Author Topic: Morning Coffee (Ghost Story Challenge Entry)  (Read 552 times)

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Oxygen-Thief

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  My wife and I used to talk over coffee on weekend mornings. Of course we also watched Netflix together on the couch or took walks, but I felt lucky enough to have married someone I could simply talk to to have a good time.
 
  Hope would make the morning brew, always giving me a little extra of my favorite creamer—hazelnut. Hers was always nearly black with only a few spoonfuls of sugar and a bit of milk. She insisted she liked her coffee that way, but I was pretty sure she only did that to save money on creamer due to my sweet tooth.
 
  Then we would just unwind talking. Despite our wedding and honeymoon, those morning hours contained some of the most pleasant memories I have with my wife.

  We had debates over the dumbest things, like which Yu Yu Hakusho character was the best since we both grew up watching it on Toonami.

  “No, no, no,” Hope said shaking her head, then sipped her coffee. “Hiei's the shit, man. Kuwabara's cool but he was so annoying sometimes.”

  “Hiei was a prototype Sasuke,” I argued, because it was true. Fictional characters who pretended to hate everyone else around them were the worst, in my opinion. Before she could offer rebuttal, I added, “Kuwabara's the best because he kicked ass but still loved his friends at the same time. Hiei just hated everybody. Now that's annoying.”

  My wife shrugged in response, grinning. “Yeah, good point. But I still love cool guys in black like Hiei. It's probably because of him that I liked Sasuke in middle school, actually.”

  Hope stared out the window for a second, recalling childhood memories while drinking her coffee in deep thought. I whispered, “Or because you had no taste.”

  Her cheeks reddened immediately. Trying to hold back a smile and failing, she lightly punched me in the arm while I laughed at her embarrassment. That little moment is very important to me, even if other people wouldn't think it as precious as walking along a beach, or romantic dinners lit by candles.

  Those mornings reminded me why I loved Hope so much. I wanted to remember her laughter like song lyrics, her hundreds of crooked smiles when telling stupid jokes, and her weird stories told with the crescendo of a moving train. I wanted to remember all of her without feeling sad, but I failed that when it happened.

  After three years of dating and three of marriage, Hope went missing. I had filed a missing persons report after she hadn't come home at the usual time or responded to my calls.

  It was dark out at the time. I knew her route home from work included a long, lonesome road with only a farm to pass amongst fields of corn. The police found her car abandoned on the side of the road, but they didn't find Hope. The only person nearby was the farmer whose property was searched thoroughly without restraint, but nothing suspicious was found on his land or in his house.

  With the help of Hope's family and social media, we started a search. We had help from friends and volunteers when searching the cornfields where she vanished. People close to Hope and I who were out of state retweeted posts I made asking where she might be, along with her face on every telephone post.That went on for a month.

  After two months, people started losing faith. I didn't, of course, but the police kept telling me when people were missing for as long as my wife, that typically meant they were dead.

  No, no, no, not my Hope. She was too young and strong for dying, and we had so much more time to spend laughing over stupid anime shit or our thoughts about the universe until death took us both. I needed to hear Hope laugh again. The silence in our house was crushing me.

  I refused to think it was over, but the third month came around and the search closed with Hope presumed dead. Not a single lead had turned up for three goddamn months. Her parents held a funeral, where there was an empty casket lined with forget-me-not flowers. Hope's whole family sniped me with stares because of my 'stubbornness'.

  The day after, I was lying around the house just waiting for her to walk through the door. I cried, thinking that even if she was alive, what if she was in a situation where death seemed welcoming? There was nothing I could do, a realization which kept me chained to our bed where I cried myself to sleep.

  The next morning was Saturday. Weekends made me depressed, so I was sleeping in until my eyes slit open and I instantly smelled something from the hallway.

  Any lethargy I had faded in an instant. I bolted to the kitchen where there were two mugs of coffee on the table, each mug our respective favorite: Mine a simple blue mug, while Hope's had a picture of Rei Hino posing in her Sailor uniform. I bought it for her on our fifth anniversary.

  I had thoughts about a break-in or sick prank, but accepting my wife's kindness was easier. There was something in the air that wasn't just steam from the mugs, and I was so desperate to not feel lonely that I just sat down and started sipping. Hazelnut, as always.

  For the first time in months, I smiled, though Hope was certainly dead now. Maybe she had gone last night or weeks ago, choosing just now to communicate. The nitty-gritty details didn't matter to me at the moment. All that mattered was that my wife was with me again, that I had some confirmation she still existed.

  My phone buzzed from the counter. I excused myself from the table and didn't bother checking the caller ID, answering with a calm,“Hello?”

  “Al Williams?” a deep voice asked sternly. The seriousness in his tone heightened my attention.“This is the Chandler Police Department. You need to come in, sir.”

  Assuming the matter was about my wife, I blurted, “Has Hope been found?”

  “Well . . .” the officer said. “Your wife is here, Mr. Williams. She walked in a minute ago with some other women, demanding to see you.”

  My entire brain shut off while my heart went ballistic. Just as the officer finished his sentence, I heard my wife's coffee mug shatter on the floor. A soft echo of laughter came from the empty chair next to me.

  It wasn't Hope's laugh, but a man's. He said in a voice that felt so far away, “She wouldn't shut the fuck up about you to the other girls. Quite the fighter, though.”



A/N: While I'm not totally sure, I think there are minuscule things in this one that aren't in the one I sent for the contest. The word count is the same, and I don't remember the changes. All I do remember is adding some last-minute editing before submitting it for UCA. Also this is probably too late but I'd love to hear what other people have to say about this. Thank you for reading!
« Last Edit: 02:08:12 PM 10/26/17 by Oxygen-Thief »