Romance Fiction posted July 7, 2017

This work has reached the exceptional level
Sometimes we have to be told when it is time to hang up

Time to Hang Up

by judsmith

Every time I have to say "Hello" twice before someone on the other end of the line responds, I always suspect a robo call from someone with an East Indian accent telling me I have won a free vacation to the Bahamas. For some reason I paused a moment longer than normal before hanging up and getting back to my dinner with half a rapidly cooling rotisserie chicken on my plate.

"Hello", the caller said, in a soft and strangely familiar voice.

"How may I help you," I said, unenthusiastically, eyeing the succulent chicken leg.

"I just wanted to hear your voice," the woman said.

"I'm sorry, who are you with?"

"I'm with you," she said in a soothing voice. My mind was torn between thinking this was a joke one of my hair-brained friends had cooked up or someone calling to recruit me for membership in a sex chat hotline.

"Look, I am in the middle of dinner. Tell me what you are selling or I am hanging up." Helen always used to chide me for engaging the people who got through on these types of calls. She would counsel me to just hang up and not prolong the scam. My thoughts drifted -- I missed her so much.

The caller's voice broke back into my consciousness, "What are you having tonight? Did you pick up a rotisserie chicken from Costco?" The hair stood up on the back of my neck.

I looked around the kitchen and out the windows furtively seeking for someone who might be looking in on me. "O.K., who is this? Is that you, Sylvia?" Sylvia was my next-door neighbor who was the only person who knew I had been shopping at Costco because we met in my driveway as I was getting out of the car. We had exchanged a few words and she smelled the chicken in my recyclable shopping bag and commented on how much she liked them too.

"Do I sound like Sylvia?" the caller asked.

My mind was racing. No, it didn't sound like Sylvia. Sylvia had a husky, almost gravelly voice. The caller's voice was soft -- soothing almost -- and very familiar.

"How did you know I was having rotisserie chicken tonight for dinner?"

"Because I know it is one of your go-to, quick meals and no one is there to cook you a proper dinner. How many have you had in the past year?"

The past year. Hell, I don't know, a couple dozen probably. Ever since Helen had passed away -- ever since the car accident which took her life and ended our thirty-five year marriage -- I couldn't bear to use our gourmet kitchen without her cooking by my side. Eating out was difficult as well. I couldn't bear to go to our favorite places anymore. It was too painful. And even though my divorced neighbor was very attractive and kept arranging chance meetings with me, I just, well, I just couldn't.

"Look, you seem really nice, but I have to know who you are and why you've called." "Just hang up!" I could hear Helen's voice in my head.

There was a long silence, so I asked, "Are you still there?"

"Yes, I'm still here, didn't you hear what I said?"

"No, what did you say?" I asked, my head spinning.

"I said, just hang up, but I wish you wouldn't just yet."

Then it hit me like a bolt of lightning, "Helen?"

"Yes, my darling, I just had to hear your voice just one last time and tell you a few things."

I nearly fainted out of my chair and tears welled up in my eyes. "But how -- I mean -- this is...."

"I just needed to tell you I am at peace. It is alright to move on with your life. It is alright to cook in our kitchen and eat out once in a while at BJ's. Have a gluten-free pizza and a Piszookie with vanilla bean ice cream. And it is alright to give Sylvia a chance."

My mind was numb as the caller's words sank in. "Helen, I miss you so much," I stammered, tears now streaming down my face. "I will always love you."

"I will always love you too," the caller said, "but now it is time to hang up."

The line went dead. The call was over, but the rest of my life was just beginning.

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