Eyes Wide Shut

Short Story

The clinking of dishes in the kitchen woke Alexa. She opened her eyes slowly and glanced over at the alarm clock on the nightstand beside her bed. It read six thirty-four in the morning. The sun blared through the sheer curtains into her faded cotton candy pink bedroom.

Why was everyone up so early? She sat up carefully as she rubbed her belly. “Good morning,” she whispered, feeling the baby kick her. She glanced around her room at her old pictures and trinkets. Things that her mother refused to get rid of. Nothing had changed. High school graduation pictures still sat on her dresser, the ancient stuffed animals squeezed onto the corner chair, the collection of Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes and The Baby-Sitters Club books, stories that she’d once treasured while growing up were aligned neatly on the bookcase on the far wall, while fairy statues on top of the dresser gazed down innocently at her.

When Alexa walked into the kitchen, her mother Shannon was at the sink washing the breakfast dishes in a frantic state, as Aunt Marie and Grandmother sat quietly at the table, looking as if they were in a daze. Her father stood motionless at the window peering into the backyard, a cup of coffee in hand.

“Morning. Everyone sleep okay?” Alexa asked brightly. Her mother turned the faucet off quickly and dried her hands on the dishtowel on the countertop, glancing nervously at Alexa.

“F-fine, darling. How are you feeling today?”

“Good. Well, the baby’s making me a little queasy, as usual. Hopefully after I eat something he’ll settle down. You know, you all look like you’re wearing uniforms today.” She laughed. Her father remained a dark-suited statue, not acknowledging her presence in the room. Aunt Marie’s black dress was smothered in so many layers of ruffles her neck seemed nonexistent. Her grandmother looked pale against her black cashmere sweater, black turtleneck, and white pearl necklace.

Aunt Marie got up, reached for a glass in the drain board, and began to pour orange juice into it.

“I was thinking today we could go look at paint samples for the baby’s room. I don’t want to pick out the furniture until Eddie comes back, though. I know he’s gonna want to help with that.” Alexa took a seat at the kitchen table.

Aunt Marie’s head shot up to stare at Alexa. The glass slid from her hand and shattered on the tile floor. Orange juice splattered her black dress and shoes.

“Whoa, do you have butterfingers today, Aunt Marie?” Alexa joked. Her aunt burst into tears and rushed out of the room, running right over the broken glass on the floor. “What?” Alexa asked, looking around. “Did I say something wrong?”

Shannon bent down to pick up the shards and wipe up the mess. “Alexa, I don’t think today is going to work for that. Don’t you remember? We talked about this, sweetheart.”

Alexa stared blankly at her mother. She peered at the far wall of the kitchen at the hanging calendar. There was a double circle around the date with a note scribbled in the little box, “St. Thomas Church – 9am.” She then glanced at the fridge. A picture of Eddie and her from their vacation to Greece a few years back hung crooked on the freezer.

She swallowed hard at the lump in her throat, shook her head and blinked a few times before returning to gaze at her mother.

“I can’t do this again,” her father muttered. He walked out of the kitchen.

“I don’t – I don’t understand,” Alexa replied. Her eyes flashed back at the picture on the fridge. I should go back to bed, Alexa considered. Her grandmother sat silent, tears shining in her eyes as she held a pair of onyx rosary beads.

“Why don’t we go upstairs and get you dressed, Lexie?” her mother asked. “I’ve already laid out your dress. Then you can come down and have some toast. It’s dry. I think you need to eat light today. Your stomach hasn’t been so good.” Her mother studied her face as though waiting for a sleepwalker to wake up.

Alexa shook her head. “Don’t feel like going out today. I’ll just wait for Eddie to come. I’m going back home today, anyhow, I think.” She reached over the table to take one of her grandmother’s hands. Her grandmother placed her other hand on top of Alexa’s and stroked the thin, soft skin there.

“Come on, honey.” Shannon helped Alexa off her chair and led her upstairs.

“Start taking off your pajamas and I’ll bring you your dress. I’ve picked out your black flats. No one is going to expect you to be wearing heels today.” Alexa ignored her mother and walked to the window.

“Alexa, please.”

She smiled, looking out at her old dilapidated tree house in the backyard. Maybe the baby could play in there if it gets fixed up a bit. “Did I tell you I decided to name the baby Edward? We’ll have a little Eddie running around. I think Eddie will like that. Especially since at first I told him I didn’t want to name the baby after him, or anyone. I think he’ll be excited. But I’m going to surprise him. Don’t let it slip. I’ll tell him when he gets back home.”

“I think he’ll love that,” Shannon replied as she began to take Alexa’s clothes off. Her voice sounded faint, kind of shaky, though. Maybe she doesn’t like that name so much, Alexa mused. Or maybe she was hoping I’d name him after Dad?

“I miss this room. I miss being a kid. But I can’t lie, I’m excited about doing the mom thing.”

“You’re going to be a wonderful mom,” Shannon said quietly.

“I’m happy Eddie’s tour is over. He’s finally coming home,” Alexa said, smiling. She glanced down at her black ruffled dress that fit snugly over her baby bump. She ran her hands gently over her stomach. Her mother continued to dress her in silence.

“Yes. He’s coming home,” Shannon whispered as she zipped the back of Alexa’s dress.

“I can’t –,” Alexa began as she grabbed her mother’s hand and squeezed it. She took a slow deep breath. “Thank you, Mom,” Alexa said. Her voice quivered as she peered at her mother, terrified.


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Docmo profile image

Docmo 5 years ago from UK

Love the writing, the subtle hints at tragedy and the undercurrent of loss... I particularly loved the title- Eyes wide shut indeed. Great writing, keep 'em coming! voted up.

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