Monday 27 November 2023

Raveneau Chablis by Paige Foster, mocha

Previously published in WayWords, issue 1, 2021


‘When we were together, it felt like the rest of the world didn’t exist. It was just the two of us,’ Mary said. She tried to swallow the lump in her throat but this boulder of emptiness wouldn’t go down. She ached all over. 

Someone coughed, distracting her from her too-tight dress and the underwire poking into her side. The soft, dry breath echoed through the church pews, distorting its source and burying it in the crowd. She heard every shuffle and shift echo at maximum volume. 

Mary dropped the pages of her speech onto the podium to stop them from crinkling. Holding them was a mistake. This day, and the week leading up to it, was a nightmare. She wanted to crawl back into bed with Marty and listen to him breathing. Her hands shook and she clutched the pulpit’s wooden edges for strength; her skin pinched inside the unyielding band of her wedding ring—the symbol of their lifetime together. Black print on white paper blurred.

Mary felt the warm reassurance as Lisbet joined her at the pulpit. Lisbet had always been warm: the nurturing rock Jack needed. Mary had loved her from the moment Jack brought her home from college. Jack was their wild child, their youngest, so full of hope, energy, and natural talent. Lisbet emanated grace and strength and Mary knew at their first meeting she was the one; Jack’s person.

‘Deep breath, Mamma Mary,’ Lisbet whispered.

Mary nodded and hoped the sounds of sniffling came from the mourners and not her own overwhelming ache. She cleared her throat. ‘Marty always said we were meant to be. He said we were named for each other and that’s how he knew we’d spend our lives together, even in third grade. Marty and Mary, the extra T was for ‘together’.’

Lisbet squeezed Mary’s shoulders and smiled gently as Mary shook her head and buried her face in her hands. She felt Lisbet lean forward but couldn’t bring herself to look up.

‘She spent hours writing this,’ Lisbet said into the microphone, her voice steady. ‘You all know how amazing my father-in-law was; he’s earned the right for you to hear it in her words.’

Mary sobbed into her palms as Lisbet read the rest of the eulogy aloud. Before she knew it, Jack joined them in the limousine on the way to the gravesite.


Mary was never sure of time after that. It was either day or night. She hadn’t held a job since they were in their early twenties, when he was finishing college. She’d never wanted to go to college herself and he was as accepting and appreciative of her choice as she could hope. He promised to provide for her and their children, to afford their budding family a home and life where she could be the mother she always dreamed. When he opened his accounting firm, she put in her notice at the coffee shop and a year later, they had little baby Martin and a cute two-bedroom apartment. After that, her schedule revolved around the PTA, sports practices, music lessons, and whatever else the boys wanted. She’d always known the date, the time, the week’s schedule. She’d always known until that moment when time stopped.

His pillow still smelled of him: musk and Old Spice. Mary wore his favorite weekend sweater around the house. She melted into it until his scent was a memory.

Eventually, the doorbell stopped ringing. The phone stopped buzzing and Mary was alone in the silence. The four-bedroom Colonial was a vacuum. She even missed the crumbs from his post-dinner cinnamon toast. She hated cinnamon toast. Staring at the toaster, holding half a loaf of over-processed white bread, Mary burst into tears.

The kitchen’s screen door creaked and Mary caught herself on the counter, wiping her face on the sweater sleeve. It was too early for Marty to be home from work… wasn’t it? The sink still had the dirty dishes from breakfast and she hadn’t started to prepare dinner. She couldn’t remember what she’d promised to cook, not that he minded. Marty was always so great about her culinary explorations and encouraged her to try new things. He’d never been a picky eater, except for the cinnamon toast. That was a must.

‘Mamma Mary,’ Lisbet asked softly from the doorway, ‘are you alright?’

‘Hmm?’ Mary turned around, still holding the bag of stale, sliced bread. ‘Oh, we’re fine, how are the girls?’

‘We’ve been calling but we can’t get through. Jack and I are worried about you.’ Lisbet hung her purse on the row of pegs by the door and tucked loose strands of dark hair behind her ear. Her hair seemed so much longer than it had at Kelly’s recital and Mary wondered for a moment how long ago that was.

Mary shook her head, ‘About what, dear? We’re just fine here.’

Lisbet’s shoulders heaved in her sigh and she frowned.

‘Is everything okay with you? Is Jack alright?’ Mary asked. She beckoned her daughter-in-law closer for a hug. ‘I’m just making Marty’s cinnamon toast.’

Lisbet opened the refrigerator and checked a few of the cupboards. ‘Are you getting on okay? It looks like your milk is expired. I can run to the store if you’re not up for it,’ she said.

Mary frowned and said, ‘I always love that sundress on you, the yellow is perfect for your dark complexion.’ She wasn’t trying to change the subject but Lisbet looked like she needed to hear something nice. ‘We can set a few extra places for dinner if you’d like to join us?’

‘Mamma Mary,’ Lisbet said softly, ‘who is we?’

Mary dropped the bag of bread on the counter. ‘Hmm?’

Lisbet gently rubbed Mary’s arms and looked into her eyes. ‘Pappa Marty is dead,’ she said. ‘He had a heart attack at work, remember? We buried him three weeks ago.’

‘I know that,’ Mary said and shrugged out of Lisbet’s embrace. ‘I—he…’

‘Let’s get you cleaned up, Mamma Mary,’ Lisbet said. ‘We can charge your phone and I’ll make you some lunch.’


Mary ventured into a grocery store for the first time in two months and to her surprise, the world had kept turning. Lisbet was a wonderful support but she had her own children to look after and Mary knew she didn’t need the burden of a forgetful mother-in-law with everything else.

Mary loved the grocery store. She loved trying different vegetables and spices. She loved learning new recipes and experimenting. She and Marty planned to see the world, he for the picturesque views and she in her quest to taste everything. They’d talked about eating their way through Asia first and visiting the Seven Wonders. Marty had started their travel fund when little Martin learned to walk.

‘Someday,’ he’d always say, ‘we’ll go everywhere and we’ll see everything there is to see.’

Standing in front of the bok choy, she didn’t realize she was weeping until a tissue fluttered near her face. Like a white flag of surrender, the tissue offered solace and strength.

‘It’s just a cabbage,’ said the woman, ‘I’m not sure it’s worth all that.’

Mary sniffled into the tissue for a few moments after the woman walked away. Everyone in the produce department carried on with their business as if nothing happened. How could they not know, how could they not ache under the crushing weight of an eternity without Marty? Mary worried she didn’t have anyone to cook for and found the microwave meal selection as depressing as the idea of eating one alone.

‘’Taste of Asia’,’ she read aloud and scoffed, ‘Which part of Asia? Why do they have beef flavor?’

Mary had enough. The overhead lights sucked their energy from her soul and the too-sweet jingle blaring from the speakers gave her a headache. The idea of existing was exhausting.

Outside, her cart as empty as when she walked in, Mary stood by the entry and sighed. Marty was everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Mary wondered if the day-to-day was worth all the hassle just to see her grandkids a couple times a month. They weren’t even old enough to understand what happened. They wouldn’t remember him when they grew up. Kind, gentle Marty would be a face in a photograph to the ones he loved most.

She’d loved Marty since she was nine years old, since before she understood what love was. She’d raised three beautiful children with him and welcomed five grandchildren. She’d cooked his meals, washed his gym clothes, and shared a life with him for four decades. Their children had their own families now and Mary didn’t have anyone to cook for anymore.


Mary dug deep as she chewed her way through a box of cardboard crackers. She decided it was her last meal and she wanted to wash it down with the bottle of wine they bought with Marty’s first big paycheck.

When he first opened his business, the accounts were small and his client list lean. As a new CPA, he hadn’t developed a reputation yet so when he landed what he called a ‘big fish’, Marty came home with a bottle of Mary’s dream wine: a 1995 Raveneau Chablis Butteaux. As excited and proud as Mary was for Marty’s achievement, she wanted to save the bottle until his retirement party so they could look back on that moment as the turning point of his career.

Marty would never have a retirement party.

She found the soft green bottle tucked in a low, dark corner of the basement, next to a few other, less interesting vintages. Its golden wax seal intact, the Chablis was a bit dusty but otherwise perfectly preserved. Mary clutched it close to her chest as she headed up the stairs to the main floor.

The wine glass selection was just as important as the wine itself, especially for this situation. Resolute about her own ending, Mary emptied one of the bottom cabinets of their hutch and, sitting on the floor in the dining room, pulled out the box with the champagne flutes from their wedding. Though the Chablis wasn’t a sparkling wine, she couldn’t imagine drinking her final sip from anything less indicative of the love she shared with Marty.

The clock ticked in a final countdown as Mary righted the hutch and changed into her funeral dress. She supposed it really was her funeral and hoped the children would understand. She poured her glass, collected a cocktail of old prescriptions into a dish, and sat down at the antique writing desk they’d inherited from her grandmother. In the top drawer, she found a fancy pen, one her mother gave her for ‘keeping up with correspondence’, as if anyone ever wrote letters on paper anymore. As she pulled out the box of fancy paper, Mary felt something shift inside and a soft thump broke the stillness of the house.

Mary opened the pearled white box to find two passports and a note in Marty’s scrawling hand. ‘Someday, we can actually use them!’ she read and a pained chuckle escaped her lips. ‘Oh, Marty.’

Without another thought, Mary drained her glass, discarded the unused pills, and headed off in search of her suitcase. She was done waiting; someday had arrived.

About the auhtor 

Paige enjoys snuggly blankets and reading about human nature’s dark side. When she’s not devising new ways to torture her characters, Paige loves to explore different cultures to expand her worldview. Paige’s work has appeared in WayWords Literary Journal, Tales from the Other Side, and elsewhere.


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