by K Jobson
When she turned around from her fuzzy reflection on the grey sink, BAM—there he was, her husband of thirty-three years, sitting alone at the dinning table with the routine newspaper stretched in front of him, examining it with a combination of satisfied eyes and an unsatisfied mouth.
Her heart pounded audibly. She took a deep breath before she cleared her throat—louder than she thought—and that elicited a glance from over the crystal edge of his glasses, and his smile came the very next second. His sagging man-breasts and his thick hairy arms reminded her of the man she once loved.
She hummed beneath her nervous voice, and for an instant her hesitation was almost evident when she leaned back on the counter to still herself. The pounding sound, she thought as she looked unbelievably at him, trying to hold him in place with her withered eyes, trying to keep his ears mute by welcoming the solemn silence around her.
“You okay dear?” he said.
As if the most difficult question had landed on her face. She braced herself against her quivering face. She broke the waiting spell with a lazy smile. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
He resumed to his focus-zone and went back to perusing the newspaper. Now he was like a statue.
In her elegant black dress, Rose slyly tottered across the room. She was past the arch in the living room when a voice in her head warned her not to be brusque. The way his eyes always surprised her with their alacrity in observing her…
She stopped by the coffee table, and with trembling hands she rearranged the magazines. Through the corner of her eyes, she was aware of the main door where the soft knocking had started once more. Her daughter, pleading to her to come outside. No, not now, she thought, not like this. Not when your father is around.
Her husband is there, the thought once again sent shivers up her spine. But something was different this time; this time the spiders were colder, had more than eight legs, and somewhere in her brain they had caved in a lair.
She played with the ashtray, then leaned over and tilted the flowerpot. Enough now, she decided, I can leave now.
Her heart almost exploded out of her chest for the second time that morning when she turned around to have the silent face of her husband glide into her view. Without so much as a whisper he was barely a finger away from her. An ear-to-ear grin flanked his pallid face with his heavy brows resting over his small, unblinking eyes. His parted lips contained a shadow where his tongue was lost. “Where you going dear?” he asked, and her cramped jaw delayed the reply.
“Nowhere,” she managed.
Something clicked in her head, just where the icy cave of imponderables was; the click effuse a coppery tang and a raving voice came, reverberating; how can he be here…how can he be here…
His bulky body leapt forward as she instinctively shut her eyes and almost shuddered—she almost would have, had not his arms locked themselves around her. After a long blank moment, she realised he was hugging her.
“You look so tired,” he said, gripping her wrist to lead her back. “Don’t work so much,“ he sat in the same chair he’d been in and made her sit on his lap.
The dinning was smaller than she remembered, and smelled of chocolate powder. For a Monday morning, there was too much silence.
“Nothing,” she muttered in a slightly faltered tone of interrogation.
“I love you. Always have and always will,” he said as he wrapped his arms tightly around her.
“I love you,” he repeated with joyful eyes, “even though you are full of wrinkles and there is not a shred of sex left on you.”
He let go of her and gave a steady gaze; a brush of his kiss scraped her cheek; an involuntary sigh escaped her.
“I decided to love you forever when I realised that you were the only person who actually loved me for who I truly was.” He bowed and rested his jaw on her shoulder, his breath chilled her neck.
For a moment he stayed like that. When he raised his head, through the blur of her eyes, she saw his face for a distorted reflection of herself.
A sharp pinch of his thick fingers dug pain in her shoulder, she winced to mitigate it but got the worst of it. When she opened her eyes, a fierce look seemed to be shivering his eyes.
“You like it, do you not?” he said in a gasp, with a brittle smile on his face.
She nodded, and gave him a better version of his smile.
The faraway door rattled of a pounding fist and Rose bolted upright. She almost jumped, had not her husband pinned her down with excruciating strength. It was her daughter, the other one, the one more boisterous and assertive from birth, telling her to come out; they had done enough waiting.
The husband tsked. He seemed mildly disappointed.
“I need to remind you of something, dear flower. I once asked to honestly tell me what you were most afraid of.” His face was blooming again, “And you said ‘you’. I told you I liked that, I didn’t want you to be afraid of anything else. Only me. And you told me that you loved it as well. Remember?”
The window right across, hidden behind the drapes crashed…or almost crashed but Rose was certain for a second that it had shattered, but the unceasing noise convinced her that it was her daughter again. She winced, and then her daughter spoke. The lurid words jammed in the icy cave of her head, quaking it.
“JUST GODDAMN COME OUT NOW. THAT PIG IS DEAD. JUST BURY HIM AND LIVE YOUR LIFE FOR ONCE. WHAT’S FUCKING LEFT OF IT ANYWAY.”
She looked at her husband, and at the fact that he was there. A slow-motioning, sarcastic smile stretched on his face and in that moment she truly remembered him as she had met him.
“Don’t,” she said with a shy smile and a confident voice. “Children never grow from jealously.” And this time, she rested her head on his shoulder.
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K Jobson is an part-time writer who writes to be relieved.