W.S. Dixon
Thomas pressed his cheek to the dark, smooth wooden door. He noticed that there was a certain heat, a slight warmth subtly radiating from inside the room. Thomas listened, hearing the faint crackling pop of a small fire, and knew that his wife was inside, most likely reading a book or newspaper in front of the fireplace. The month was September, and the brisk New Hampshire winds were beginning to breeze in, starting to chill the browning grass of the meadows, declaring forthrightly, the start of autumn. Thomas, though once hardened to the climate and unfamiliar with the frigid autumns of New Hampshire, had begun to appreciate, and sometimes even welcome, the weather changes that often seemed to arrive slightly early in the Northeast. Thomas' wife, Bonnie, adored the cold, having lived in the New England area all of her life. Her Northern upbringing was part of the reason her family was surprised to discover she was engaged to marry Thomas, who was in every way, the embodiment of "southern,” a word which Bonnie hesitated to use when explaining her situation. Bonnie’s mother scoffed upon hearing this, thinking Bonnie was using it as a sort of selling point. Thomas knocked gently on the door, carefully gauging the amount of force he needed to apply, not wishing to cause much disturbance to the tranquility behind the threshold. Thomas noticed that almost every action he performed that involved his spouse was meticulously bridled in this way. Thomas nearly always feared that he would upset Bonnie. However, in the past several years, his cautionary attitude had grown into something far greater. Every thing Thomas wished to do was run through this filter. The problem arose when almost no action appeared on the other side of Thomas’ precautionary gauntlet. Though they had not fully realized it, Thomas and Bonnie’s relationship had begun to fade quickly, dissolving exponentially every day. Thomas waited patiently for a response, his hunger roaring loudly in

his stomach. This situation was somewhat of a ritual between them. Everyday, after a silent lunch, Bonnie would retreat to the cozy study, and remain there for several hours. When they first acquired the home, Bonnie liked to call this room a “miniature library,” though there were not many books stored there. The room had pre-built shelves with capacity to hold and display a plethora of literature, though when Thomas and Bonnie first moved in, neither of them had any books in their possession to contribute, nor any money to buy new ones. Neither Thomas nor Bonnie was dismayed by this, because both expected, fifty-one years prior (the inception of their marriage), that the shelves would eventually become full later on. Thomas soon forgot the dusty extra space. The barren shelves remained with Bonnie, however, and through the years, reminded her daily of their presence, laughing at her. After two minutes, Thomas turned from the door and slowly moseyed away, his hunger still aching. Thomas considered making something for himself, but instantly decided against this after seeing the farfetched possibility of Bonnie becoming insulted that he had not waited for her. Curiously, Bonnie was not an intimidating woman. She was not commanding, nor rude. Yet Thomas could not help but do his best to always please her. He stepped quietly towards the living room, his aged joints protesting. As he settled in his large leather chair, Thomas began to look around him at the meager decor of his abode. The rug beneath him was torn in some places, and the corners of the fabric curled upwards. An heirloom wall clock that his father gave him hung on the wall, staring at him. Thomas once believed that this clock would not be with him forever, and that he would have a son to whom the ownership would pass. And in the summer of 1961, Thomas was nearly correct. Bonnie was finally pregnant. The pair had discussed it most in jest, but eventually agreed to attempt to have a child. The entire summer Bonnie was pregnant, which was also their second summer as a couple in the home, the atmosphere surrounding them shined brightly. Thomas’ small hardware business was beginning to grow popular, which meant more money for the child’s future. Bonnie’s tender burning love for Thomas was more apparent than ever

as she watched Thomas’ determined efforts to ensure a stable upbringing for her baby. And in turn, Thomas grew more attached to his wife, loving her and him (he thought the baby to be male) above everything. September arrived. Every thing fell apart. Just as the leaves began to turn dark shades of honey yellow, crisp red, and topaz brown, all remnants of joy were ushered out, starting with the death of Bonnie’s unborn child. Neither Thomas nor Bonnie ever discussed any details after that visit to Dr. Kleman’s office, but the toll it took on the fledgling lovers’ lives was extraordinary. As Thomas’ business tried to flourish, his silent grief smothered every financial hope and opportunity that came his way. Hype concerning his shop receded discreetly. The summer of 1961, including all its promises and hope, shriveled and disappeared, and the unremarkable courses of Bonnie and Thomas’ lives together resumed, painfully scarred by the three months prior. Thomas’ gaze was fixated on the clock, its delicate hands and bold numbers now barely visible to his weak eyesight. He found himself holding his breath as the long second hand rotated hurriedly around the clock face. Thomas broke his stare, heaving himself up to use the restroom. After he finished, he turned to the sink and washed his hands. He cupped his fingers and brought them to his face, splashing the water over his winkled, craterous skin. Thomas noticed that he was yet again engrossed in something. However, this time, his careful eyes were set upon himself. Apart from his hunger, Thomas detected another emotion lodged deep in his frail bones. This profound visceral feeling spread throughout Thomas as he discovered what it was: the need to be touched. Thomas could not recall the last time that he and Bonnie had shared so much as an embrace. Of course, he still loved her, but he was realizing that no physical declaration, no kiss, no hug, had happened between them in years. And while Thomas studied his somber reflection, he knew that only Bonnie’s affection could lift him from this monotonous mire. At that very moment, he decided to do away his passive demeanor and confront his loveless marriage. Thomas walked quickly out of the bathroom, headed for the library. As he approached the door, Thomas heard no sound. He twisted the doorknob

and stepped into the dark room. Thomas looked at the fireplace. The fire had died, leaving only smoldering cinders. In front of the fireplace was a large reading chair, Bonnie’s chair. Next to the chair was a small wooden nightstand, on which Bonnie placed her empty coffee cup and newspaper. From the doorway, Thomas could see Bonnie’s feet on the ground in front of the chair, but nothing else. Adrenaline still rushing through his veins, Thomas walked to the front of the room, and turned to the chair, his back facing the fireplace. Bonnie’s eyes were closed. On the nightstand sat a tattered edition of a novel whose title Thomas could not make out. Her reading glasses were placed on top of the book, and under that was an orderly folded newspaper. Bonnie’s hands were clasped neatly in her lap, and her head leaned against the top of the chair. Thomas thought she was sleeping, though knew his recent revelation needed to be recognized. He knelt beside her, taking one of her delicate hands into his. Bonnie did not flinch. As he felt her soft palms, he stopped. He did not detect any response at all, only cold, frail fingers lying lifelessly in his gentle grip. Thomas squeezed her hand, and still nothing happened. The tide of realization began to crash into him as he dropped her hand and stumbled backward. No sound could escape his chest; the breath was exiting his lungs. His hands and mouth began to tremble uncontrollably as his heart beat erratically. Thomas looked again at Bonnie, tears flooding his eyes and clouding his vision. He could not discern any expression, only a blank, inhuman placidity spread across her pale, beautiful skin. This peaceful image of Bonnie remained plastered in his mind. Even as the roaring sound of gusts of wind entered his ears, the picture stayed imprinted before his eyelids, just before the curtains of dark fell in, and the light in his mind faded out.


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