the morning after

the early morning sky looked beautiful.
sunny and clear, a light breeze blew stray strands of hair out of his face.
he closed the car door and inhaled deeply, trying to chase away the cold that had settled in his heart with a lungful of crisp air.
it did not work.
a sip of the stale coffee he had purchased at the drive-thru of one of these cheap food chain restaurants didn’t help, either. it tasted bitter in its styrofoam cup, even though he had put lots of sugar in it.
still, it couldn’t mask the taste of bile in his throat.

she had died about three hours ago. died… under sterile, fluorescent lights; to the soundtrack of a monitor, flatlining.
she had died with a tired smile, resting her frail hand in his.

as he approached the front door, he dismissed the mail, bulging out of the dirty-white mailbox, with a single tired glance.

not now.

with shaking fingers, he turned his copy of the key in the lock and pushed the door open to the familiar sound of wood meeting slightly too high carpet.
home.
he was home.

she hadn’t changed much during the years. everything felt the same, looked the same.
the furniture was still familiar; old, but well-kept. even the faint, lemony scent of furniture polish hung in the air. his throat constricted. he swallowed.
memories.
he could see himself… an ungainly, clumsy boy, taking the creaky wooden stairs two at a time, eagerly following his mother’s call for dinner. he remembered the slight smile on her face as she told him not to scamper while ruffling his hair.
that had been years ago.

he slumped into the easy chair sitting in the corner by the window; his mother’s favorite spot. scanning the magazines on the small table next to it, he finally gave in to the exhaustion.
the house felt so empty.
her presence no longer lingered here.
she was gone. forever.

what to do now?

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