Who would call on Thanksgiving? Everyone was at home with family.
Except Vernon. Could it be him, calling from Alaska? She didn't move, and the phone rang and rang. When it didn't stop after ten rings, she felt positive it was him, could sense his presence in the room, looked down to see his arms gripping the armrest, the suntanned hair on his fingers, the fingernails that stayed black no matter how hard he scrubbed, his wedding band snug, just over the knuckle. Her wedding band, which she was now twirling with her thumb. Her arm was on the armrest now, her hand gripping the wood so tightly her skin drained of color as the phone rang and rang, Vernon on the other end at the other end of the country or the world, and only he could know that they might be returning from the lake at around this time, so he would let it ring and ring, hoping they might walk in at any moment. What would she say to him? What would he say? Would it stop ringing the minute she got up to answer?
The telephone was a heavy old model which sat beside the toaster. Kay could see it from where she sat in front of the big window, Vernon's favorite spot. She'd never heard the house so quiet, or the ring so loud, or urgent. It must have rung fifty times by now, and still it kept on. As she stubbed out her cigarette, she noticed her hands were shaking, shaking uncontrollably, and her stomach lurched and heaved.
She couldn't move. She wanted to yell into the phone, "You bastard! How could you leave us like this?" She wanted to hear him say, "I've had enough. You win, Kay; I'm coming home." She wanted to say, "I miss you, Vernon," for she missed him unbearably. She lit another cigarette, scarcely able to make the flame of the match connect with the tobacco, and still the phone rang. She couldn't stand it, picturing Vernon in some frozen phone booth, his glasses fogged, his hands ungloved and stiff with cold. She moved the chair back slowly, afraid that any sudden movement would stop the ringing. It was hard to stand. Her legs trembled so that she had to keep a hand on the tablecloth to steady herself as she made her way across the room. It might not be Vernon after all, she told herself. It could be a wrong number, or one of her relatives, or a friend of the children -- anyone at all.