“Chris, you have a telephone call. I’m going to transfer,” the receptionist muttered over the intercom. I quickly made my way through the rows of endless desks, trying hard not to stumble on the colorful backpacks sprawled out on the floor, and looking over my shoulder at the innocent faces waiting patiently to be enlightened. One girl stood out amongst the rest with her bouncy, golden locks. Her ivory, smooth skin and red lips gave her the appearance of a beautiful, porcelain doll, rather than that of a middle-school student.
“Come home. Come home now. Don’t-don’t go anywhere…something has happened, and I need you to come home,” he whispered in such a low voice I could barely make out the words.
“Huh? What do you mean? What do you mean leave work? Is this a joke?” I responded, startled. “I’m about to start ‘A Retrieved Reformation’ with the kids.”
“Christina, come home. They’ll allow you to go if you tell them an emergency came up. They’ll allow you to leave,” he whispered. “I have to talk to you. Something-something…has happened, and I need you to come home. I need you here. I am home already…come home.”
I hung up the phone and stood there for what seemed like an eternity, two minutes or so. Our framed wedding picture next to the computer captured my attention. It was royal of course, for every couple is royal on their wedding day. The giant, pearl cross loomed in the background, towering so high above us it touched the overcast sky. Surely, we were protected. I was protected. I looked like a porcelain doll myself, my skin smooth and flawless and my lips painted blood red.
“Mrs. Sanchez, it’s me. I’m really sorry. I have an emergency. Something came up, and I need to leave early. I-I didn’t call in the system. Can you find someone? I’m so sorry! I-it’s an emergency,” I stuttered.
“Don’t worry. I’m on it. I’ll find someone. Please, do what you have to do.”
“I’m really sorry! I hate doing this-I never do this! It…it’s an emergency,” I apologized.
“Don’t worry, please. I’ll find someone,” she insisted.
The students’ whispers and faint movements offered a strange, but necessary calmness in the midst of this uncertain situation. My pounding heart felt as if it was going to jump out and burst into a million, tiny pieces. I looked at our picture again, and then I glanced at the girl with bouncy, golden locks. The students’ whispers grew louder, no longer faint cries in the background but now roars echoing off the walls.
The huge, ivory cross soaring above us on our wedding day lingered in my mind. Surely, we were protected. I was protected. I walked slowly through the narrow rows of desks, watching as those innocent souls filled the pages of their notebooks. My intestines danced effortlessly, up and down, side to side, ready to jump out alongside my racing heart. The sound of the bell startled me, and in a matter of minutes a tall, lanky, blonde woman that looked more like a runway model than a substitute walked in. Her ocean blue eyes circled the classroom before finally settling on me and the papers covering my desk. I grabbed my camel tote and black backpack, handed her the blue folder and handouts, and rushed out amongst the hoards of unruly students.
I managed to make my way into the front office, sign out, and step outside. A gust of cold air chilled my pale face. It was overcast with only a few cotton-like clouds covering the sky. The air felt heavy as I made my way to the white Altima parked straight ahead. I opened the back door, threw my tote and backpack inside, slammed the door loudly, and finally crept into the driver’s seat. My skinny fingers trembled as I held onto the cold, leather steering wheel. Please hands don’t fail me. Please hands don’t fail me now!
The skyscraper palm trees and their giant, sand-colored leaves fluttering in the wind looked like monsters getting ready to come down and swallow everything in sight. But there it stood: the ivory cross soaring high above us in the background of our wedding picture. I slowly drove past it and blessed myself as I always did. Surely, we were protected. I was protected. I wondered what could have possibly happened in just a matter of hours. Hadn’t I just seen him a few hours before? I could still feel his warm goodbye kiss on my cheek, and I could almost smell the bacon from breakfast. What the hell happened? Had Bobo, his beloved dog of fifteen years, died? No, it could not have been that. Could it? His voice-he whispered every word. Had someone died? No! Was my mom dead? No, God, no! Please, no! Bobo had fallen extremely ill the last couple of months and suffered greatly, but my in-laws refused to listen to the veterinarian. Had he finally lost his battle? Had his parents finally agreed to end his suffering? Had my mom died suddenly in some sort of freak accident? Or…or-maybe it was my brother…What was that “something” that had happened? “Come home. Come home now…come home.”
I came to a red light and looked at the shiny, black Mercedes next to me on the left lane. A young, dark-skinned woman with a sharp, pointy nose and layers of heavy make-up occupied the driver’s seat. Was she going home? Did her husband have “something” to tell her, or perhaps she had “something” to tell him. I wondered.
Finally, I made it! As I walked towards the entrance of the house, I paused for a moment and looked up. It was darker now, for those fluffy clouds were now gray circles rapidly swirling the dark, gloomy heavens. The neighbor’s lawn mower startled me. I walked past him and nodded. His half-hearted smile failed to offer any consolation, and his “hey there, Chris” was lost in the roar. I made my way past the shrubs and dry patches of dead, yellow grass towards the wooden front door, and there he stood: glassy eyed, dazed and confused, gazing at me, at the cars driving by, at what I’m not really sure. His mouth, slightly open, offered no hint of that famous crooked smile. I had a flashback of him, several weeks back, mowing the lawn and smiling at me in the glistening sunlight as I walked towards the front door carrying bags of groceries. Today, however, it was dark and gloomy without any glimmer of light. Unshaven his pepper stubble and bushy eyebrows captivated me, if only for a minute or so. He looked tired and old. Why hadn’t I noticed the wrinkles on his forehead before? Did he always have those frown lines?
“C’mon,” he whispered. We made our way inside. I still held the keys in my sweaty hands. He remained glassy- eyed as he stood in front of the new, marble foyer table. His forehead shone as sweat dripped down both sides. He clasped his large, rough hands.
“What happened? What? Huh? Tell me! Why did you call me?” I finally screamed and questioned in agony.
He stood there, simply staring at me.
“What happened? Why did you call me? Tell me, David! Please! What?” I started again.
“Let’s sit down. Come on,” he replied.
He led the way as he always had. The house was dark and cold, and the smell of scrambled eggs and bacon still filled the open dining room. Why hadn’t he opened the shutters for crying out loud? The tile shone even in complete darkness, and I could still hear the lawn mower roaring in the distance like a vicious monster. We walked into the living room and sat down on the brown sofa directly in front of the television. A tall, beautiful, bronze vase stood on the left side in front of the sofa.
Bobo was alive. My mother was alive. I knew then that Bobo and my mother were alive. The young girl with beautiful, golden locks lingered in my mind, the sound of the lawn mower rang loudly in my ears, but the towering, pearl cross was the most evident of all. Surely, we were protected. I was protected.