20 Degrees

“Twenty degrees,” she thought as the goose bumps rose on her arms.

She walked over to the thermostat to confirm the temperature. The little needle on the dial rested on the number 80.  Outside the sun was shining brightly, the birds were singing, and the children were playing kickball in shorts.  Some of the kids were in t-shirts, some were bare chested.  It was not a cold morning.

“It feels like its twenty degrees in here,” she mumbled, rubbing her hands together for frictional warmth.

She didn’t understand why she was so cold, and it worried her to not know things.  Not knowing things made her anxious, it made her heart race, her eyes sadden, and her breathing slow as she tried to settle herself.  She was a control freak and not being able to have that control, scared her.  It put a knot in her stomach.

As she reached for a blanket from the closet, she saw something move further down the hall.  She slowly glanced over, but saw nothing.  As she closed the closet door and turned back to the front room, she felt the cold again.  It was like a cold wind blowing through her and this time, not only did she feel it, her hair blew back and her clothes pinned against her body.  It was only for a second, but to her, it felt like eternity.

She ran to the couch, wrapped herself in her blanket, and stared out the window at the beautiful summer day.  Tears streamed down her face.  She just wanted to be warm.  She had been trying all morning to warm herself up.  Nothing worked.  She didn’t want to go outside to feel the warmth of the sun, nor had she tried.  The children were out there, and though she didn’t mind them for the most part, she found it tiring to answer all the questions they seemed to ask her until after she had some caffeine.  They are too inquisitive for her to politely speak with so early in the morning.  At least she thought it was still morning.

She looked to the clocks earlier to check the time, but they had stopped. 3:14. Each clock read the same time.  She tried to reset them, change the batteries in some, move the hands on others, but her hands were too cold and she kept fumbling which just aggravated her more.

Throughout the day, she tried to warm herself: Hot tea, hot bath, electric blankets, she even tried to start a fire in her little fireplace but was unable to get the kindling to catch.  She was near the point of exhaustion not only from trying to get warm, but from trying to figure out what was wrong…and she kept seeing something moving.

As she sat on the couch, her thoughts going mad, she finally had a moment of peace.  Her mind stopped, her heart beat at a normal pace, and she began to feel a bit warmer.  Thinking that things were looking up, she walked to the front window and into the rays of sun peaking in through the curtains.  She stood there basking in the warmth and watched the children.

Two little girls were sitting on the sidewalk drawing chalk animals and she could hear them talking.

“This is a puppy running through a field and we’ll call him Sparky,” said the girl with pig tails.

“And we should draw some flowers for the puppy and some for the angels,” the blonde girl said.

She watched as the girls both nodded and they went back to drawing.  After a while, the girls started chattering again.

“This flower is for Grannie, this one is for my Goldfishie, and this flower is for Missy Mae” said the girl with pigtails.

Missy Mae is what the children called her.  It was their sweet way of politely shortening her name from Miss Mabel.

“I thought you flushed your fishie,” said the blonde girl.

“I did.  She was dead as a doornail.  So is Grannie and Missy Mae,” said the girl with pigtails.

Standing by the window listening, Missy Mae’s eyes widened and she leaned in closer to the window hoping to hear more of what the little girls were saying.

20 Degrees

“Missy Mae kilt herself is what Daddy says. I don’t know what that means, but I know she is dead as a door nail!” said the girl with pigtails.

The blonde girl looked to the window where Missy Mae stood with her mouth wide open in horror.

“She’s not dead, silly.  I see her in the window, look,” said the blonde girl.

Now both girls were looking to the window where Missy Mae stood in horror.  A body shaking sob escaped Missy Mae’s lips as she started to remember the pills, as she started to understand what she had done.  She remembered sitting home alone, crying and upset- upset over all the loves she lost, the baby she had lost, the parents she had lost, even the dogs.  She remembered feeling so empty, she remembered taking the pills, and she remembered collapsing in the hall near the blanket closet where she must have slipped away.

As the girls continued looking at her, the cold wind moved through her again and she screamed though no one heard her.

She was dead as a door nail and cold as dead flesh.  Twenty degrees cold.