The Empty Bed
by Aleathia Drehmer
What could Julia do? Bernard had been the love of her life, her every breath, her heartbeat, her sweat, her longing, her anger, her everything. She felt lost when she woke in the morning to find his side of the bed empty and cold. At first she imagined Bernard at the corner market buying fresh oranges and strawberries and maybe smelling the flowers before paying Carlos with not only money, but also with the kindness of his smile.
When he did not come back after this thought, Julia had to concoct another to excuse his absence. Maybe he went to the record store down the street, she thought to herself, he was just talking about finding that Miles Davis record from a festival in 1969. She imagined Bernard cradling the produce under his arm gently while he fingered the covers of the old records, smiling and nodding when he found something satisfactory and familiar. Julia could almost smell the must of the vinyl and hear that soft sound of pressured air as the records leaned into each other.
Bernard still did not appear after this thought. Julia began to worry a little now. She rose from the warmth of her cotton sheets, her old faded nightgown sliding over her knees where it had crawled up to in the night. She let the floor get sturdy under her feet before putting on her slippers. Julia felt the nervous tremble in her hands begin and hoped she could keep herself from a state of panic.
The lazy morning sun was piling in through the sheer curtains and Julia walked to the window and pulled one aside. The street below was bustling with early morning commuters and children off to the last days of school and old folks that had no other place to be. She scanned the area feverishly for sight of Bernard. There was no trace of him. Julia turned from the window and went to the kitchen to start the coffee. Bernard will want coffee when he returns, she thought.
Julia sat at the kitchen table, the coffee in her mug now cold as she stared at it. It was nearing noon and still he had not come home. Her face looked more aged than it should be at 62 and her thinning hair lay in ragged, dirty strands about her face. Something caught her eye from the center of the table. It was a paper or a card with Bernardâ€™s name and face. Julia reached out but did not touch it. She was unsure of what it could be, or what it could mean. Her arm hung suspended in air, frozen in fear, until at last the tips of her fingers felt the laminated paper beneath them.
She pulled it closer to her face. There was Bernard staring at her so handsome in his wavy chestnut hair and warm smile. She touched his face, his teeth, his eyes, his curved nose. Julia read the words:
â€œBernard Jones, loving husband, lay to rest in the arms of God. April 19th, 2010. He is survived by his wife Julia (Martin) Jones.â€
â€œNo,â€ she cried, â€œno!â€
The shiny paper fell from her hand onto the floor. Her arm dropped into her lap like a weight. Julia began to cry.
â€œHow could you leave me Bernard? I loved you from the attic of the world, from that ivory tower you rescued me from. I loved you wider and deeper than any ocean. I loved you. How could you leave me?â€
There was nothing but the sound from the street to answer Julia; nothing but the wind blowing the curtains inward; nothing but the pounding of her own heart and the dripping of water into the sink. There was nothing.
The Empty Bed