She ran a hand over the piano her parents had purchased back when Jared had been taking lessons, when she had been just a baby, no more than six months old, her mother used to say. Following her older brother, she and Valentine had been the only ones to take lessons, though both Jared and Valentine had quit after a few years. Calliope was the only one who had kept up with it. She’d had plans of studying music in college, but now that was going down the drain. There would be no college for her. Ever.
The grandfather clock in the front hallway struck nine o’clock, ringing out its deep tone nine times. She glanced up at the clock hanging on the living room wall just as she heard the clatter of her mother’s heels on the hardwood stairs. Her parents were the last to leave the house, having sent off their other children a couple of hours before. Calliope wasn’t sure where they were heading, but she knew it was going to be romantic.
“Sweetie?” Marlene called out. “Where are you?’
“Here I am,” Calliope said as she walked into the front hall, where the stairs were located and where her parents were standing looking around for their daughter.
Marlene and Brian were dressed to the nines. Her mother was in a silk evening gown, crimson with purple flowers embroidered down one side, with a dark, furry stole around her shoulders and high strappy heels showcasing her red painted toe nails. Her dark red hair was in a simple style: half of it pulled back and clipped up and the rest of it curling around her shoulders. Her father was in a black tuxedo, his shoes shining, and his hair combed perfectly. He had a crimson rose pinned to his lapel and a red handkerchief sticking out of his breast pocket.
Calliope smiled at them, swallowing down her tears. She would miss her parents, the last people she would ever see before she died. She had already said good bye to all of her siblings, but this would be the hardest. These were her parents, the people she should have taken care of when they became elderly and she was grown and married with a couple of kids of her own. But now they were all going to die and Calliope would never be able to fulfill her daughterly duties.
“You look wonderful,” Calliope said, her eyes shining with unshed tears.
Marlene gave her daughter, her most dutiful child, a watery smile before sweeping her up into a tight embrace. Calliope deeply inhaled the lemony scent of her mother’s shampoo, a smell she would miss, but hoped she would remember it until her dying breath. She nestled her cheek against her mother’s soft skin and felt a tear against her own warming skin.
“Are you sure you’re going to be okay all alone?” Marlene whispered into her daughter’s ear. “You know you can come along with us or go to Perkins Stadium.”
“I know, Mom,” Calliope said, just as softly, as she pulled away slightly to look into her mother’s vibrant blue eyes. “I’ll be okay. I just want to be home for midnight.”
Marlene released her daughter from her tight grip with her husband’s insistence. The ever reticent Brian gave his daughter a final tight hug and a teary look before taking his wife’s elbow.
“If you need us, call us,” Brian said, his voice deep with emotion belying his stoic expression. “We’ll come home right away to be with you.”
Calliope shook her head and linked her hands behind her back, trying desperately to blink away her tears. The last thing she wanted was for her mother to suddenly change her mind at the sight of her daughter’s tears and stay home instead of going out. “No, that’s okay, Dad. You’ve been raising kids for years. You deserve some time to yourselves.” She gave her beloved parents a small smile. “I guess you could consider this your retirement without kids. We don’t need you anymore, now that the world is ending. Don’t worry about me. Have fun and enjoy the few hours we have left.”
Marlene clearly did not want to leave her last child remaining in the house. Even Natalia was with a couple of friends, trying to have as normal a sleepover as possible. Calliope was the only child Marlene had ever worried about, the quiet homebody, as she called her.
Calliope could see the indecision etched across her mother’s face. Her body wavered slightly, both wanting to stay and leave. She bit her deep red lips as her pupils flared with concern. Brian moved a hand to his wife’s back and murmured something in her ear, putting Marlene into a deeper indecisive state.
“Go,” Calliope gently urged, waving her hands as though to shoo her parents out the front door.
With a few last looks, Brian gently urged Marlene out the door and he shut it behind them after a final look over the shoulder. Calliope didn’t have to, but her old habits had her locking the front door after them.
Humming to herself to prevent the waterworks from turning on, she wandered through the massive house, tinkering with objects here and there, playing a few notes on the piano, taking a few bites of a chocolate chip cookie. She was just trying to do a little of everything that she had ever enjoyed doing and what she had hoped to one day have time to do.
Finally, at nine-thirty, it was time. The clocks were getting on her nerves, ticking down the minutes and seconds to her death. She walked into Nathan’s room and picked up his old bat from when he had been in Little League. He had been a great hitter, but had grown bored with it, so had stopped after a couple of years. Fortunately for Calliope, he had kept his bat.
Hefting it, she swung it around a couple of times. She’d never touched one of these before, but had watched plenty of guys swinging one around. Her father and brothers loved baseball and she’d grown up watching here and there. She would miss those times, but now she really wanted to enjoy some quiet reading time, and getting rid of every clock was going to help her accomplish just that. She just couldn’t stand the incessant tick tock echoing throughout the huge, empty house. She had never before been alone in the massive house, and now it was a little eerie and much too quiet for her tastes.
Calliope stalked out of her brother’s room after having smashed his alarm clock. He wouldn’t need it anymore. He would also never be home again, so he wouldn’t even know. She glanced up and down the hallway, wondering which way to go. To the right was her parents’ room as well as Natalia’s. The others were down the left side, including hers. Shrugging to herself and dragging the bat behind her as she walked, she headed for her parents’ room so the bat could meet her father’s alarm clock and her mother’s vintage little nightstand clock that had been a family heirloom for generations upon generations. With no one left on Earth, there would be no need to pass down heirlooms.
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