Excerpt for The Widow of Rose House

cover of The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller

Excerpt from Chapter Three              

By Nicole Tone          

Her heart raced. There was a crushing weight on her chest that made it impossible to catch her breath. The voicemail alert went off and Sophie shook. First her hands, then her teeth, chattering like it was the dead of winter.

Did she want this night ruined too?

Wasn’t it already ruined?

Reaching for her phone, she swiped the message, letting the voicemail play over speakerphone. She stood in her kitchen, pot of noodles on the stove she no longer was hungry for, and waited for her world to come crashing down all over again.

“Hi Soph. It’s Dad. It’s around six here, so nine there. I figured you might be home by now. Maybe you’re at work.”

Sophie raised her eyebrow. She hadn’t heard from him since their Skype chat at Christmas. It was normal for them, Sophie’s schedule making keeping in touch with anyone difficult, not counting the physical distance and time difference between Buffalo and Seattle. She’d send him a rambling e-mail here and there, but phone calls were in short supply.

“I was just calling to see how things were. I, uh, talked to your mother and wanted to run something by you. See if you’d be open to the idea. Anyway, give me a call when you can. This is my new number. My old phone now lives with the giant squid. Love you, kid.”

Pouring the now-cooked pasta into the strainer, she pondered over the voicemail. It made sense they’d get a new number; he’d kept his one from here despite living out west for almost two decades. To finally assimilate to his new home was a big step.

She called him back, phone on speaker as she finished dinner.                                                      

“Hey kid.”

“Hey Dad. Giant squid, huh?”

He laughed, warm and sweet as memories. It was the warm summer afternoons she played out on rock beaches as a kid. The Earl Grey and honey on days when it stormed. This had been the way things were for as long as she had been able to make memories. It was only when she started working that her summers with him stopped.

“Yeah. I was trying to take a picture of some orcas I saw while I was on the ferry and, well, I dropped my phone.”

“Seattle’s way of forcing you to become one of them?”

“I guess so.”

Silence fell between them as she scooped the pasta into a bowl. Dinner for one, but enough for two. She’d have leftovers for tomorrow.

“So,” he started, “I guess I should tell you why I called.”

“Yeah, probably.” Sophie laughed. “Or we can keep talking about how Seattle is swallowing you whole.”

“Well, I actually sold my place in the city.”

“Oh?” The loft had been her favorite. She could sit on the floor, legs crossed, watching the ebb and flow of traffic, both car and ferry. The space had been bright and modern, from what she understood of the word as it applied to interior architecture. But more than that, the loft reflected the mix of new and old Seattle embraced. Sophie wanted to live in something similar one day — a dream closer to becoming a reality the more real estate developers took over Buffalo’s deserted buildings.

Selling the loft should have felt like a bigger betrayal. Like she was losing a piece of her, the way it had felt when her mom sold the house Sophie and Will had grown up in. Sophie’d hated painting over the drawings on her closet wall, the mural on her ceiling, any piece of personality so potential buyers could really see themselves living in that space. But the loft wasn’t home. It was the place Sophie and Will would spend a night or two when they’d come visit during the summer just to do city things: Pike’s Place, catch a Sounders game, explore the EMP. It was a stepping-stone in between SeaTac and the ferry that ushered them out to the peninsula for the summer.

“I’m a full time Port Townsend resident now. Port . . . Townie?”

Sophie rolled her eyes and laughed. “Port Townsend . . . ite. Maybe. I don’t think they’d appreciate you calling them townies, Dad.”

“Yeah, I’m still figuring out the terminology. One of the big tech companies wanted to buy the building, so between that and retirement, I figured what the hell.”

“But you kept the summer house, right?”

“That’s where I’m living full time.”

The summer house sat outside a quiet Victorian town that saw more tourists than locals.

To Sophie, it was the version of home she equated with her dad. She loved the area, how quiet it was, protected between mountains and ocean. As a siren bounced off her apartment building, Sophie wished she was at the summer house now, waves her lullaby instead of the sounds of the city.                                                          

Diana Biller

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