The old beauty drove her meticulously detailed manual through snowy highway. The sun had just set, and her old eyes were growing weary. Her gray eyes glimpsed the silver talisman hanging from the review mirror—a cross given to her by an ex husband, Ray. During their tumultuous union, Ray had blamed his many affairs on the old beauty’s lack of warmth. Wether it was true or not depended entirely on who was asked: Ray or the old beauty herself, Claire. It just so happened that Claire was indeed lacking warmth, but she would blame it on the bitter cold that seeped into her bones and caused her nose to run, even with the heat turned up full blast. She had bundled up with coats and scarves and hats and gloves; the more layers between her and that damned bitter cold the better.
Her bifocals caught the glint of the low winter sun off the silver cross, blinding her momentarily as she went to switch lanes. In her swath of scarves and coats, she just couldn’t quite turn her head over her shoulder all the way. The jarring sound of a horn blared, jolting her back into her lane. Claire let out out a quick swear, damning that damn sun and that damn car and that damn cross—fat lot of good it ever did—and that…
Claire’s flip phone started ringing—a gift as well, a more recent one from her children— simplified, with jumbo buttons. Claire’s long since grown daughters had noticed a change in their mother. While going out for groceries, when the autumn leaves first started to change, Claire had gotten disoriented and put a random child in her cart, thinking, of course, that it was her own. An honest mistake on her part—though it had been forty years since she’d had a use for the little seats in shopping carts.
The phone continued to ring, incessant like that of the person on the other end. Claire could just imagine her oldest, Lee, secluded, walking miles in her kitchen, pacing, hyper focused on the task at hand, staring intently at the screen, expectant of an answer.
Claire let it ring. She was not in the mood to be lectured at like a child, let alone from her own child. Instead she took the next left. Instinct, muscle memory, or so she thought. She wanted to get home; Fred, her first and truest love, would be home any minute and she hadn’t put supper out yet. She pulled into the drive and walked up to the door. Her fingers found it difficult to grasp the keys with her gloves on, and the damn key wasn’t even working; she must have grabbed the wrong set. She rang the doorbell, chuckling already, anticipating Fred’s teasing her about the keys. The door opened to a handsome face, warm, brown eyes, wide, proud mouth, and a strong quizzical brow.It was a face she did not recognize.
“Can I help you, love?” He asked.
The last fifty years came flooding back all at once, washing over her, drowning her. Fred’s been dead fifty years. I haven’t lived here for thirty. This isn’t my home. Where is my home? Claire couldn’t keep her head above the memories, they burned her eyes, made her throat raw.
“I’m so sorry, I seem to have come to the wrong house,” she said.
In the refuge of her car, she coughed up the searing truth. Lee was right; it’s time for assisted care. The old beauty fixed the cross dangling from the mirror with a hard stare, imploring it to give her strength for what lied ahead.
Biographical Note: Hannah is currently earning a BFA in Creative Writing from Penn State Behrend. She previously studied acting in Tampa, FL where she earned her Associate degree in Dramatic Arts at Hillsborough Community College. Hannah is drawn to mediums that provide opportunities for transformation and a change in perspective. She credits her love of words and rich characters to the Bard himself, Willy Shakes, and is excited by the diverse work featured in Outrageous Fortune.