Story A Day May #24: A Mother’s Tears

Antonia tried to block the light by squeezing her eyelids shut tighter, but all that did was intensify her headache. She slightly opened her left eye and, through the gauze of the sheet, saw the time: 6am. I didn’t see it! her brain screamed, even as she heard the gentle shuff-shuff of her nana’s orthopedic shoes coming into the room. If I hold still enough, maybe she’ll go. “Antonia, dear; time to get up for mass,” nana’s voice was gentle but after her night of drinking  sounded sharply edged in Antonia’s ears.

Antonia gave a gravelly response from beneath the sheet. “Nana, I had a late night; how about I go with you tomorrow?” She regretted saying it as soon as it fell from her lips; tomorrow was Friday and she was already on to go out with the girls from work after. “Or maybe I can go to two services on Sunday?” she quickly added.

Her questions were met with silence, then a sigh. “The Blessed Mother cries for you,” her nana said on her way out of the room. Her statement was confirmed by the slow and steady shuff-shuff of her shoes as she made her way to the front door alone, and the silent tears that fell from her eyes along the way. When Antonia heard the door shut and lock, she pushed back the covers and stretched, burping the taste of last night to the tip of her tongue. For a moment she kept her eyes closed against the morning but a steady and light moaning brought her out of her reverie. Antonia sat up too quickly, bringing a teaspoon of beer and bile to the back of her throat. She dashed to the bathroom and brought up the remaining vestige of last night’s party. After rinsing her mouth and composing herself, she looked up and silently prayed while making the sign of the cross, Lord, I promise not to get that wasted again. She frowned as she heard the moaning sound again and carefully padded from the bathroom in search of the sound. It seemed to get louder as she approached the living room but before she could enter, her mobile rang. She quickly reversed course to her room and caught it on the fourth ring. “Hello?”

“Hey, girl! How you doin’? I figured you’d be on your way to mass with your nana,” Catarine laughed lightly on the other end, nursing her own hangover.

“Yeah, well, I promised I’d go with her twice on Sunday,” Antonia answered. The moaning got louder.

“–tonight, right?” Catarine said.

“What was that?” Antonia snapped back to the conversation.

“You got beer in your ears or what?” Catarine was generally cranky when she came off a heavy drinking night. “I was askin’ if you were still on for tonight after work.”

The moaning took on a new pitch and Antonia turned back toward the living room. “Yeah, sure,” she said absently. “Hey look, let me call you back, m’kay?” She rang off before Catarine could protest and made her way cautiously to the living room. She slid open the paneled doors to find no one, which she expected since only she and her nana shared the place. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary; the moaning had stopped but had been replaced by what sounded like sobbing. She moved carefully into the room and was drawn to her nana’s corner. Nana had a threadbare wingback chair in which she sat daily, listening to the news while working on a needlepoint. A particularly wretched sob sounded and Antonia looked up; above her nana’s chair was a copy of the Mantegna Crucifixion painting. As she crept closer, one last moan emanated from the Christ figure. Antonia gasped as the weeping Mother Mary’s chest appeared to rise and fall with the sobs she heard so faintly. Antonia knelt in the chair, transfixed by the sights and sounds before her. Without taking her eyes from the painting, she auto-dialed Catarine’s number from her mobile. She  waited for Catarine to stop caterwauling about how Antonia had hung up on her before and said, “I won’t be coming out tomorrow night; I have to go to mass with my nana.” Before Catarine could start up her protest anew, Antonia rang off again, placed her mobile on the side table, crossed her hands and began to recite her prayers.

Today’s Story A Day gave us the following prompt, which inspired the tale above:

Your character wants to find the source of a strange noise they can hear. Tell the story of how they find out what that sound is…

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