portion of the artwork for Vallie Lynn Watson's fiction

Vallie Lynn Watson

Worried they might have given her room away, Veronica checked in at three in the morning and slept in her clothes for a few hours. When the sun came through the half-opened drapes she got up, brushed her teeth. Her car was parked right outside the sliding-glass back door, which she didn’t bother to lock. Everything was still in the car.

The Shell station next to the hotel was open and she filled up the tank, bought coffee, then started to drive, first through the cemetery, without stopping. Then up and down neighborhood streets, remembering houses where people she’d known used to and might still live. Drove past Dylan’s house several times. She neighborhood-jumped clockwise around the city until she got to hers, and pulled into the cobblestone driveway that curved behind her old house from one street to the other. The house was for sale, and she could tell it was empty even before she got out of her new car. All of the doors were locked. The flat metal cover, hidden behind bushes on the side of the house, didn’t appear to be locked but she didn’t try to lift it. Dylan used to call it the slave entrance, a crude set of stairs that led down into the ground, ending in a closet off of the unfinished basement.

The ache in her joints returned when she approached the dead mall. She felt its emptiness from a distance, even though it would have been deserted on Christmas Day anyway. She pulled up to a department store, could see the fade of its name above the door. There was a realtor’s sign in the grass, as though the mall were a house, and she took a picture of the sign, drove on.

There was almost no traffic, but she could see families, Christmas trees, through windows and in driveways. Her gas tank was emptying, and she drove back to the open Shell station next to her hotel. Next to the checkout were stacks of plastic containers filled with fresh pink rose petals, and she pointed. The clerk said they weren’t for sale, something about a wedding, but handed her one.

Veronica drove back to the cemetery, parked at the family plot, lowered the convertible’s top. It was cloudy and warm and she stayed for the next few hours, until the sun started to lower. She walked through dozens of graves, around the small lake, sat in her car, sat on the ground by her parents’ stones, sat on the stark, modern bench her dead uncle had designed. She stared at the backs of stones on the other side of the lake; the water made the marble sparkle, like rectangle disco balls. She promised her mother she’d go to church.

She dropped petals around the stones, like rosary beads, penance, though the family wasn’t Catholic. Sometimes with thanks. The last few reciting a silly childhood chant. She didn’t want to end on “he loves me not” so she put the final petal in her car console.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 34 | Fall 2011