Clarissa sits alone in her buttoned overcoat in the side parlour, the phone gripped tightly in her slender, arthritic fingers, summoning the strength to speak to the operator, Mary, as the dial tone connects in her ear…
“Mary, it’s Mrs. O’Brien. There’s a stranger in our house. I can’t speak too loud because he might hear me. Fred is going around the house looking for a burglar. I’m afraid, Mary… I’m afraid he may come into this room.”
“Stay calm, Clarissa. You just wait on the line while I make the connection with Constable John…. keep talking to me, I can hear you.”
“Tell Constable John not to use the siren,” she cautions, “it might alert this… stranger… and there’s no knowing what he might do. I don’t know where he is in the house... I’m terribly afraid, Mary.”
“Help is coming, Clarissa. Constable John spoke with the school and Sam is going to join him on his way. They’ll both be with you in a matter of minutes.”
“Fred’s in such a state!” she exclaims with despair, having heard the horrendous, heart-wrenching sound of the smashing of her beloved fine white wedding china, with the beautiful tea-rose decoration on the border.
Clarissa understands that, just like her fine white wedding china now beyond repair, people are fragile and though Fred may change, more and more often lately and even on occasion becoming unrecognizable, she will never stop loving him. She rests the receiver in her lap, her strength waning. “I just hope they get here in time before Fred is hurt,” she whispers, feeling faint, her face as flushed as faded, pale-pigment parchment. She gazes anxiously through the window at the world outside as the police car appears in the road.
* * *