now.”
She remembered driving by The Morrow House and from the outside, it looked like a warm, well-kept building.
“Do they take good care of you?”
He sighed. “I suppose.” He dropped his voice to a whisper. “But no one took care of the Colonel like you did.”
“What is your favorite meal?”
“Always turkey dumplings.”
“Oh, I love to make those. Most people use chicken, but turkey adds more flavor.” Without expecting it, she blurted another question. “What about dessert?”
“I don’t get sweets much but if I could sneak another bite of lemon meringue pie…” He paused. “Someone’s coming.”
Before she could answer, the call disconnected. In an instant she knew what she’d do. She had recipes for turkey dumplings and lemon meringue pie, passed down in her family for generations. “We’re going to give David a taste of home,” she said.
Elvis wasn’t impressed. Drool pooled under his loose lips and his eyes twitched beneath closed lids.
She rolled onto her side ran her fingers down his back. It wouldn’t be long before his steady snore would lull her to sleep.