I head downstairs, passing through rays of blue moonlight from the breaks between the hallway curtains. I sense the light slicing me, upset that I’m leaving the cowardly way. 

As I descend upon the last step, toes down and heel mid-air, the house decides to moan, with intention, like getting something off its chest. I struggle to remain balanced, swaying on tiptoes, lacking grace, and listening for sounds of the world’s lightest sleeper, aka Mom. 

When none come, I release my awkward stance and move into the living room, begging the universe not to wake her. I wouldn’t be doing this at three in the morning if I wanted Mom awake.

The memory of the day I left for college still gives me anxiety. Her body draped against the hood of my car, unwilling to move until I absolutely, positively, without excuse, promised to visit every other month. And that was when I was only 47 miles away. What the hell will she do when she learns I’ll be in a different time zone?

No, this is the only way, I whisper aloud as I pull out two stuffed suitcases previously stowed in the storage closet behind a broken upright vacuum and a long-ago-used beach umbrella. Mom doesn’t throw things away, not since the time she got rid of a waterproof travel bag thinking she would never need one, until her knitting group made a trip to the river and everyone but she had a waterproof travel bag. Never again, she vowed.  

Lifting both suitcases into the air so the wheels remain silent, I move on, but the sight of my forgotten water glass on the coffee table, soaked in a ring of condensation, makes me stop short. 

I set the suitcases down, ever so gently, arms relieved, and go to the stain. Using my sleeve, I wipe at it, but a pale ring remains on the dark cherry wood. Oddly apropos.

I suppose I could have paid more attention to the few rules she gave me. 

A potted plant full of leaves with yellowing edges reminds me it was my job to do the watering. A job at which you clearly suck, mocks the browning fern hanging in the corner. 

If I wait till morning and tell her about moving two states away, she’ll be devastated, I whisper to the plant. Maybe even handcuff me to my bed. I don’t think she’s above it. Not to keep her only child home. Not since my father passed on three years ago.

I pick the suitcases up and doing my best to tiptoe under their weight, I move through the kitchen to get to the back door. A grocery list on the fridge flaps from the breeze as I pass by. It includes things Mom knows I like. Items she doesn’t eat herself: gluten-free sea salt crackers, pomegranate Greek yogurt, diet soda.

The light on the microwave, doubling as a night light for as long as I remember, illuminates the kitchen’s black and white tiles. I remember my father installing them, my mother screeching every two minutes, “Mind the cabinets!” 

A smile forms on my lips as I sense Dad. 

I relieve my loaded arms once more and look around –  

The indention in the wall my head made when I was learning to roller-skate. 

The photo of Lenny, our family dog, who left the world last year. His vet bills still come in the mail.

A Christmas candle on the shelf, forgotten to be packed away. 

My mother’s reading glasses. All four pairs, one for every room. “I can never find the damn things!” 

I decide to wait till morning, to say goodbye to the person who will always be home.

Photo by Zach Lucero on Unsplash

CategoriesFlash Fiction
Christina Parisi

Christina Parisi wrote and directed several short films that have played at film festivals throughout the world and can be seen on Gaia TV and Amazon. Her short stories have been published at sites that include 100 Words of Solitude, 42-Word Anthology, and more. She is currently seeking an agent to represent her debut literary fiction novel, Driving Your Mind. Find out more information at christinaparisi.com