Who Is On The Radio?

Lillian sat in the floral print armchair, its edges tattered from the sharpened claws of Lucy. Her fingers worked nimbly despite the arthritis that clung possessively to her swollen joints. She knitted, listening to the baritone voice of Elvis, her needles clacking in rhythm with the music.

A light flickered in the hallway, and Lillian looked up with a content smile. “Hello Peter.” She breathed, “I’ve been waiting for you.” The only response was the sound of charged electricity, the mewling of Lucy and Elvis on the radio.

The wall sconce flickered again, dimming completely before returning to the buttery yellow that spilled across the hallway.

The lamp on a side table blinked next. The lampshade whose fabric was remarkably similar to that of the curtains, jolted suddenly to one side, as if some unseen being had bumped into it.

Lillian watched, following the light as it made its way towards her. It left the lamp and occupied the ceiling light in the kitchen. The electricity ebbed and swelled for brief seconds then fading, only to brighten once more as it paused in a stained-glass lamp beside a well-worn couch.

It was a display that Lillian had grown to love, a dance almost, choreographed and delicate. But her first encounter with the lights was one of sparked fear and awe.

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It was 1947, two long years since the war had ended. Two years since the last time Lillian had kissed Peter goodbye, waving the lacy frills of her white handkerchief as the train rumbled from the station. She could still envision the day she was notified of his death, the grief that had encircled her heart, its darkened fingers clawing at the last strands of hope she’d possessed. She remembered the officer with the scarred cheek and sympathetic eyes, the parchment that he placed on her doorstep as she crumbled to the ground. Those days seemed little more than a blur now, fogged by tears and screams of rage that slowly ceased to a numb ache when the church bells chimed the end of the war. But still, Peter was gone.

The first day of the flickering lights came on one chilly autumn evening, Lillian had sat on the verandah Peter restored when they were first married. She cradled a mug of warm chamomile tea, the steaming liquid calming her restless spirit as she watched a young boy dive through piles of auburn leaves; the dried crackle and the staccato of a Jack Russel’s bark, sent the child cackling with glee. She observed the pair until the boy’s mother appeared from their home and called him inside for supper.

Lillian yearned for a child of her own, but 15 years had come and gone with little to no luck. A miscarriage, a stillborn child, a failed adoption. Each lost child had wrenched away a fragment of Lillian’s heart, until the hole in her chest gaped wide. A hole that whispered and taunted that the house would never echo with childish laughter and the patter of small feet on floorboards. A hole that widened still when the officer brought the news of Peter’s death.

She’d sat in the creaky, wooden rocking chair, until the sunlight drained from the bluebottle sky and the stars competed with the moon to see who could shine brighter. A mellow glow spilled out over the wooden verandah, patterns tracing across the worn wood from the metal and wire of the screen door. And then the light flickered. Lillian thought nothing of it, drawing the rim of her mug to chapped lips and staring unseeingly into the street, her mind blurred with melancholy thoughts.

The light flickered again, more vibrant than the last. The buzzing hum of electricity pulled Lillian from her subconscious state. Fear of blowing a fuse brought her to her feet, the woolen blanket tumbling off her lap to land forgotten at her ankles. She stepped inside and flicked the nearest switch off, plunging the room into darkness. For a heartbeat nothing happened, she simply stood there, barefoot in a puddle of dappled moonlight.

The light flickered again, smaller and inside the bulb like a flint sparking a fire to life. She gasped, watching as it grew until the light engulfed her in its blaze before darkening to the naked bulb it should have been.

“How bizarre.” Lillian murmured aloud, straightening the large-rimmed glasses that framed her round face. She reached for the switch again, weary of the darkness. Before she could touch the plastic lever a light buzzed further down the hall. Startled, she moved towards it, drawn forward like a puppet on a string.

The further she tread, the further the blinking light moved. It was a peculiar phenomenon; Lillian couldn’t quite find the words to describe how it made her feel. It was a feeling that she hadn’t experienced since the passing of her husband. It was a twist in her heart, a flame igniting in her belly and the subtle tremble of her fingertips.

The light moved until it inhabited the stained-glass lamp that perched on the table beside a couch. Peter’s favorite couch. The small double-seated couch was fashioned from a faded blue and white pinstripe fabric. The cushions were worn and flattened, a sure sign of its once regular use. Lillian hadn’t touched the couch in two years, its surface clinging to buried memories she was hesitant to ruminate.

The subtle glow from the lamp ebbed like the gentle but consistent batter of waves on a shoreline. It lured her in, her feet moving against her will towards the tattered couch. With a plop she sat, her body melding into the sweet embrace that sculpted to the curve of her frame. It was so familiar, so bittersweet that tears sprung to her eyes in an instant.

“Oh Peter.” She whimpered, feeling her strength drain from her. “Why did you have to leave?”

She clutched an embroidered cushion to her stomach, a wedding gift from her mother and a scripture from the Bible hand-inscribed on its face. The room fell silent, and Lillian all but held her breath in anticipation.

 A brush of cold air caressed her cheek, lifting at her peppered curls.

“Peter?”

Lillian uttered his name before she thought twice. A muted sigh came as a response, barely audible but Lillian heard it as clear as day.

She felt a familiar presence sink into the couch beside her, the shape of their form indenting the cushion. The lamp flickered once more, shining brighter than before, the mellow light dousing the living room in a caramel glow.

For the first time since that train pulled away from the station two years past, Lillian finally felt whole.

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The cushions sunk as Peter dropped his weight onto the couch, Lillian smiled, weaving another stitch of the claret sweater she was knitting. Lucy wandered in from the kitchen, leaping onto the couch and snuggling against Peter’s translucent form. It seemed the feline species could see what human eyes could not.

Elvis sang on the radio and the small house filled with the succulent melody, homely warmth and the fragrant aroma of a Betty Crocker cake mix that baked in the oven. Lucy purred in her sleep, a handprint shifting across her ashen fur.

Standing in her slippers, Lillian rose with a tremble, gesturing her gnarled hand out towards the presence that occupied the couch. She watched as the cushions molded to their usual shape and the lights sparkled with magic. A coolness tucked around Lillian’s waist, a breath of air cupping her cheek and smoothing across her brow.

She reached out, electricity sparking at her wrinkled fingertips as her hands found Peter’s shoulders. And together they swayed. Moving in a rhythm that only two soulmates could find, a dance devised from a love so precious that life itself could not take it from them.

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A teenage girl walked her dog down a leaf-littered street. The wind tugged at her hair, and a cat scuttled up a tree at the sight of them. She hummed a tune, oblivious to the world, focusing only on her blatant daydreams and the creamy fur of her golden retriever.

The strands of an Elvis song wavered to her ears, the sound eliciting a smile on her lips and an added jig in her step. The smile grew as she walked past a rundown beige house, with a wooden rocking chair on the verandah and a sign by the door that said, Light comes from within.

She glanced inside the window and froze.

An elderly woman with her snow-white hair in large pink curlers swayed to the music, her arms were outstretched and curled as if she held someone tenderly. Her eyes were closed and her face content.

The lights in the house flickered suddenly and as they sparked, the luminous glow of a soldier clasping the woman radiated and shone. The girl dropped the leash in surprise and her dog scuttled around her motionless form with obvious confusion.

A breath before the soldier faded from view, he turned to look at her; he smiled, tipped his hat, then bowed his forehead to the woman’s.

The girl shook her head and picked up the leash. She glanced once more inside the shuttered window to see the woman’s empty arms and started on down the street with the radical echoes of Elvis whispering notions in her ear.
Culled from blog.reedsy.com by Jessamie R.

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