Empty Nesters

A writing assignment from a creative writing class.

A bead of sweat worked its way down Rosalyn’s brow as she hammered a splintered scrap of wood into the window pane of the upstairs bedroom window. Leanne or James must have accidentally broken it when they’d moved out with the kids, she reasoned, not wanting to consider any other possibilities.

“You about done with the window?” her husband said flatly as he stood in the doorway, crunching an apple. She knew he wanted to get in here and completely clean out the room, erasing any evidence that Leanne had ever been here. She stopped hammering for a moment, her lips pressed tight on the nails she held in her mouth as she considered an array of snide replies. Instead, she let her silence hang in the cold air of the empty room as she continued her repair. When she heard his footsteps disappear down the hall, she put the hammer and nails down on the floor and went to sit for a moment in a rocking chair that had been left behind.

The rocker groaned as she sat in it, cracking and creaking as she slowly rocked. She tilted her head back and surveyed the room. The wallpaper was a faded, peeling remnant from Leanne’s childhood. Leanne’s kids liked to dig their little fingernails into its weak spots and peel away what they could. Rosalyn had always wanted to replace it, but her husband wouldn’t hear of it. “Let her deadbeat husband pay for it,” he’d sneer, waving his hand dismissively.

Even though the wallpaper looked terrible, and she hated that her grandkids made it look even worse with their peeling habit, she never corrected them because she saw that they enjoyed it. She couldn’t bear to take away even a little bit of their joy. She got up from the chair and walked across the room, the old floor boards protesting as she stepped on them. She knelt down in a corner of the room that had caught her eye, where the peeling was particularly concentrated. She ran her fingers over the torn little spots, looking down at the baseboard that was darkened with scuff marks. She was puzzled until she suddenly remembered seeing her youngest granddaughter in this corner once, when she’d come up to call the family to dinner.

In an instant, anger and sadness surged inside her. She stood up and looked across the room at James’ old bean bag chair, bunched in a lazy, flattened heap and tossed carelessly in the corner. She went over to it and shoved her foot hard into its styrofoam-filled belly. It felt good, so she kicked it again, harder this time. She was kicking it a third time when she lost her balance and fell on top of it. She punched it over and over, until her arms were too tired and heavy to lift. She heard a sound in the doorway, and turned to see her husband there, staring at her. Silently, he walked over and grabbed the bean bag chair, forcing Rosalyn to stand up. His face contorted angrily and he drop-kicked it across the room with all of his strength.

The bean bag hit the wall with force, a small tear in the fabric bursting open and spilling out tiny white beads. They both laughed, and held each other until their laughter turned to tears.

“I miss her,” Rosalyn said, her words barely a whisper. Her husband held her tight to his chest as she cried.

“Me too.”