I stood in the corner of her kitchen and watched. She stood at the center island, her children on chairs by her side. She was mixing ingredients as the children measured and poured. It was a scene straight out of an old fashioned women's magazine.
The woman left the children to the stirring. She opened the refrigerator and retrieved milk and eggs. She moved a few things around and turned back to the workspace. Her disappointment was apparent. She told the children she must have forgotten to buy butter and the cookies would need to wait. The children hopped from their perches and scampered off, running right past me yet unaware of my presence. Their mother grabbed her pocketbook from the counter and poked her head into the den.
"I have to run to the market. I forgot to buy butter," she announced to her husband.
She doubled back the way she came and exited through the kitchen screen door. I watched her as she went across the wooden porch, down the stairs and down the dirt path. Her house looked like a farm house on a prairie, similar to those I'd seen on TV. I went outside and sat on the porch steps, watching as she walked farther away. Her silhouette became smaller and smaller until she practically disappeared. She walked a perfectly straight line, off towards the horizon. I watched her until she disappeared out of sight.
I wondered where this store was because as far as the eye could see, there was nothing. Just the path she walked, directly in front of me and in the center of my view until it met the sunset.
Time went by, but how much I could not be sure. Days at least, maybe weeks and the woman did not return. The cookies were never made. Life went on. The children grew up, their father grew older.
More time went by. I was not a part of it.
The family that now only numbered three sat on the porch. It was sunset and the light was fading. The grown children were chatting with one another as the father read the paper. From where I was sitting on the steps, I could see the date. It was exactly 15 years to the day since the woman had disappeared, but they didn't seem to notice the anniversary. I watched them as they passed the evening, relaxing in the cool night air.
I turned my gaze toward the horizon. Off in the distance, I saw the silhouette of a figure walking towards me. As the form grew closer, I could make out the shape. It was the woman who had once walked the opposite way down this same path. She approached quickly, but as she did, she remained a shadow. Her features were never clear, but I knew it was her. In her hand she clutched a small sack. It was the butter.
I looked behind me. The family carried on, completely unaware of what was happening. They chatted and laughed, just as they had been.
My attention returned to the woman and she continued to advance towards me. She was much closer now, but still a shadow.
I darted my eyes to the family. They were oblivious.
Quickly, I turned back to the woman.
But the landscape was no longer the prairie. Instead, it was my bedroom and the woman had come through my door. I was in my bed and her shadow approached. I was too scared to move. I tried to scream, but no sound emerged.
The woman kept walking, the bag of butter in her right hand, until she was at the side of my bed near my feet. She never broke her stride. Instead, she walked right through me.
When she was gone, I reached for the light on my night table. I threw the lamp on in a hurry and scanned the room. Everything appeared as it did when I had gone to bed earlier that evening.
This happened more than twenty years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I can only assume that I partially woke up as the woman walked towards me and that is how the view changed from the prairie to my childhood bedroom. At least I hope that's what happened. It is, after all, the only logical explanation.
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