The grandfather clock struck midnight, its chimes echoing through the house. Angelica raised her glass, holding it in the air until the sound had ceased. She brought it to her lips then, sipping at the red wine with a slight grimace. It was not her favourite drink, but it would be wrong for her to drink anything else.
She looked down at the phone on the coffee table next to her. It was not her turn this year. Any moment now …
The phone rang out loudly in the silence. Angelica waited for the second ring out of habit more than anything else – she was used to hovering a hand over the phone at work, in case the caller hung up – then picked up the receiver and held it tightly against her ear.
‘Hey, sis,’ the voice on the other end said. It sounded groggy.
‘Hey, bro,’ Angelica responded with a tired grin. ‘What are you drinking?’
‘It’s cheap,’ her brother replied, ‘and it’s red. And it’s nasty.’
This had become their routine, a kind of tradition. Every year on the eve of their mother’s death, they would sit up until midnight with a glass of their mother’s favourite red wine. Then one of them would call the other – predetermined by who had made the call the previous year – and they would talk until they had both finished their wine.
‘You know,’ Angelica had said to her brother at their mother’s funeral, ‘she told me before she died that she was worried we might not speak to one other as much now that both her and dad are gone. She said we both have our own families, our careers, and we live at opposite ends of the country …’
So they had agreed at the wake to dedicate that night every year to their mother, to make sure that her fears never became reality.