“One By One” By Ally LaCroix

By Ally LaCroix ’24

Routine was always a part of her life. For the past ten years since her husband passed away, she had always followed the same routine.  Each morning, as her eyes began to open, she would roll to the right side of her bed where her husband had always slept, often, expecting him to be there. She was working on letting go, although it was hard.

She always expected it to be already light outside by the time she woke up, however, it never was. She would reach with her long, elegant fingers for the lamp and turn it on. The blue porcelain lamp dimly illuminated her room in his honor. She had kept this gift from their wedding day. Then, her delicate hands would pull off the satin sheets. The day before she had changed the old ones. These smelled fresh, like the lavender-scented paper her granddaughter gave her five or so years ago to decorate her linen closet shelves with. She often missed her old life, with her husband always there to talk to whenever she wanted. Fond memories of her old life, before he was gone. Many mornings, when she woke up she thought about how lonely she was and how the days seemed to stretch out before her, longer and longer. Each sight of a picture, each empty chair served as a constant reminder. Eventually, she got out of bed. Her cat, soft and grey whom she had rescued from the street, was nestled amidst the bedclothes heaped towards the foot of the bed. She then got out of bed, her small grey cat came to her and trotted after her as she moved throughout her room. The cold wood floors made the elderly woman’s feet ache, so before she walked downstairs, she pulled on a pair of warm woolen socks. Today’s socks were light green and had a tiny floral design stitched into the wool. She had knit these socks years ago. She had always loved to knit, a skilled past down from her mother. It had been a while since she had knitted anything. Now, she made her way downstairs, while she grasped the mahogany wood banister, her feet no longer felt chilled but instead felt warm, safe even. 

Once downstairs the elderly woman made her breakfast. Oatmeal with raisins, brown sugar, and a splash of milk. Something her mother always made for her when she was a young girl living at home. She would always announce her choice of meal to her cat, and he would always meow back. She found his meows comforting. She went to the pantry and pulled out the container of oats and a saucepan. She set the oats down and placed the copper saucepan on the stove. She then poured one cup of water into the saucepan. She turned on the gas burner until she heard the ignition click and saw the flame rise. She left the water to heat on the low setting.

While she waited she hurried upstairs to her bathroom, where she washed her face and applied a soft pink rouge with a fluffy brush. She dipped her brush into the silky-smooth blush and blended it over her cheeks. She then walked back downstairs and added one cup of oats to the now boiling water. She occasionally stirred the oats for three minutes with a long-handled wooden spoon. Once the oatmeal finished cooking she covered the pan and let it sit for five minutes. These five minutes allowed her breakfast time to cool down, and also allowed her time to finish getting ready for her day. More slowly now, she climbed the stairs again to dress and pulled on her black stretchy pants and a sage green top. Her warm floral socks and her floral print bedroom wallpaper inspired her choice of shirt. She walked over to her window and opened the curtains. There was a burst of bright autumn colors. Trees with vibrant orange and yellow leaves made a vivid scene on the misty October morning. The sight of the leaves blow in the strong winds, had her decide to pull on a white knit sweater. 

Now, slightly out of breath, eighty-nine-year-old Mrs. Smith walked back downstairs. Her hand gripped the mahogany railing. She called for her small grey cat, Buddy, and he meowed in response. Once downstairs, Mrs. Smith fed Buddy and then poured her oatmeal into a delicate china bowl. She poured in what seemed to her as just the right amount of milk added, a handful of raisins, and about a tablespoon of brown sugar, and sat down to eat.

Once Mrs. Smith finished eating, she called for Buddy so they could go on their daily walk together. They had been going on this walk as a part of the day’s routine for the past ten years, just as Mrs. Smith and her husband used to walk together every day, rain or shine. Buddy happily joined Mrs. Smith at her feet and they stepped out into the misty, windy day. Mrs. Smith turned to shut the gold latch on the front door and the door locked shut. 

On that chilly fall day, the elderly woman had a goal. It was to travel through her small, quiet suburban neighborhood. No matter the weather, she would always set out with a good attitude ready to walk. She began her walk, as she always had. She passed by leaf piles and carved jack-o-lanterns on her neighbors’ porches. So far her walk seemed quite normal, aside from the fact that no noisy children were present this morning. However, once she reached her fifth block she began to feel unwell. Something was not right. Her legs wobbled, and she suddenly slipped down onto the pavement. Her whole body trembled and she felt her heart start to pound. Her breathing became quick and with every inhale it grew more labored. She tried with great desperation to get more air. At that exact moment, her neighbor, Julia Woodhouse, opened her front door to walk to the town library. Julia hurried over to Mrs. Smith when she saw the elderly woman in obvious distress. Julia grabbed her phone and dialed 911. As she fumbled to call the number, Mrs. Smith closed her eyes, and slowly became less responsive.

Julia sat down on the pavement, holding Mrs. Smith’s hand in hers. Leaves fell from the trees, as did the elder’s woman’s consciousness. The two women made eye contact with each other, and slowly Mrs. Smith’s eyes seemed to lose focus. Julia knew then that she was watching her expire. This elderly woman whom she had known no more than a month since moving in, was losing her life right before her eyes. It was at that moment that Julia saw her future in the other woman. Julia saw how alone and afraid she was. Mrs. Smith felt the young and alive Julia. She could feel Julia’s vitality and her sympathy, and she missed that part of her life, her youth which she knew she would never get back.

It had never before occurred to Julia that her life, too, would someday flash before her very eyes. At that moment, holding Mrs. Smith’s hand, she realized that she too would be old one day.

The evening came quickly. Silence descended on the street. Julia sat on her front steps looking sorrowfully across the empty road. All that was left from the morning’s events was the young woman, her thoughts, and a little cat. Buddy waited by Mrs. Smith’s door. Then, hearing Julia call his name, Buddy followed Julia into her house as she wept. With glimmering lamps in the foliage and the silence from the absence of sounds of daily life, they began to go out one by one.