Marsha stood facing the window, her back to the living room. The fire has been dying for a while now. Hugging her robe around her body, she looks out toward the street, waiting to see headlights, hoping Ash would be coming home.
With no sign of hope that her lover would show up tonight, Marsha gave up watching the cars go by. She turned back to the room she was in and noticed how dark it was, so she poked the fire and brought its licking flames back to life.
Her melancholy face was highlighted by the glow of the fire for a moment as she stared into it, emptily. But then she stood and forced her tired feet to the kitchen to steep more tea. Once the herbs diffused into the water and turned it an earthy tint, she came and sat on the sofa.
“Ash might not be home tonight.” She said to Prince, their orange tabby cat, who just stared at her and tilted his head.
“Momma won’t be home tonight, baby.” She told him again and stroked his head. He purred and leaned into her, making a gentle smile whisper across her lips. Was Ash’s cat sad that she wouldn’t be home? She wanted him to understand. “Do you know what I say?” Prince looked up at her and gave a short purring meow. He didn’t know what she meant. Her words were just pretty notes to him. It was probably best he didn’t know; but thus, she had no one to console her or sympathize with her. Even if he could understand, he wouldn’t sob. Cats cannot sob.
“Do you wish momma would be home tonight?” She stroked his head again. “I wish she’d come home.” The cat stretched and then jumped onto the couch with her. He rubbed his cheek to hers and then used her shoulder as a stepladder to get up to the back of the sofa to lay and stare at the moon, his paws folded inward toward his chest.
He looked so peaceful and this made Marsha wish she could be a cat. That she wouldn’t feel this absence so deeply. She wished she could stare up at the moon, her eyelids sleepily half-closed. But she had a heart and a brain keeping her awake. She couldn’t ignore Ash’s absence and the moon didn’t lull her to lands of nowhere.
With Prince now asleep, Marsha whispered him goodnight and pulled her feet up onto the couch to recline. She folded her hands over her midsection and stared up at the glowing orb contrasting the midnight sky. Little dots of white, like holes poked in heaven’s sheet, twinkled about in the universe far, far away. The stars could see Ash from up there, she imagined, I wonder where she is, right now.
Where Ash was, we may not know. At some bar with a sullen face, ignoring nasty men who just want a warmer bed; at Jessica’s house smoking a blunt and laughing about the Cheshire cat; driving around with a blank stare chiseled onto her face; at the river, sitting on a rock, and staring at this same canvas of heaven as Marsha does; or even sitting outside the dimly lit motel on Second Street, a cigarette perched between her fingers, talking to some druggie who frequents that bench. She could be anywhere, doing anything really. But Marsha ended up dozing off, her eyelids finally heavier than the ache that tugged at her heart.
Light streamed through the window and splashed over her face. Marsha blinked away the blurry scene and forced her eyes to focus on the ceiling. She was in the living room and not in her bed. She turned to look beside her but Ash was not there. Tilting her head further, she surveyed the kitchen, but Ash was not there, either. She bounced off the couch giddy with excitement, “Ash’s car could be outside! Ash could still be here. She could have slept in her car!” She bounded to the kitchen window as a kid does to a candy store and went tip-toe to peek out. The lot was empty. The gravel driveway was undisturbed. She dropped back onto her heels, the flutter of her heart gone. Ash had not come back at all last night, which meant she most likely wouldn’t be back today, either.