He was finished talking. Just utterly and completely done. He stood without looking at her and walked to their room. The shutters were open, the breeze heavy with ocean and rain. She had loved this house when he’d found it. For her. She had loved the water’s proximity, the jagged coastal rock, and how the mountain rising behind them lent caution to weekenders and corporate wives alike. She had loved the little school, with its tiny classes and grateful parents. Perfect she had called it. All of it. Perfect had been their first five years here, building a life together far away from her past.
“Hey, Barn,” David, smiled. His head felt like glass, like the sliding Jeep’s windshield curved taut against the earth, fractures spreading music from its edges. The old black lab had hauled Selena’s filthy wetsuit up onto the bed and was fast asleep on top of it, snoring and generating foul smells. The tips of his paws twitched with dreaming. “Good idea.”
David lay the parka down and curled up to Barney’s warmth, pulling the edge of the bedspread over both of them. Camping on the king sized, silk-topped bed, he rested his cheek on Barney’s ribs and stared out the window. There were beautiful things on the pale yellow walls, paintings picked by newlyweds to mark each of their vacations. Beautiful gifts, carvings and sculpture, the newlyweds had purchased for each other to mark anniversaries, promotions. He raised a bicep to block them, keep them out of his peripheral, touching his fingers to the old dog’s collar. Another gift, a make-up gift, after another fight a year ago when David had brought up starting a family and Selena had screamed that they already had one. And so he had given her an antique Tiffany box, green glass and bronze pine needles, with a red leather collar for Barney inside.
“Beautiful,” David mouthed, because she was and because she had said that, grinning with her whole mouth and her eyes and her body alive and joyful. She had been so relieved.
He rolled to his back and thought about sleeping. Was it late enough for sleep? If he looked to his right, he would see the alarm clock. And also the pine needle box, and the Ake Lianga print, and her mahogany step chest dresser. He would see their life, with Selena standing in its doorway, their future opaque behind her. He chose the window, instead, and the mud on Barn’s fur. He chose to watch the wind foam the ocean, timing his breath to the lighthouse sweep.
The robe smelled like earth and salt when she raised it to wrap more tightly to her body, the collar close around her jaw. She leaned her back against the doorjamb and watched him work to calm himself. It would almost be worth it, to try to live this life with his severed from hers. If she could believe that the amputation would heal painless and clean for him, she would do it. She would raise a knife and cut neatly through that invisible flesh. She would become transparent, faded and bleeding, at peace in the knowledge that David was saved. If she could believe that it would not hurt him.
Fatigue like resignation made the air thick around her. She stumbled to their bed and stretched along the length of him. The fur lining of the parka collar tickled her ears while her fingers reached listlessly, as though scrambling through mud, for the edge of their rose patterned bedspread.
© Desi S. Valentine, 2012
There hasn’t been quite enough light in the darkness around here, lately, and I am ever grateful for your indulgence. If you would like to read this story from its beginning, you can find it here.