Elliot plunked down the rain-lashed street towards the office. Struggling to comprehend the purpose of his soggy sojourn, he paused for a moment, umbrella-less and subject to curiosity and concern from many a portably sheltered passer-by. He gave his head a shake and took a few deep breaths. He recognized little around him. Peering down at the sopping brown lunch bag, he eyed it with a sense of longing and purpose.
It came to him – the purpose of his stroll through the wet and slick streets of Port Hope, an ironic location for Elliot to be in, considering his ever-growing sense of utter hopelessness in existence due to being so forgetful. Reaffirming his grip on the rain-spattered bag, he continued to trudge down Walton Street – at least, that’s what he hoped it was, at any rate. Old-fashioned facades skirted along either side, dotted with ironwork, hanging baskets and charming brickwork. Much of the street consisted of whimsically decorated shop displays, presenting delicious architecture of at least one or two bygone eras.
Arriving at the end of Walton Street, he reached a three-way intersection that dared him to pick a path – perhaps something of destiny, he wondered. Then, it occurred to him that the absence of preserved heritage walls and windows suggested he might have gone too far. He struggled to remember where Meredith’s office was – a stupid thing to happen, considering he brought her lunch nearly every day. Feeling forlorn and utterly hopeless, he meandered back up the inclined street as cars honked at him along the way, some drivers rolling down windows and shouting for Elliot to get out of the rain before he catches yet another illness.
He caught sight of the river that snaked through down, low-lying and flanked on either side by shale and stonework. Several older men were out in wading boots, mid-stream and making good use of the weather, it appeared. Strangely enough, he remembered when Meredith and him had walked along the shallow river, nearly slipping and falling in a couple of weeks ago, just after they had married. He remembered her soft grip on his hand as they walked along the shale, it tightening when she grew afraid of falling in and relied on his strength – a funny thing now.
Then, it hit him. Meredith’s office was just on the other side of the street, above a barbershop – she was on lunch break the last time they wandered around the river together, and had asked Elliot to walk her back. Darting through berating traffic and climbing the internal stairway leading to the units above the barbershop, he arrived at a familiar sight – the law firm that he’d always kissed Meredith in front of before letting her get back to her work. Entering, Elliot arrived at the reception desk. The receptionist must have been a new girl, he figured, as he had never seen her before.
“Hi, is Meredith available?”
“I’m sorry… Meredith?”
“Yes – last name’s Jameson.”
There was a long pause.
“Meredith hasn’t worked here in weeks.”
Elliot narrowed his eyes in confusion.
“What the hell are you talking about?”
Another long pause, evidently a difficult one to end for the nervous-looking receptionist.
“Meredith died almost a month ago, in a car accident.”
Elliot’s feet and heart rooted him where he stood with immense weight.
“I-what? Excuse me? My wife came in for work today!”
The girl looked confused and scared.
“I - I'm sorry. Truly.”
She got up and hid in the back, leaving Elliot alone with the sound of the rain pattering on the windows. Tears welling up in his eyes, he rubbed his hand up the back of his head in frustration. Feeling the subtly protruding spot on his skull, he remembered the one thing he hoped he had forgotten permanently.
Meredith’s fearful screams echoed off the metal plate once more, and he felt a presence grip his left hand with great intensity. Looking down, hoping it was her, Elliot caught sight of his own hands interlocking.
I must be out of my damn mind.
He peered down at the damp brown bag that had fallen from his grip.
Reaching for Meredith’s lunch, he found only empty prescription bottles.