Every year I post the story I wrote called The Big Blue Recliner. It’s become sort of a tradition. I’ve made some important changes to the story this year and I hope you all enjoy it very much.-
Don’t forget to do good self-care as we kick off the holiday season. I’m going to do so too. I find the holidays highly triggering for so many reasons.
Anyway, please enjoy my story, The Big Blue Recliner.
The Big Blue Recliner
Shirley J. Davis
Twenty-year-old Clara sat in the living room of her parent’s home curled up in a tight ball in the big blue recliner her father had sat in for many years. The young woman’s knees were pulled up to her chest in mourning as her mind wandered back into her past. Clara smiled slightly remembering the Thanksgiving Day when she was ten and her parents had decided their small family would spend the holiday at home instead of eating with friends as was their custom.
She could hear her mother busying herself in the kitchen, and her father’s laugh as she occasionally tossed bits of food at him. In turn, her father, in his deep baritone voice, had teased mother mercilessly about her cooking. Clara had laughed at their antics and danced about in the living room in her new ballerina outfit. She had been taking lessons since she was five, and was eager to show off the new moves she had learned. Clara had no siblings or other family members that she knew about, but that didn’t bother her as she reveled in the attention and live she received from her parents.
Upon returning to the present, Clara felt the ball she was curled into tightened even more when she realized she was smiling thinking of that day. The smile disappeared and her chest ached at her new reality. Thanksgiving Day in the present was four days away, and she would spend it alone for the first time in her life. This horrible thought caused Clara to feel a deep loneliness she had never experienced before as she thought back on the horrific information she had received earlier in the day.
She had arrived in the early afternoon from her home in New York to spend Thanksgiving with her parents, only to find the house empty. She had thrown her suitcases into a corner of the living room and found a note from them written in her mother’s beautiful, poetic handwriting, on her father’s recliner. The note stated that she should make herself at home and that they would return soon.
Briefly, the young woman worried about the icy roads she had just experienced, but quickly pushed the thought out of her mind. Clara’s father had lived in Michigan all his life and was well-seasoned at driving on the state’s snow packed and sometimes hazardous roads.
Four hours later, just as the sun was beginning to set, Clara had begun to grow concerned. She had begun trying to call her parents but kept receiving no answer. She was about to dial again when she heard a car door in the driveway.
Relieved she ran to the door to greet her parents but instead was met by the somber face of the Sheriff in her parent’s small community. For a moment Clara felt faint as she tried desperately to recognize the man standing in the falling sleep on the front porch. She knew in an instant it was a stranger to her who would be delivering the news that would forever change her.
The Sheriff then removed his hat and told her in a kind and remorseful tone that her parents had both been killed in a car accident.
Clara felt herself sinking into an abyss of emotion. Disbelief mixed with anger billowed in her soul, but because she was a reserved person, she did not allow it to spill out and be expressed. Only her pale face gave evidence to the war being waged in her mind.
The Sheriff could see Clara’s pale and stricken face, so he asked if she needed him to call someone. Clara declined to tell him there was no one to call. The only family she had was her parents, and now they were gone. The officer was deeply touched by the young woman’s answer.
He then decided to try and help.
“I knew your father, ma’am. He was a fine man.” Seeing that Clara was looking blankly away, he stammered on. “He wouldn’t want you to be alone on Thursday, would you like to dine with my family?”
Clara had heard the discomfort in the Sheriff’s voice and tried to smile at him. “No, thank you, sir. That’s very kind of you.”
The Sheriff had then quickly exited to leave Clara alone in her grief surrounded by the ghostly after images of her life with her parents.
Now, lying in the dark several hours later curled up in her father’s big blue recliner, Clara could see the shadowy outlines of her suitcases still sitting where she had left them. She sighed deeply, hearing the sleet pattering against the glass of the big picture window a few feet away. The thought came to her of how fitting it should be sleeting ice when her heartfelt so cold inside. The young woman began to shiver at the thought of how, in the morning, she must make the final arrangements for her father and mother.
Tears threatened to pool in Clara’s eyes, but the news the Sheriff had brought had sent her into such deep shock that she had not been able to cry over her loss. Clara’s lack of tears both shamed and bewildered her. She had loved her parents very much, shouldn’t she be weeping? Why wasn’t she busy on the phone calling a friend to tell them what has happened? After all, she had friends back in New York. She began to stir to go and find her phone, but then Clara remembered it was almost Thanksgiving and her friends were not home but visiting with their families. They were out of reach and ignorant of her plight.
She was totally alone in her loss and felt a deep emptiness in her heart.
A sudden knock at the door startled Clara out of her tortured thoughts. For a moment the thought passed through her confused mind that it was her father knocking. Yes, she would open the door and find her father, mother and the Sheriff standing on the porch laughing at the horrible joke they had played on her. Then she, out of sheer relief, would immediately forgive them.
Pushing the fantasy away, the young woman forced herself to return to reality and slowly extricated herself from the recliner to answer the door. As she padded across the living room floor, she suddenly became aware of how silent the house had become.
When she reached the front door, she peeked through the peephole. She saw standing on the porch, the familiar form of their postman Mr. Patterson. The Patterson family had been close friends of her family and they had spent many holidays together. In fact, Clara had once had a terrible crush on Mr. Patterson’s oldest son, Andy.
Clara opened the door to admit her visitor and flinched when a gust of winter wind invaded the warmth of the house.
“Hello, Clara.” He began in a sympathetic tone, “I’m heartily sorry for your loss. Your mother and father were good people. We’ll all miss them very much.”
“Thank you.” Whispered Clara in a guarded voice. “Please won’t you come in?”
Mr. Patterson entered the house and, after Clara had closed the door, shook off some of the sleet that had accumulated on his parka.
The postman’s sympathy had come close to making her cry but she held her composure. She could remember many cold nights when his family and hers had spent hours huddled around the fireplace of Mr. Patterson’s home playing games. Those evenings had been full of laughter and fun. Now he came to say he was sorry she was alone.
As if reading Clara’s mind, Mr. Patterson reached into his coat. “I didn’t just come to give my condolences Clara,” he stated, “I have a registered letter for you that arrived just as the post office was closing. I thought to kill two birds with one stone by bringing it to you tonight before the holiday begins.” Mr. Patterson then handed Clara a large white envelope.
After Clara had written her signature on the receipt, Mr. Patterson gently reopened the door. As he stepped out onto the porch he turned and said with tears in his eyes, “I know this is short notice Clara, but my wife and I talked it over. We insist you come and celebrate Thanksgiving with us. We know your parents were all you had and we don’t want you to be alone on Thursday. We loved them very much you know.” His voice trailed off as he fought not to sob.
Clara began to turn down the invitation, but she knew how much the Patterson’s had meant to her parents, and she loved him for the pain he was feeling at their passing. Nodding in assent Clara whispered, “Yes, Mr. Patterson. I would love to.”
Clara’s answer pleased her visitor very much but the twinkle her response had brought to his eyes wilted quickly away to somberness again. “Thank you, Clara. Mrs. Patterson and I will, of course, be at the service for your folks. Please, call if you need anything.”
After giving Mr. Patterson her promise to do so, the young woman slowly closed the door.
Clara opened the registered letter and gasped as she read its contents.
She had been chosen, out of over one hundred other women, to appear as the main character in a major ballet in New York. If she accepted the offer she would need to contact the number and name that appeared at the bottom of the letter as soon as possible. Rehearsals started in two weeks.
Clara stood in stunned silence. Her mother and father had hoped to see the day Clara’s dream of becoming a serious performer in the ballet, but now they were gone. Clara’s heart ached so badly that she could barely catch her breath, but still no tears came to relieve her pain.
Half-heartedly, Clara tossed the letter into the waste bin that sat by her father’s recliner.
The funeral was much more difficult that Clara had imagined. Attendance had been light, with the Patterson’s and a few businessmen and their wives. No one came forward to say they were a relation to Clara, something she had hoped but knew would not happen. The young woman sat stone cold without any tears in her eyes as a minister she didn’t know gave her parent’s eulogy.
After the funeral, Clara returned to the home that had become only a house to her. She knew that inside was nothing but silence and memories.
After entering through the front door, Clara walked into the living room and suddenly stopped, her breath escaping her throat in a sudden gasp.
The room was empty of all its furnishings, including her father’s big blue recliner. Recovering from the initial shock, Clara did a quick assessment of the house and found almost all the furnishings had been removed. She had been burglarized while she sat mourning in a funeral home for her parents.
A police detective, full of pity but in a businesslike fashion, quietly informing Clara that there had been a rash of burglaries reported in the county. They were done by criminals who closely followed the obituaries and preyed on the bereaved. They entered their homes while they attended the funeral of their loved one when the home is empty and stole what wasn’t nailed down.
The detective’s kind explanation did nothing to quail the pain Clara felt. Most of the possessions the burglars had stolen Clara did not care about, but the big blue recliner had been a strong link to her memories of her father. She keenly felt it’s loss.
The next day was Thanksgiving and the break-in had caused Clara’s numbness to deepen.
The theft of her belongings left Clara feeling deeply violated. They had taken all the furniture but left the clothing lying all around on the floor. After gathering what little had been left for her, Clara decided to go to bed.
Late into the night, as she lay on the living room floor, the young woman listened to the old wind-up alarm clock the thieves had left behind. Apparently, the thieves had known it was worthless and by leaving it had thrown a crumb to a starving bird.
It was during that sleepless night Clara decided she would never dance again. She thought of the letter she had received that would have given her the big break she and her family had always yearned for made her deeply sad.
No, she could never dance again.
Very early the next morning, Clara got out of bed, and wrapping herself in her robe, began to descend the dimly lit staircase which led into the living room below.
While still halfway down, Clara startled upon hearing the front door slam.
Her first fear was that the thieves had returned and that she had interrupted them while they were trying to escape, but her fear quickly turned to rage. She ran the last few stairs and not caring for her safety, and shouted through her grief obscenities at the thieves feeling as though she could kill them with her bare hands.
Once at the base of the staircase she stopped.
Since it was so early in the morning and dark, the living room was in shadow. Still feeling enraged, Clara furiously flipped on the living room lights she saw that the front door had indeed been opened, and was still opened a crack. Clara threw the door the rest of the way open and quickly switched on the porch light. In her heart, she hoped to see someone in the bushes or running down the driveway, but looking about she saw no one and nothing. The porch, bushes, and yard were all covered in newly fallen snow but there was no sign of the thieves.
Feeling frustrated, Clara started to close the door, but something caused her to look again.
The snow that lay in a deep mat all about and on the porch, had not been disturbed with any markings of any kind, including footprints. Clara pondered this enigma before her for a moment and, feeling puzzled, gently closed the door.
Turning toward the living room, Clara was deep in thought. She knew she had heard the door, but perhaps the wind had caught it and slammed it open. Yes, that had to be the answer.
As the young ballerina walked back into the living room, she looked up and stopped.
Clara felt unable to move and her heart beat in leaping bounds in her chest at what she saw.
There, back in its usual place, sat her father’s big blue recliner.
As Clara ran toward the chair, her heart sang with joy. Her father had held her and read stories to her in that big recliner, and having it back felt like Christmas morning.
As she neared her prize Clara saw the letter she had received the day before and upon it lay a note in the seat if the recliner. It was all lying in the same spot where the note had been from her parents announcing they would return soon.
As she picked up the note, Clara sobbed the tears she had been unable to shed. For written in the beautiful, poetic handwriting of her mother the note read,
Happy Thanksgiving to you my readers! Please, practice lots of self-love on Thursday. Shirley