At Least They Have Good Taste

Submitted into Contest #182 in response to: Write a story where someone’s paranoia is justified.... view prompt

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Fiction Drama Sad

That wasn’t where she’d set it.

No, she was certain. Her mug had been on the dining room table, left to cool for a moment while she completed a few quick tasks, not empty beside the sink. Had she been the one to move it, she would have taken the brief time needed to wash it, as was proper. Not leave it to dry, for the leaves to crust and curl to the bottom.

And yesterday, Cora had lain her cardigan over the back of the couch only to find it hours later stuffed in the hamper.

For years it had happened, with rarely a quiet spell where she didn’t have to wonder if something placed would remain when she returned. Or where her belongings would turn up had they moved. Not to mention those precious items that never reappeared.

Marco had promised her, sworn at every instance, that it hadn’t been him. She must have moved them on her way from room to room. Mindlessly grabbing them as she wandered.

She did not wander. At one point, she’d been convinced that it was, in fact, her husband, but when with her constantly and still her belongings were moved, he’d been dismissed as the culprit.

How then, she’d asked, could she have moved them when she was planted firmly in the armchair for most of the afternoon, buried in a book?

His answer- simply to toss his hands and offer, Maybe you’re becoming your mother. Paranoid, he may as well have called her. Delusional. And didn’t that just throw shivers down her spine. Wasn’t that what she feared most.

The woman she’d seen every day but barely known. She hadn’t been neglectful when she was lucid, but from an early age, Cora could remember Augustine roaming in dazed spells. Conversing seemingly with walls, carrying on to those she claimed to see, yet unable to understand how her daughter couldn’t.

It tore at her to see her own mother so distraught, so desperate for her daughter to see what she was sure was there. Even now, she could feel the guilt of seeing her mother’s face fall, the hope bleed from her eyes when she realized she was slipping again.

No, Marco knew he’d hit a sore spot with that comment. But if he was right?

To slowly lose her grasp of the world, never the wiser, as it turned on and on without her. Leaving her behind in a confused little huddle in some dusty corner of this grand house.

The thought of it alone could drive one to madness.

Though in her quieter moments, she did wonder if perhaps her fate would be that of her mother. Should she confess that her eyes would, on occasion, catch streaking figures? That the blurred shadows seen briefly down a long hall would quickly have her turning into a room at random and finding a task to busy herself with? What would her Marco say then?

Nevermind the voices. Those she tuned out. If she ignored them, chose not to speak to them as her mother had, she couldn’t be mad. She’d keep a sane mind. And a mind lost wasn’t one that questioned its own sanity.

But when her home settled in the night, it wasn’t the groaning of old boards that kept her rigid with fear. Listening to those whispering voices mimic what was already inside her head, giving life to insidious thoughts as she lay awake...

Someone’s in the house they would murmur.

Shadows roam the halls. We’re not alone another would reply, soft as a breath. Never alone.

Those times, she was torn between throwing the covers from the bed and confronting those stalking the halls at night, and burying so deeply beneath them, Marco may never find her. A part of her was convinced, had she been so brave as to face the source of those hushed voices, she’d find nothing.

Could she accept that? Would it be better to see nothing, or to catch a glimpse of what her mother had tried so hard to get her to see? Was it possible there truly was someone in her home? Misplacing her belongings? Whispering in the night?

Was she truly never alone?

Lost in her thoughts, she wandered, and vowed never to tell Marco that she would, in fact, do such a thing.

Walking aimlessly through that grand, beloved home, Cora watched it shift and morph into something unfamiliar, and in doing so, found herself.

The tasteful furniture, happily chosen with her husband so long ago, would fade to reveal garish colors on uncomfortable sofas. Heavy draperies she’d taken the time to sew shimmered into gauzy fabrics that did nothing to keep out prying eyes or cold winter chills. She refused to look in on the kitchen when she found her mind again, convinced that even when she did slip back into that comfortable, timeless void, it wouldn’t remain as she remembered, but as the frightening monstrosity it had become.

No, the library was where she whiled away her time when she was herself once more. Reading and dreaming until she could bring back her home, her family for what she knew it to be. When her Marco was still with her and not simply a comforting memory she’d recreated to keep her company. Where all was peaceful till the meddling of newcomers in her home brought her out of that trance.

As years passed it took longer and longer for her to remember that 1874 was a far cry from 2023. That the quiet stillness she spent her days in was merely something she’d conjured for herself. Perhaps it wasn’t so horrible to speak to those no one else could see. It brought her husband back, and when she was submerged deep within that safe haven, her children reappeared. Sometimes as their bright, youthful selves; others as adults, full grown with young ones of their own.

Settling in with a book, one she was sure hadn’t been one of hers, but something new, she readied to lull herself back into that blissful state, and thought that, even though there were interlopers living in her home, at least they had good taste in novels. 

January 26, 2023 23:40

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1 comment

Delbert Griffith
11:06 Jan 29, 2023

Nice tale. The POV was a good choice.


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