The Answering Machine

Drying the last dish and putting it away Maggie tidied up the kitchen counter and went to the living room to watch some television. It was so quiet with Walter away on business and it made her miss him all the more. She found a movie starting on cable and decided to settle in. She got herself a glass of wine and made some popcorn.

An hour and half in she decided it really wasn’t going anywhere and the wine had made her drowsy enough to sleep so she headed off to bed. She was asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.

The next morning when she woke up she had a strange feeling that something was amiss. She couldn’t for the life of her figure out what it was so she shrugged off the feeling and took a shower and then went downstairs to make herself some breakfast.

As she was scrambling some eggs she noticed out of the corner of her eye that the message light was blinking on the answering machine. She took the frying pan off the fire and went to see who had called. She thought it odd that she hadn’t heard the phone ring during the night.

She hit the play button and listened.

“Maggie my darling, just wanted to tell you how very much I miss you and love you. Hope you’re well. I’ll try again soon.”

She smiled at the sound of her husband’s voice. Twenty-four years they had been together and their love continued to grow stronger. They were the envy of their family and friends. She played the message once more, and then went back to making her breakfast.

As she ate she wondered when he would be home. Odd that he hadn’t given any indication. Then again he never had been much for leaving messages. He preferred to speak direct. She cleaned up and then went down the basement to put on a load of laundry. She had much to do and was glad of it. It kept her mind off her loneliness.

When she got back upstairs she saw the light blinking again on the answering machine. She put down her laundry basket, smoothed her gingham apron and went over and hit play.

“Maggie my love, I wish I could be with you. I hope you slept well last night. Know that I love you always and ever.”

She sat down and smoothed her hair with one hand as the other hovered over the play button. She pressed it and listened again. How very odd. No mention of where he was or when he would be coming home. Even more odd, how had she not heard the phone ring? She supposed it was possible with the washing machine running but she had heard it ring at other times when she was downstairs.

She tried not to worry. Walter loved her, wasn’t that the important thing? She took off her apron, put on a coat and grabbed her car keys. She would do the grocery shopping; that would keep her occupied.

She returned an hour later and was putting the groceries away when she again noticed the blinking light. Damn. She had managed to miss him yet again. She was certain of it. She hit the play button.

“Maggie, I miss you so very much. How I wish I could look into your eyes and kiss those wonderful lips of yours. It’s beautiful here; I want you to know that. So peaceful and serene, I’m so happy. I wish I could hear your voice. It would make everything so complete.”

This time she was confounded. What did he mean? It’s beautiful here? Why wouldn’t he tell her when he would be home? This was so unlike him. She went and sat down at the kitchen table and tried to sort things out.

A few minutes later the phone rang. She jumped up and grabbed it.

“Walter?”

“Um, no, is this Margaret Fletcher?”

“Yes, yes it is. Who’s calling please?”

“Mrs. Fletcher, I’m with the California Highway Patrol. I regret to inform you that your husband Walter was killed in an automobile accident last night.”

Maggie almost dropped the phone when the words finally sank in. “But…that’s not possible. He called last night. He called me twice today. I just…”

“Mrs. Fletcher, I’m sorry for your loss. I know this is hard. We would have called last night but he didn’t have identification on him at the time of the crash. An officer will be calling on you soon to speak with you further. Again, I’m sorry for your loss.”

Maggie hung up the phone and sat back down at the table. She stared at the answering machine for a very long time. The light did not blink.

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