If Tomorrow Comes
If Tomorrow Comes
For Barry with love
Thursday, February 20 – 11:00 P. M.
She undressed slowly, dreamily, and when she was naked, she selected a bright red negligee to wear so that the blood would not show. Doris Whitney looked around the bedroom for the last time to make certain that the pleasant room, grown dear over the past thirty years, was neat and tidy. She opened the drawer of the bedside table and carefully removed the gun. It was shiny black, and terrifyingly cold. She placed it next to the telephone and dialed her daughter’s number in Philadelphia. She listened to the echo of the distant ringing. And then there was a soft “Hello?”
“Tracy… I just felt like hearing the sound of your voice, darling.”
“What a nice surprise, Mother.”
“I hope I didn’t wake you up.”
“No. I was reading. Just getting ready to go to sleep. Charles and I were going out for dinner, but the weather’s too nasty. It’s snowing hard here. What’s it doing there?”
Dear God, we’re talking about the weather, Doris Whitney thought, when there’s so much I want to tell her. And can’t.
“Mother? Are you there?”
Doris Whitney stared out the window. “It’s raining.” And she thought, How melodramatically appropriate. Like an Alfred Hitchcock movie.
“What’s that noise?” Tracy asked.
Thunder. Too deeply wrapped in her thoughts, Doris had not been aware of it. New Orleans was having a storm. Continued rain, the weatherman had said. Sixty-six degrees in New Orleans. By evening the rain will be turning to thundershowers. Be sure to carry your umbrellas. She would not need an umbrella.
“That’s thunder, Tracy.” She forced
a note of cheerfulness into her voice. “Tell me what’s happening in Philadelphia.”
“I feel like a princess in a fairy tale, Mother,” Tracy said. “I never believed anyone could be so happy. Tomorrow night I’m meeting Charles’s parents.” She deepened her voice as though making a pronouncement. “The Stanhopes, of Chestnut Hill,” she sighed. “They’re an institution. I have butterflies the size of dinosaurs.”
“Don’t worry. They’ll love you, darling.”
“Charles says it doesn’t matter. He loves me. And I adore him. I can’t wait for you to meet him. He’s fantastic.”
“I’m sure he is.” She would never meet Charles. She would never hold a grandchild in her lap. No. I must not think about that. “Does he know how lucky he is to have you, baby?”
“I keep telling him.” Tracy laughed. “Enough about me. Tell me what’s going on there. How are you feeling?”
You’re in perfect health, Doris, were Dr. Rush’s words. You’ll live to be a hundred. One of life’s little ironies. “I feel wonderful.” Talking to you.
“Got a boyfriend yet?” Tracy teased.
Since Tracy’s father had died five years earlier, Doris Whitney had not even considered going out with another man, despite Tracy’s encouragement.
“No boyfriends.” She changed the subject. “How is your job? Still enjoying it?”
“I love it. Charles doesn’t mind if I keep working after we’re married.”
“That’s wonderful, baby. He sounds like a very understanding man.”
“He is. You’ll see for yourself.”
There was a loud clap of thunder, like an offstage cue. It was time. There was nothing more to say except a final farewell. “Good-bye, my darling.