The Next Room
Today I dreamed you. Maggie started the words of her story refreshed with a new idea. She had been struggling for 6 months trying to find some relief from her writer’s block. Now the ideas seemed to flow as a running stream into a babbling brook. Her fingers moved eloquently across the keys as she penned her tale from her dream.
Maggie cleaned up after dinner. She was eager to get the kids to bed and get some rest. It had been another unsuccessful day of staring at blank pages. Her husband, Tim, had told her to take a break. He reminded her of the tough ordeals they had dealt with that year and that things were going to be fine. His job was steady and the kids events had quieted. He assured her that her block was temporary and that she would be tapping away at her laptop in no time. She tried so hard to believe him, but once again there were no words just empty paper. As the evening came to be she found herself in a hot shower, lathered from head to toe. It felt good to wash away the failure of the day. When she climbed into bed that night she was instantly snoring and that was when it all began.
Maggie opened her eyes to see her greatest inspiration standing before her. Her mother in law, Ida, had been a great poet and knew she needed help. She quietly took her by the hand and led her into the front room. Maggie was surprised, she had not heard her come in nor had Tim said that she was coming over.
“I just thought I would come by and see you. You been on my mind. How are you?”
At first Maggie didn’t know what to say. She knew that she had spent a lot of time talking to her within the past year, but recently they had grown apart. Ida had started spending more time away and just did not come around like she used to. Even now as Maggie spewed forth her writer’s block concerns, Ida seemed preoccupied but she did her best to listen. The ladies stayed up for most of the night talking about this and that. As dawn approached, Maggie felt herself growing sleepy. Ida knew it was time to go. She hugged her dear friend and quietly left the room. The rest of the house would be astir soon, so Maggie went to the task of preparing coffee and then she would crawl into bed.
Maggie inched back in bed and closed her eyes. She didn’t hear Tim’s alarm go off nor did she feel his usual good-by kiss in the morning. When she awoke, the kids were playing in the living room and the phone was ringing. Tim was on the other side. She struggled to get to the phone before the voicemail. She was able to stumble around a bit and answer.
“Hey hun are ya up? Tim sounded concern. He knew she had bouts with depression and remembered the last episode and what a toll it took.
“Hey, you. No, I just got the phone. I hear the kids in the living room. I’m ok though. I forgot this was your Saturday.”
“Yeah, I told you about two weeks ago. But that’s ok. You get some rest. I’ll call my sister to come look after the kids and you can rest up. Don’t try to do too much. Just relax. I will find some dinner on my way home. How’s that?”
“That sounds fine to me. Yeah, let’s do that. I have a headache anyway and I would like to take a day off. Thanks babe.”
Tim hung up and immediately called his sister. She rushed over and picked up the kids and took them for brunch. She asked Maggie if she wanted to go but she declined. She wanted some much needed down time. She gave her money for the kid’s meals. Even though she turned it down Maggie insisted. She had not told anyone of her strange night but she was kinda hoping that she could rekindle that flame. She drank a cup of coffee and sat at her table. There was nothing on the tele and the streets were quiet. She knew her publisher would be calling some time that week and she had to come up with something soon.
The time ticked away and soon she found herself dozing off at on the sofa. She grabbed a light blanket and soon the soap operas were watching her. She thought she was in a deep sleep but she began to stir and move around the house. She found herself walking down the hall and into his mother’s old room. She opened the door and stepped inside. Everything was as she left it. Lace doilies were on the end tables. The large cherry furniture was in need of polishing but still shined brilliantly from underneath a thin layer of dust. Her pictures of Jesus and the last supper hung as they always had. Even her bibles were left on the pages that she loved to read. Maggie felt a small smile escape her lips. At the same time, the sorrow of not being able to see her friend enveloped her. But as she raised her eyes she felt a brush on her shoulder. Ida was holding her hand. She had been there watching her and knew she needed comforting.
“Ya know, I gotta get that dish ready for the church. Let’s get in that kitchen.”
Ida hurried along as Maggie followed. Ida continued to talk about this function and that and how she had made cabbage before but seems every time she makes them they are requested more and more. Maggie listened as she always loved to hear her stories of the church and the people who ran it. Tim had not developed his love of the church as he did not care for the ways of the people in it. But Ida had strong faith and knew her son would return one day. She continued going on and on and completed the dish in no time. Maggie was torn between the happiness of being with her friend and the sadness of her having to leave.
“So you having a bit of writer’s block. Ya know whenever I was writing and couldn’t quite get the feeling. I always took a drive and that made me feel better. Maybe you should try it. Oh and eat something. You haven’t been eating well and I can tell. Let the dead lie, you have a life to continue.”
Ida smiled and lit up a cigarette. She sat at the end of the table and continued.
“I had not expected things to turn out the way they did. When I asked you guys to move in, I knew that I wasn’t in the best health. But I wanted to make sure that the kids were ok. I know my son and he can be a handful, but he is a good man.” Ida laughed. “He reminds me so much of his father.
Maggie just smiled and did not speak much. Ida could tell she was beginning to sadden.
“No tears darling, life goes on and you will be fine. As for me, I gotta get to church.”
Ida grabbed up her pot and made her way to the front door. She was dressed and ready to go. As always she was sharp and beautiful. Her tiny figure adorned a beautiful white beaded suit. Her silver and black hair was pulled into a single pony tail to the side and rolled into a dainty ball on the side of her head. She was in rare form but still her usual self. She was busy doing her work for the lord. Maggie watched her in amazement as she opened the door, pot in hand. She had seemed to get antsier as the day went on. It was as if she was running out of time and she knew it. She had given advice and talked about the way things were and how they were now. She gave her some idea of her new place and how quiet and peaceful it was. She talked about visiting with her brother and husband. She said that they had planned on visiting but knew that the family had taken such a hard hit that year that they would hold up and wait till a better time. Whenever she noticed that Maggie was not speaking she would change the subject. She wanted to hear about the kids and Maggie was able to spew out a few lines on the football games and play dates. Maggie also went into the notion of how smoking was very bad for her and that after all they had went through why she still continued. Ida told her it made her feel alive and since the hospital nothing bothered her anymore. Both of the ladies sighed quietly.
As for now Ida was on her way to church. Maggie wasn’t saying too much. She told her how she missed her and wished that she could see more of her. Ever since she got sick, Ida had stayed away. She didn’t want the kids to see her in poor health. She was getting better everyday now but still knew that seeing the rest of the family would take some time. She made these special trips for a purpose. Maggie was not aware at first, but in the end she would be.
Once again their moment came to a close. Ida turned and gave her one last glance. She stepped in close to her and whispered a single sentence.
“On my way home, fix it Jesus , fix it like you said you would.”
Maggie felt a tear well in her eyes as Ida disappeared down the walkway. Maggie had not realized that she was holding her breath or that her husband was pulling up in the yard. When he saw his wife standing in the doorway he grew concerned. She was still in her night clothes, she looked as if she had been crying and had only recently stopped. He rushed to her as she passed out in his arms. He hurried to get her inside and on the sofa. He rushed to the sink and grabbed a cloth and soaked it with lukewarm water. Maggie felt as though she was being pulled from a tunnel. When she came to, Tim, breathed a huge sigh of relief.
“I’m taking you to the emergency room.”
“No, I ’m fine. I don’t need no emergency room. I just lost my balance.”
“You didn’t lose your balance, you passed out. You need to go the doctor. I‘m calling the after hours nurse.”
Tim rushed to find the number as Maggie continued to rest on the sofa. She could hear him in the background frantically trying to explain what he had witnessed. Her passing out had sent that year’s tragedy rushing back to him. His mother and step father had died earlier that year and he could not stand to lose his wife. Her breakdown over the foreclosure and loss of her best friend had worn her down by 50 pounds. He did not want to see her go through that again.
“We’re in luck, Dr. Mike will be here soon. He has to pass here on his way home so he will come by and look at you. He said he didn’t mind. He said the night doctor wouldn’t have a good enough history and that he’d rather see you.”
Tim gathered the supper from the car and called his sister. He asked her if she could keep the kids over night. He told her to bring them by for dinner and a change of clothes. He would bathe and dress them for bed. She agreed. Upon hearing about Maggie’s health she grew concerned and was ready to step in and offer a hand.
Dr. Mike arrived in good time and quickly looked Maggie over. She was pale and looked tired. He asked what she had eaten and after a brief moment she remembered that she hadn’t. She had a cup of coffee and that was it. He continued to ask her about what she had eaten the day before. Once again her intake was more liquid than solid.
“You need to eat something. What’s going on and why are you not eating?”
“I’m not hungry. I’m up and about I’m just not hungry.”
“Well, I am going to prescribe a vitamin and that should get you going. You have got to eat. You must stay strong to get through it all.”
He handed the script to Tim and told him to fill it immediately. He went outside and spoke with Tim privately. He told him to watch her carefully. She could be slipping away again and if she gets father than before he would have to hospitalize her. Tim agreed and decided to take a few days off from work in order to make sure she ate. That night he saw to it that she ate some broth and a few potatoes and after she finished he went to fill her prescription. He had a hurried look on his face and didn’t like leaving her, but she was in no mood to get in and out of the cold.
As soon as he left, she sunk back onto the sofa. She looked around the room of memories and once again Ida stopped by. She knew that the reason for Maggie’s illness had been her visits. It was like that before. She would have to reason with the sick woman or things would get worse.
“You know, when you are with the ones you love time goes by in a blink and you forget to take care of yourself. I cannot come see you if that what’s going to happen. My son and those kids need you. So this will be my last visit. I love you and I always will.”
“Ida, I don’t want to be without you again. Everything is so empty when you are not here.”
“That’s just it. Ida placed her hand on Maggie’s, I’m always here. I’m just in the next room.”
Ida moved on to her room and Maggie followed. But she could not seem to keep up. When she arrived at the doorway, she flung open the door to find it quiet and still. No one was there. But a voice did whisper from the dust.
“It’s time to dismantle the tomb. Move on.”
Tim was pulling up in the yard. Maggie saw the lights and quickly began to move to the front of the house. She knew that at some point she would have to tell him. But she wasn’t sure of how. He had loved his mother very much and that was why she had stayed away. She knew he could not take seeing her so soon after her funeral. He walked in with the vitamins in hand. He went about gathering a smaller plate so she could have a little more on her stomach. He gave her the pill and she took it and began to eat slowly. She told him that she loved him and that everything was going to be fine. The couple watched a little tv and cuddled on the sofa. That night, Maggie slept peacefully. Her dear friend did not show. The next morning, her writer’s block had gone as she penned the story of the reluctant ghost who was on her way home.