Skin steaming in the cold autumn night, he shed the life that belonged to Sam Reese, and opened his eyes to the world as ██████████.i. When Angels Hear Your Prayers...
The sun-bleached linoleum and plastic-coated cabinets in Delilah Reese's kitchen have been meticulously kept clean every day for fifty years. It was her parents' house, too, when they were young, and Delilah's life had always had its biggest moments at the polished, round table by the glass sliding door. For better or worse, it was her domain, this part of the house, and by force of habit she had drank her morning coffee here for thirty-eight years, since she was fifteen.
This table had often been a happy place, but not today. Not yesterday. Not, she sighed, since Sam had disappeared. Delilah picked at her piece of toast, teary-eyed at the sting of worry that surfaced at the thought. It was one of those days where she felt too helpless to do anything. Not when her son was gone.
Delilah's family had been shrinking and shrinking in the past few years. She had never thought she'd see the years catching up to her - but they did, and the family tree, its branches withering away, weighed on her mind. Besides some lost cousin out in Vancouver, she was alone without her son, and it depressed her to consider that for all she knew, he wasn't coming back. Some days she would just wake up and know the day would be wasted. Instead, her mind would 'helpfully' drag out the memories of all her loved ones, and then their funerals.
But Sam wasn't supposed to have gone. He was in the prime of his life - raised so carefully and with so much love. Delilah refused to think his disappearance was permanent, refused to speak of it at least, but of course she entertained the notion. It was a houseguest in her head that refused to leave.
Knowing she would break down at the table if she sat there any longer. Delilah cleared her plate in lazy, slow motion, and slumped into the TV chair to fall asleep to some daytime soap opera reruns. The dull drone of the television served its purpose as usual: she fell asleep in the chair and slept the day away.
When she woke up, the news was on: it was ten p.m., and the house was shrouded in night. Delilah yawned, and flipped the TV off, climbing the stairs to bed. She knew she'd dream of Sam returning, but at least the night would pass quickly. Most women at Delilah's age would be stretching the day as far as it could go; they had something to live for, and that was where they differed.
No point in a shower. Maybe tomorrow. Delilah brought the blankets up to her chin and slept on her side, facing the vacant side of the bed where her late husband used to appear in her dreams, when his own untimely death had been her saddest memory.
She awoke the next morning from a dreamless, soundless sleep, and opened her eyes to warm light filtering through the curtains. Delilah always left the curtains closed; she didn't know what to make of it at first. Squinting at the sparkling night-frost in the corners of the glass, she noticed she smelled pancakes. Lumbering confused out of the bedroom in her robe, Delilah walked down to her domain to find a spry young man making breakfast in the spotless white kitchen, as if he'd never left, as if...as if she'd been delivered from an endless nightmare.