When the Phone Rings – By Sydney Rende
She knows it’s him when the phone rings. It’s the redundant, sing-song tone she’s been dreading since the last time he called. She doesn’t want to answer; but she knows if she doesn’t, it won’t stop. The painful tune will clog her ears and permeate the veins in her brain until finally, she gives in, because he never does. So she picks it up, but she doesn’t say hello. That, she leaves to him.
“Mommy,” she hears him whisper.
She sighs. She’s had this conversation three times tonight, already.
“Um, Mommy, are you comin’ home soon? Because Doggy’s scared and there’s something movin’ in the ‘frigerator.”
His voice quivers, like the uneven tones of a harmonica. And she knows the tears that fog his eyes are even heavier than the last time. She wants her ex-husband to hear this, but she hasn’t heard from him since that day in the hospital, almost six years ago.
“Charlie, I told you – I’ll get home when I get home. Now get in your bed with Doggy and I’ll see you in a little.”
Charlie chokes out a coughing sob on the other end, and says, “Okay, Mommy.”
She knows he’s waiting for her to hang up.
She sighs again. She’s tired, and knows she should be getting home – and she wants to go home, too. But she would never admit that now. Especially not now. She lights a cigarette and leans back against the headboard of the bed. Beside her, a lumpy, hairy mass snores and mumbles slimy things.
And she wonders how much she’s really worth, as she puffs on the tip and waits for the phone.