The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Sheri White
“Hey, Emma—it’s Ruth. How are you?”
“Oh. I’m surprised to hear from you. It’s been several years. I can guess why you’re calling, though. Mama’s dead, isn’t she?”
“Yes, she passed on Monday. Lung cancer.”
“I knew those cigarettes would kill her. I just can’t believe it took this long.”
“Yes, well…her lawyer is reading the will on Friday at her house, after the funeral. Will you be there?”
Emma laughed, a quick joyless sound. “You know I won’t, Ruth. Why would I? I’m sure she has left everything to you.”
Ruth sighed. “I’m sorry, Emma. About everything.”
“Oh, Ruth—please don’t be. You are not responsible for how Mama treated me. We were children. No, this is all on her.”
“Please come, Emma. I know you don’t care about the funeral or the reading, but I would love to see you. It’s been so long. I’ve missed you.”
Then why haven’t you reached out before now? Emma closed her eyes, trying to let go of the bitterness she had held onto since she left her childhood home.
“All right. I’ll meet you at the house. Who knows? Maybe she left me some money.”
Mr. Mason, the executor of their mother’s estate, droned on and on reading the will, his bald head glowing with a sweaty sheen. Emma fanned herself with a take-out menu she had found in her purse. She looked at Ruth, occasionally blotting her face with a handkerchief. Window fans hummed throughout the house, but barely broke through the Florida heat.
I’d forgotten Mama was too cheap to pay for central air.
“Ruth,” she whispered. “How long is thing going to take? She couldn’t have had that much stuff, and you are getting it all anyway.”
“I think Mama had some distant cousins or something. It shouldn’t be much longer.”
“Are you going to live here or sell it? You could get some decent money for it.”
“I’m not sure yet.”
Emma leaned back into her chair, pushing damp tendrils of hair away from her face. She closed her eyes, fantasizing about the frozen margarita she planned to treat herself to later.
“…and to my estranged daughter Emma—”
Emma’s eyes opened wide. What?
“I leave my collection of Lladro figurines, in the hopes that she matured into a woman who can finally appreciate the finer things in life.”
Ruth buried her face in her hands and shook her head back and forth slowly.
Emma stood up, hands clenched into fists. “Are you fucking kidding me? What the hell do I want with those things?”
Ruth gently pulled at her sister’s arm. “Sit down, Emma, please. We can deal with this later.”
Emma yanked her arm away. “No! The hell with this and the hell with Mama. I’ll bet she’s actually IN HELL!” She left the room and ran upstairs to her old bedroom. Now it was nothing but a junk room.
The box containing the expensive figurines sat on the bed, all of them carefully wrapped in layers of newspaper. Emma sat down, the old box springs squeaking and groaning in protest. She unwrapped one, revealing a fragile porcelain angel. Her fingers traced the graceful curves and lines, and she had to fight the urge to throw it against the wall.
Then she saw it—the gift she had bought for her mother when she was a child. The girls’ grandmother had taken them to Goodwill one Saturday. Grandma loved Goodwill and always found a treasure. This time, Emma found a treasure.
A ceramic figurine of an angel and her horse. Emma knew of her mother’s love of beautiful objects; every tabletop was covered with figurines, and glass cabinets were filled with what her mother called “Yadro.” Emma thought the angel would be perfect. She happily took the three dollars out of her little change purse to pay for it.
Emma could barely contain her excitement several days later watching her mother open the gift.
“What is this thing?”
“It’s a statue, Mama—to go with the other ones in our house. Isn’t it beautiful?”
“You think I’m going to put it out with my priceless Lladro figurines? I don’t think so. It’s cheap and ugly, Emma. I swear, how did I ever get such a tacky child as my daughter?”
Emma bit the inside of her cheek, trying not to cry. Crying would make it worse. But she couldn’t hold back a few tears sliding down her face.
“Oh, for God’s sake, Emma. There is no need to blubber about it. Ruth—what do you think of this?” She held the statue up and tilted it back and forth, laughing.
“I don’t know, Mama. It’s fine, I think.”
“You’re just a little girl, Sweetie. You will learn as you get older.” Mama got up and took Ruth by the hand. “Let’s go have some cake.”
Emma watched them go into the kitchen. She knew better than to follow.
Emma got up from the bed and retrieved the angel statue from the pile of junk surrounding it. The statue was dusty and chipped. Emma grabbed one of her mother’s old dresses and cleaned it off.
“Emma? Are you okay?”
Emma opened the window then picked up the box of figurines. There were a lot of them, but they were so delicate the box wasn’t heavy at all. She turned the box upside down and listened to the sound of shattering porcelain.
Emma turned and smiled at Ruth. “I am now.”
She cradled the angel statue in her arms and walked out the bedroom door.
“Emma, wait! Will you keep in touch?”
She looked at her sister one last time and shook her head.
Fiction © Copyright Sheri White
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Author Sheri White:
When the Clock Strikes 13
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Your time is running out. When the clock strikes 13, all manners of hell will break loose.
When the Clock Strikes 13 is a collection of thirteen short horror stories by some of the best horror and dark fiction authors writing today. Inside, you will find stories to frighten, shock and gnaw at your inner fears, and take you places that belong only in the dark recesses of your mind. There are monsters on these pages; some are human, some are not.