Live for Me

        The house had grown too suffocating. The dishes needed done and so did the laundry. The floors needed swept and mopped, and a bunch of Tess’s toys needed to be returned to the little wooden toy box that her uncle had made for her. Ria had no motivation to complete any of the menial tasks that were calling her name. Instead, she checked her phone religiously, waiting for a phone call from her husband that was still at the office. Charlie, Ria’s husband, had stayed late at the office for the past several weeks, always coming home just before sunrise.

        Outside, the sun had already sunk in the sky and the moon, which happened to be full, was beginning it’s climb to join the stars. Streetlights dotted the neighborhood, illuminating the road that was clear of any cars. Most of the neighbors were home. Ria could make out their cars parked in their driveways or on the front curb in front of their houses. Many of the houses were completely dark, their occupants already asleep. A few windows revealed that some people were still awake as warm light seeped out of them. At least she wasn’t totally alone at night. 

        There was also the dog, a large St. Bernard that her daughter, Tess, had insisted on having, despite Ria’s complaints. Eventually, she had consented to her daughter’s and husband’s begging and now there was a giant, slobbering beast that went by the name Grubs, Sir Grubs if you were feeling noble. Ria sighed as Grubs laid his giant head on her lap while she was sitting on the couch in the living room. Against her will, she stroked the soft fur on his snout. Anything was enough for Grubs to be happy. Once he was sufficiently pampered, he snatched one of his dog toys from the basket Ria always returned them to and waddled off to his dog bed. 

        At least he was happy. Ria collected her pack of menthol cigarettes from the end stand and got to her feet. The house was always so quiet when Tess was gone. She had gone to stay the night at Megan’s house, who was Ria’s childhood best friend. Megan had her own daughter, Liza, who was Tess’s age, so it was always fun for the girls to have sleepovers. Ria nudged one of Tess’s toys out of the walkway with her foot and strode to the front door. 

        It was autumn so the wind was nice and crisp as Ria stepped out onto her front porch and sat on the giant porch swing that she had heaped with decorative pillows. The porch was her favorite place to be when she was at home. It was soothing to sit out there and listen to the night sounds and enjoy the cool night air. Ria opened her pack of cigarettes and removed the lighter she kept stashed in there. She lit a cigarette and put it to her lips. 

        Ria had quit smoking several times, but she always went back to it. It was instant stress relief for her. Her nerves would immediately become less tense and she felt like she could actually breathe. She only smoked outside since she had Tess and now kept it to the bare minimum, no more than once a day and not every day. Everything in moderation. If she could put up with Charlie’s occasional beer, he could put up with her occasional cigarette.

        The old, gray Chevy S-10 that sat in the driveway hadn’t been moved in months. Ria stared at it from the porch swing. She couldn’t remember where she had taken it last. It wasn’t that she didn’t like to drive it. It was that her new car was much easier on gas and didn’t have nearly as many problems. She glanced at her phone again, still no messages from her lovely husband. Ria snubbed her cigarette out on the porch railing and stood up. She grabbed her keys off one of the little ornamental hooks beside the front door, locked the house up, gave Grubs another pat and went to the truck.

        Ria decided that she was just going to go for a drive, like she used to. She needed some fresh air and the truck looked like it needed some too. Leaves crunched under her boots as she walked to the driver door and unlocked it, before pulling it open with a creak. As she climbed in, she heard the distinctive creak as the passenger side door opened too. Ria glanced up to see her sister’s freckled face and dimpled smile. “Where are we going?” Alexi asked, fastening her seatbelt. Ria smiled in return and pulled her door closed with a thud.

        “Just for a drive.” She responded as she fired the truck up. It took a moment. The truck was getting on in years and sometimes waking up was a struggle. Nevertheless, the truck roared to life and Ria flipped the headlights on. That was when the radio woke up too and began belting out an old country song at full volume. Ria swatted at the volume knob in an effort to turn it down. Meanwhile, Alexi calmly turned the station to a pop channel that she used to listen to all the time, despite Ria’s dislike of the genre. She put the truck in drive as her sister started softly singing along with the radio. They pulled out of the driveway and drove along the narrow roads of the neighborhood for a while. 

        “So, how are you?” Alexi asked as they slid through a narrow spot between two cars parked on the road.

        “I could be better.” Ria replied after she safely avoided the cars.

        “How so?” Alexi questioned.

        Ria glanced at her sister. It had been a long time since she had last seen her. Of course, each time she looked in the mirror, she could get a glimpse of her as they were identical twins. They shared the same delicate features, button nose, long brown hair that fell past their shoulders and green eyes. Both of their faces were sprinkled with freckles and they had a very similar smile, although Ria only had one dimple on her right side while Alexi had one on each cheek.

        “Life has just been rough lately. Tess has been moody and clingy. I’m surprised I haven’t already received a call to go pick her up. Charlie has been acting odd. He’s stayed late at the office almost every night for the last couple weeks and I have no motivation whatsoever.” Ria answered in a rush, driving the truck out of the neighborhood, towards town. “I think he may be cheating on me.”

        Alexi stared at her sister with wide eyes. “Why do you think that?” 

        “He doesn’t seem to want to come home and he doesn’t even sleep in the same bed as me anymore. Last week he told me he was going to go watch the football game at Sam’s house. I went out to get groceries later that day, after he left, and I ran into Sam. He asked me if Charlie was going to watch the game.” Ria glanced at her sister. “I didn’t know what to say so I just said ‘yeah’ and walked away.”

        “What did Charlie say?” Alexi pressed.

        “He didn’t say anything. I haven’t told him about running into Sam. I don’t know what to say to him or even how to bring that up.” Ria responded, sounding helpless and confused.

        “Well…would you like advice or a change of subject?” Alexi offered, turning the radio down so that it could only faintly be heard.

        “Go ahead and give me some advice.” 

        Alexi took a deep breath. “Talk to him. Tell him about Sam and see what he has to say. Charlie has always loved you and Tess. There’s a possibility that this is all a misunderstanding.” Alexi tapped her pointer finger against her sister’s right temple. “Don’t let this fool you.”

        Ria let out a long sigh and thought about her sister’s words for a moment. Of course she was right. It could all be for some other reason rather than cheating. “So, how are you?” Ria asked, changing the subject.

        “The same as always, of course.” Alexi replied. “How is mom?”

        “She’s great. Right now, she’s in Hawaii with her new boyfriend, Phil. You would like him, if you gave him a chance.” Ria knew her sister was stubborn.

        Alexi tossed her long hair over her shoulder. “Does he make her happy?”

        “Very. She smiles and laughs again.” Ria glanced over to see her sister staring at her lap with a sad smile. She turned the truck onto the highway and pressed her foot down on the gas, despite the Chevy’s protests.

        “Then I like him.” Alexi decided. “Have you heard from Drew?” She asked, glancing up hopefully.

        “The last I heard from him, he was in Europe, writing a story about…highlanders, I believe. He is doing well. Whenever I speak to him, he usually talks about you.”

        “He’s sweet.” Alexi replied, quietly.

        Ria felt better herself. She always did after she talked to her sister. There was something calming in having her twin around. Alexi was like her missing piece, completing the puzzle when she was near. Ria kept glancing at her sister in the passenger seat, wondering why everything had to change. That is how she almost hit the doe that leapt across the highway. She slammed on the breaks, narrowly missing the deer’s back end. “I’m so sorry.” She said to her sister after a couple deep breaths to calm herself. However, Alexi was completely unphased. Ria pressed down on the gas and the truck began to move again.

        “There’s no reason to apologize to me. You’ve already been forgiven.” Alexi responded, matter of factly. “Have you been going to therapy?

        Ria considered lying for a moment. “Um…no. I quit going two weeks ago.”

        “Why? I thought you liked Dr. Mets.” Alexi continued.

        “It wasn’t Dr. Mets.” Ria did lie this time. “I just didn’t want to do it anymore. What is the point of paying someone to talk to me? That just kind of feels desperate.” Ria answered, turning her blinker on to get off the next exit. She decided that it was time to head home after the deer incident.

        “Do you want my opinion?” Alexi asked.


        “You don’t want to go anymore because Dr. Mets wants you to push yourself more towards moving on and you’re not ready to let go yet.” Alexi said simply, seeming to read her sister’s mind. Her suspicions were confirmed by how Ria’s face scrunched up momentarily before relaxing again.

        Ria hated when she did that. She always seemed to be able to wrestle the truth out of Ria. In return to her sister’s statement, Ria shrugged. “I don’t think he gets to decide when I need to move on.” Ria pulled the truck off the exit only to get back on the highway heading towards home.

        “Fair enough.” Alexi responded. “I think he does have a point though. It’s been five years. The world is still spinning.”

        Ria cast her sister a scowl. They rode in silence for some time, besides Alexi gently singing along with the radio. Ria relaxed into her seat, listening to her sister and enjoying just being near her. It had been a long time since she had heard her sing. However, they were soon turning back into Ria’s neighborhood. The streets were even darker than before as people set their porch lights and yard lights on automatic timers. Most of the windows that had still shone light had gone dark since Ria had been gone.

        “Hey, isn’t that park we used to go to as kids near here?” Alexi asked, breaking the silence.

        “Yeah, we can swing by it.” Ria replied, turning onto a little gravel road.

        “Remember when I fell off the swings and convinced mom that you pushed me?” Alexi questioned with a laugh.

        “Of course I do. I was grounded for a week!” Ria responded with a smile. They parked the truck in the vacant parking lot and climbed out of the Chevy. Alexi strode off towards the swings like a child and Ria followed closely behind. Although they were now well past the recommended age limit, they sat on the swings and lazily pushed themselves around. “I miss you being around all the time. Tess would adore you.”

        “What is she like?” Alexi asked, curiously. She never got to spend time with Ria’s only child.

        “Incredibly smart. She loves anything fantasy related. She likes to sing and dance. Honestly…she’s a lot like you.” Ria said with a smile. She had never noticed how similar her daughter was to her sister. Alexi reached out and grabbed Ria’s hand, holding it in hers.

        “Life is crazy.” Alexi said, looking up at the night sky. Suddenly, she returned her attention to her sister. “You need to start living your life. Ria, don’t spend your life worrying about things that you can’t change. Stop blaming yourself for everything. Live…for me, please.” 

        The wind blew and the warmth of Alexi’s hand disappeared from Ria’s. She glanced away from the night sky to look at her sister again, only she wasn’t there anymore. The swing that she had occupied swayed by itself in the gentle breeze. Alexi had never been there in the first place. She was long gone, killed in a car accident five years prior. Ria had been driving the car on their way to see a movie together when a drunk driver went left of center and smashed into them, killing himself and Alexi. Ria woke up in the hospital a couple weeks later and received the heartbreaking news that her twin hadn’t survived. She hadn’t even had the chance to tell Alexi the big news, that she was pregnant with Tess.

        Ria’s phone rang into the silence, making her jump in surprise. She fished it out of her pocket and looked at the display that read ‘Charlie’. “Hello.” She answered in the cheeriest voice she could muster.

        “Hey Honey, where are you? I’m home. I brought us dinner and I have a surprise for you that I’ve been working on.”

        “Oh…I’m on my way. Be there shortly. I love you, Charlie.” Ria said, walking back to the truck.

        “I love you too.” Charlie replied before hanging up.

        Ria climbed back into the driver’s seat. Briefly, she stared at the little silver heart necklace hanging from her rearview mirror. Some of Alexi’s ashes were inside of it. Ria touched her fingertips to the heart for a moment and then started the truck. She headed for home with one last glance behind her at the swings that continued to dance in the wind. She turned the radio volume up and listened to pop music for a change. It wasn’t long before she pulled back into her driveway and shut the truck off. The Chevy seemed to give a thankful huff for being home again. 

        The house was lit up inside and Sir Grubs was waiting at the door when Ria walked inside and hung the truck key back on its hook. “Hey Hon, I’m in here.” Charlie called from the kitchen. Ria made her way to him with the dog in tow and found Charlie dishing out a plate of Chinese food for both of them. An envelope laid on the counter nearby with Ria’s name written on it in Charlie’s handwriting.

        “What’s this?” Ria asked, picking the envelope up.

        “Your surprise. Open it.” Charlie replied, putting the leftover food in the fridge.

        Ria tore open the envelope and revealed tickets for a cruise. “What’s this for?” She asked with a smile.

        “I know you’ve been upset lately. So, I’ve been working overtime to pay for a getaway for us. Last week I went and picked up the tickets, when I told you I was going to watch the game.” Charlie said with a smile. Alexi had been right. Ria was relieved and excited at the same time.

        “Thank you.” Ria smiled and sat down at the kitchen island with her plate of food. Everything was alright, Ria just needed that reminder from her sister. Just then, Ria’s phone rang again and ‘Megan’ popped up on the screen. She laughed and turned the phone to Charlie. “Looks like someone wants to come home.”

        Charlie laughed in return. “Let’s take the Chevy. I’ll go start it up.”


Biographical Note: Kierra McClain currently resides in Steubenville, Ohio with her fiancee, three dogs and cat. She attends Bethany College as a junior, majoring in English and Political Science. Kierra hopes that people will find comfort and joy in her stories. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found playing video games or crocheting.