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THE COTTAGE LIFE ~ A story for @RBwood’s Word Count Podcast

The prompt for the latest episode of R.B. Wood’s Word Count Podcast asked that we use April in the setting AND the picture below, taken by friend and fellow writer, Bill Kirton.

My story inspiration

I write a lot about women, loneliness, and murder. They are themes that haunt me daily as I work on my current trilogy. For a short story, however, it’s not practical to squeeze in too many ideas; it can become convoluted. For “The Cottage Life,” murder is not a central theme, but an ambiguous by-product. I hope you like how it turned out.

You can also listen to me reading the story on episode 65 of R.B. Wood’s podcast.

flourish

Spring in this part of the world could hardly be called warm. The snow has melted due to monsoon-like rains, but it’s left a chill in the air. The dewy, mild temperatures normally associated with this time of year are buried along with the crocuses.

My fingers tap against the steering wheel as I grip more tightly than necessary. Classical music intended to soothe begins to irritate me. I turn off the radio, preferring quiet. The four-hour drive outside of the city gives me time to reflect on last April. The cues from family and friends indicate they think I’m still grieving.

I wear my mask well.

A year ago, I lived with my husband, Mike, in a small cottage on a lakefront property. The house wasn’t much to look at, compared to other homes on the lake, but the land it sat on was worth a great deal. All the lakefront homes within five miles of where we lived had appreciated two, three, four times over the last decade. We held on to our investment despite numerous offers to sell from greedy realtors and other interested buyers. I knew that if I was patient, the real estate market would work in my favour.

I put up a fight initially when my husband suggested we sell our suburban bungalow in the city. He brought up the subject as we sat down for dinner one night, a home-cooked meal of steak and potatoes, fresh baked garlic bread, and a side of green beans.

“Come on, Beth,” he said. “We don’t take advantage of half the things the city offers. Let’s sell while the market is hot and use the profits to winterize the cottage. That way, we can live up north all year round.” He slathered more butter on his bread, his fourth slice.

“How about our friends?” My brows furrowed.

“Our friends will just have to make a trip to visit us. They love coming to the cottage in the summer. Everyone hibernates during the winter, so what’s the difference if we live here or at the cottage?”

“I suppose so …,” I said, “But we’d have to downsize. The cottage is tiny.”

“So, we downsize.” Mike cut into his fatty steak and swallowed the piece, barely chewing it. “Besides, we’ve finally finished paying off our debts. Why carry the expenses of two properties? We can only live in one place at a time, anyway.”

Yes, we had finished paying off our debts, but what he neglected to say, was that they were his debts, not mine. Months earlier, we made the final payment on a loan that was used to pay off legal fees from an investment that had gone sour. That was after I cashed out my retirement savings to offset the bills. I resented using my funds to pay off his mistake, but we were married. What was his was mine, and that included his debts.

“I don’t know about selling,” I said. “It’s a big change at this stage in our lives.”

Mike finished off his steak and potatoes. The beans on his plate remained untouched. “Sure, it’s a change, but you’re always saying we need to be open-minded, so I’m taking a page from your book.”

I sighed. “How much do you think we can get for this place?”

My husband burped and wiped a napkin over his double chin. “I’ll call Bob tomorrow and ask him. What’s for dessert?”

+++

Living in a cottage highlighted the issues in our marriage. The problems existed before, but the self-imposed isolation magnified it all the more. Mike loved sports, so he spent most days glued to the television. It amazed me how he could seamlessly change the channel from hockey to football to basketball. It was endless. I would putter around the six hundred square foot space doing odd jobs, reading when the TV wasn’t on full blast, and cooking. The biggest part of my day was preparing Mike’s meals.

And so we lived in that cottage, though lived would be too strong a word. Existed might be a better word. Or rather, coexisted. If Mike and I said a hundred words between us during our waking hours, that would be an interactive day. We tolerated each other, but that was it. After nearly forty years of marriage, should I expect more?

When an agent offered us $1.5 million for our cottage after we were there less than a year, Mike suggested we sell.

“We’re still settling in here and now you want to sell? And where are we going to go?” I said.

“With that much money, we can go anywhere. How about Southwest Florida? You know Murray and Betty love it in Fort Myers.”

“I’d rather die here than move to Florida with all of those blue-haired ladies. All they do is wait for their 5 PM buffets. I wouldn’t fit in with them.”

Mike must have heard the annoyance in my voice. He grabbed the converter and switched on the TV, didn’t even look at me as he spoke. “You know, you’ve never fit in with my friends’ wives. You think you’re better than them because you’re a vegetarian?”

“What?” I shouted. “That’s ridiculous!”

“Is it? We hardly ever get invited for dinners because they’re all worried about what you can’t eat. You need to eat more, Beth!”

That was one of our last conversations before Mike dropped dead of a heart attack a few weeks later. The doctor said his lack of activity and overeating was a lethal combination. You may say I killed him slowly with my cooking. You may say that, but it wasn’t against the law to make sure my husband ate well.

+++

I pull up to the unmarked area where there is a clearing of conifers that offer light and shade in varying degrees. There are large rocks nearby, but they won’t be a problem to remove.

I step out of the car and breathe in the crisp, fresh air. The sun streams through the canopy of trees, and I tilt my head toward a warm ray of light. A few minutes later, the sound of snapping twigs draws my attention down the hill. A tall man approaches, carrying a folder. “Beth?”

I recognize his face from his realty listings. “Nice to meet you, Jim.”

He shakes my hand firmly. “I parked below,” he says, pointing in the general direction from where he came. “I thought to check out the surrounding area for you. You never know what might offer you the best view.”

“Yes, of course. This is very different from Lake Mishog, where I sold my old cottage,” I say.

Jim looks at me with empathy in his eyes. “True, and I’m sorry to hear about your husband.”

I nod, but say nothing.

“Well, you won’t be disappointed here,” Jim says, as if to reassure me I made the right decision. “This area is underdeveloped and a much better deal than anything you will find on Lake Mishog. You can build the cottage of your dreams here.”

I lower my gaze. “I’m looking forward to it,” I say.

flourish

Thank you for reading and/or listening. Feel free to leave a comment or question. Feedback, whether good or bad is always welcome.

~eden

**

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Filed under Short Stories & Poetry

LOVE AND DEATH ~ A story for @RBwood’s Word Count Podcast

The prompt for the latest episode of R.B. Wood’s Word Count Podcast asked that we use February in the setting AND the picture below:

red rose

My story inspiration

Given the prompts, it was almost too obvious to write something about Valentine’s Day, but I did so anyway. As my stories usually have a twist, (and I’m a bit twisted myself), “Love and Death” became the result.

You can also listen to me reading the story on episode 63 of R.B. Wood’s podcast.

Hope you enjoy. 😉

flourish

When February rolls around, I think of two things: love and death. They happened at the same time for me many years ago, and I cannot unlink their connection in my brain any more than I can sever my arm from my shoulder.

Actually, the latter would probably be easier to do.

How many years has it been? I’ve lost count. If it were not for the calendar hanging by my bed, I would not know what day it was.

It was supposed to happen on Valentine’s Day, going on a decade ago now. It was the day my love and I had planned to be together. After so many false starts, which included a death in his wife’s family, and my husband’s surgery, we finally saw nothing else to delay our union. We decided on Valentine’s Day as our official “coming out” day. It was perfect. How could it be any more romantic? Two people who had loved each other privately for years would now finally be together.

I don’t recall how we determined that I would tell my husband first. At the time, it wasn’t important for me who made the initial move. I just knew that by the week of February 14th, we would no longer have to keep our relationship a secret. After that critical step, we would separate and file for divorce. We would try to make it as painless as possible, even joked that maybe our respective spouses might not be too upset about it. After all, neither of our marriages had been on solid ground for some time.

We had decided not to reveal the affair to our spouses. What was the point? There was any number of reasons I could use to end my marriage. I ended up telling my husband I was tired, tired of his apathy. It was true. After so many years, his lack of affection had whittled away at my self-confidence. The kids were gone, and it seemed like he no longer needed me. At one point, I even thought that maybe he was having an affair, but he wasn’t the type. He was a workaholic and much too timid to seek out another relationship.

No, he had just gotten lazy. He took me for granted. It wasn’t a new problem. We’d gone for counseling for this very issue only a couple of years after we got married, but old patterns are hard to break. I know. I fell into them myself. We grew further and further apart until I became numb. Then Jack came into my life and everything changed.

I meant something to someone who appreciated me. And Jack was that someone, and he was so appreciative. God … he was amazing in every way—boyish and playful outside the bedroom, powerful and insatiable inside of it. I had never felt so alive than when I was with him.

* * * *

At Jack’s request, I saw him the day before Valentine’s day. It seemed odd that he had texted me instead of responding to my lengthy email from several nights earlier, an email in which I explained how happy I was that I had told my husband about us. I went into great detail about what I had said. Jack and I were always good in that way. We didn’t keep any secrets from each other. It did not alarm me that he didn’t respond immediately to my email. He and his wife had taken a weekend away to their cottage. It was there that he had planned to break the news about us to her.

When Jack and I met in the apartment I had secretly rented for our meetings, he appeared like he always did—happy to see me. He came with a bouquet of red roses in hand and kissed me. I felt loved by him, like I always did. I remember placing the flowers in a vase, taking my time to relish the moment of not having to hide anymore. We could finally live our relationship in the open, or so I thought.

My memory is fuzzy from the time Jack spoke that night. I don’t recall hearing the words, but I know he must have said them.

I can’t leave my wife.

She said she would kill herself if I did.

I’m sorry. I am so sorry.

His words hit me like a slap that resonated throughout the echoey apartment. I remember touching my cheek as heat rose to cover it. I picked up the shears I had used to cut the stems of the roses and then everything went black.

To this day, I have no recollection of what happened afterward that evening. They said I killed Jack in a fit of rage; I’ve accepted that I must have. I just wish I could remember it. It’s hard to imagine I could do such a thing, but perhaps love does crazy things to people.

flourish

Thank you for reading and/or listening. Feel free to leave a comment or question. Feedback, whether good or bad is always welcome.

~eden

**

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SELFIE LOVE ~ A story written with Bill Kirton (@carver22) for @RBwood’s Word Count Podcast

The prompt for R.B. Wood’s FIRST Word Count Podcast of 2017 asked that we use January in the setting AND the picture below:

wcpc 62 prompt

And … I didn’t write the story on my own.

You may recall I collaborated with Bill Kirton, the esteemed Scottish author for a story titled: “The Wrong Shoes.” That was already two years ago!

Since then, Bill and I have wanted to write together again, and we’ve done it. Hopefully, we will do it again this year.

This story is written in two different voices as an e-mail exchange. Bill started it, and we went from there. Neither of us knew where the other was going. It was both fun and a challenge to write this saucy tale. You can learn more about the process on Bill’s blog.

I’m excited to write for R.B. Wood’s podcast again. The new year brings with it many creative opportunities, and I look forward to sharing my writing with you.

Enjoy “Selfie Love.” You can listen to Bill and me reading the story on episode 62 of R.B. Wood’s podcast.

eden and bill selfie love

flourish

Sorry, Laura, I don’t get it. I mean, it’s been, what, 2 months? And not a word. Then suddenly, you send this. The photo. I know, I know, we said no commitment, no follow-ups. And that was right. I knew there’d be hell to pay with Alice if she knew. I mean, wives get understandably pissed off with that sort of thing. You made it pretty clear it’d be the same with your Tom. They wouldn’t understand. Of course they wouldn’t. I get all that, but I don’t know, I thought we’d at least keep in touch somehow. But not like this. An email, no words, just this attachment. What the hell’s it mean?

At first, I thought it was maybe just your way of saying you remembered a great night, a great way to start the year. Just the two of us, the house by the water. But I don’t remember us taking a shot like this. There were much better views. I mean, when the tide’s out like that, the estuary’s… well, just mud. Then I remembered, we did take some shots from here, but we were just fooling around. They were all selfies. So I looked through them. Great memories, certainly. You look as gorgeous as ever. And we’re both grinning like idiots. But then it struck me that one of them was taken from exactly that point on the road, the same point as the one you sent. Not just approximately, but exactly there. The single phone wire top right, the rail bottom left, the angle… If it was just a shot of the view, it’s a helluva coincidence.

But it’s not a coincidence, is it? It’s the selfie. You’ve just photoshopped us out of it. Used bits of the other shots to paste over us. And you’ve done a helluva good job. But why? Is it a fancy way of saying it won’t happen again? No more nights or weekends? I want to believe you sent it for good reasons, not scary ones. So humour me, will you? Remember, I have a very small brain, so I need things spelled out for me. What’s it mean? Please.

Love and lots of our kisses

Ross.

*****

Ross,

You’re right. This is a strange way to reconnect … and I’m sorry.

I had this email in my “Drafts” for days. Frustration, more than anything made me finally hit the send button. Now, I wish I hadn’t. I wish I’d had the courage not to follow up as we’d agreed. I hate myself for my weakness.

This cryptic photo is the umpteenth iteration of this email, started more than a week ago. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent trying to find the right words, and in the end, there were no words. I thought the picture would explain it better.

I had hoped you would understand. You were always in tune with my moods, even in the beginning when we were only speaking through emails and messaging. It’s why I originally agreed to Skype. What we had is something I’ve never had with any other man.

I’m saying this not because I blame you. Our time together brought me more happiness than I’ve had in my marriage in years, but now … I’m being punished. How fucking selfish of me for pursuing my own needs!

Oh Ross, don’t you see? If only I could erase us from that freezing day in January as easily as I photo-shopped us out of the picture, I would.

Forget about me. Forget about us.

Be the stronger one, and don’t contact me again. Please.

*****

Laura,

I’m sorry if you thought the long gap meant that asking me to be strong had worked. No chance, I’m afraid. No, it’s the same as it was for you. Different versions of this email have come and gone. The first one came out of panic, anger, said all sorts of despicable things that would have guaranteed it was over – you and me, I mean. Then the pathetic self-pity kicked in and I was pleading, begging – a completely unlovable, cowardly wimp. Thank God I didn’t send them. I hope I’ll be able to keep all that in check this time because I need to understand why. I can’t get past that word. Why? Why? Why? It just keeps on eating at me.

I’ve re-read your note so many times I could probably recite it from memory, but there’s so much of it I don’t understand. That January night seems decades away so maybe my recollections are skewed, but I don’t remember agreeing that there wouldn’t be any more. We were a bit quiet at the end but I thought that was because the weekend was over and we’d be going our separate ways – but not forever. I’m obviously not always in tune with your moods as much as you say. I certainly didn’t pick up on that one. Maybe I only ever saw what I wanted to see. You said yourself that us being together brought you happiness. It did. That’s what I saw.

You know, I thought I was joking about having a small brain but trying to decipher your email makes me think it’s probably true. In different circumstances, we’d have thought the symbolism of erasing a couple from a selfie was brilliant, but not when it’s us. God, we’ve been so careful, even with one another. Remember how we resisted that word ‘love’ for so long. Joked about it only being lust. Love was dangerous, threatened everything. But we were just fooling ourselves. In the end, it had to be said. And it was true. Still is. And part of the deal was that we’d only let ourselves say it as long as no one else was hurt by it. It’s been hard sometimes to hide it, but we’ve managed it. None of our friends suspect anything. It’s not going to be nearly as easy hiding the ache there’ll be if we do stop.

I’m just rambling. I don’t know what to say, how to convince you. You say you’re being punished – how? What’s punishing you? Who’s punishing you?

Sweet Laura, I don’t want to be the one who makes you miserable. If the problem is things I’ve said or done, tell me please. If the only way to take away the hurt is to say goodbye, I’ll say it. I won’t like it, but I’ll say it. Remember when I told you about that bit from Byron? I wasn’t being a pseud or pretentious. I meant it. It was something I read at school. I must have been 16, maybe 17, and it summed up exactly what I wanted. And it’s what I had, have with you.

Oh that the desert were my dwelling place

With one fair spirit for my minister.

Then I could quite forget the human race

And, hating no one, love but only her.

Corny? Maybe. Melodramatic, yeah, probably. But that’s what you are – my one fair spirit.

If you don’t reply, I’ll know it’s finished. I won’t write again, won’t ask any more questions or be so bloody needy. But I’ll never forget you.

All, yes, all my love.

Ross.

*****

Oh Ross …

I haven’t been able to stop crying since I got your note. I’ve told my husband I’ve come down with a bad cold. Thankfully, he doesn’t suspect otherwise. Truth is, I can’t dislodge you from my heart, no matter how hard I’ve tried. Until I read your email, I was barely functioning.

When I wrote to you, I was so confused. I didn’t see another option but to end it with us. I’m in a difficult place, but my tears haven’t all been sad ones. Reading your words gave me joy as well, especially the part where you said you still love me. Secretly, I must’ve hoped you would write back even though I asked you not to. I also love the piece from Byron. You see Ross, you do know me, even better than I know myself these days.

I’m so sorry I caused you pain. I never intended to. I just hurt so much after coming back from our weekend. With you, I discovered what it was like to feel true happiness. Our time together was bliss, and I’m still shocked that we managed to meet. We went from emailing one another to Skype to finally spending the night together. How many people get such an opportunity, and how many actually take it?

And though I’ve always believed that we should want what we have, I couldn’t resist you … so here we are.

You once asked me why I never called your wife by her name. I don’t think I ever responded, but I’d like to tell you now. The reason is because she and I don’t have a relationship. She’s your wife. If I were to use her name, it would bring her to life in my head, as if she were connected to me somehow, which she isn’t. And that goes for my husband as well. I never mention his name when I talk to you.

We’ve been so careful to keep our spouses and friends outside the world we’ve created. It’s just been the two of us … until now.

I waited as long as I did before I sent my first email because I had to be sure.

Ross, I’m pregnant with our child.

*****

OK darling, I haven’t given it enough time to think this through but I can imagine how anxious you are to know my reaction. Don’t worry, it’s good. More than good, it’s bloody brilliant. But that’s just the beginning. We can’t do this through emails. We need to be together to talk about it, back at the house by the river. Now, or as soon as you can make it.

You didn’t say what you thought about it. Hard to, really, there are so many obstacles in the way now. I think there might have been a time, when I was a lot younger, when this would’ve scared the hell out of me. I don’t like to think of what I might have done. Now, though… Well, I just hope we want the same thing, but I’ll go along with whatever you decide. It’s your body.

It won’t be easy, untangling ourselves from the lives we’ve lived so far, but we can do it. We have to. I feel bad, very bad, about how it’ll hit Alice and Tom. There’s no way round that. It’s not like erasing them from a selfie. So much for not hurting anybody. But we’ll make it as easy as we can for them. In the end, love’s such a selfish thing, but it’s also a gift, the best thing in the world. And we have it, and now there’s a chance I’ll have not just one, but two fair spirits. We can make it. We can make it.

flourish

Thank you for reading and/or listening. Feel free to leave a comment or question. Feedback, whether good or bad is always welcome.

~eden

**

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Filed under Short Stories & Poetry, Writing Joint Ventures

SCENE FROM A BAR ~ My story for @RBwood’s #WordCountPodcast

Congratulations to author, R.B. Wood on his 60th episode of the Wordcount Podcast! 

You can hear me read this story on: Episode #60 of R.B. Wood’s THE WORD COUNT PODCAST.

The prompt asked that we use 3 words in the story:

Charming | Key | Computer

STORY INSPIRATION: I never frequented bars in my single days, but on occasion when I dine out alone, I enjoy sitting at the bar. It’s a great place to “people watch.”

~ eden

* * * *

I hate this place, too noisy, too busy, yet my geeky brother-in-law insisted it was the best bar in town. He should know, he said. He used to work here before he moved on to better things.

In every corner, people are talking fast, acting smart. I feel out of place even though I’ve been here before, but at the time, I knew exactly what I wanted. Today, I don’t know what’s going to happen.

The place caters to all types, though a woman with a halter top that barely covers her ample breasts seems out of place. I was once her age. I probably looked as silly as she does in that get-up, but like her, I must have feigned obliviousness. A twenty-something is now chatting her up, and they’re both laughing. Another man approaches them and asks a question before he moves on. This man is older, full beard, seems a lot more aware. He walks with purpose and his eyes dart across the room behind his Buddy Holly glasses.

Hipster, I think to myself.

A woman catches his eye. She is completely different from halter top girl. Well dressed in a suit and sophisticated, she looks like a banker or a lawyer. You can tell she’s serious too. She knows exactly what she wants and has no time to fool around. I wish I was in her shoes. When the hipster approaches her, they exchange a few words and he is definitely interested. He nods quickly and gestures for her to follow him. They move toward one of the many busy tables occupied by patrons. There is only one free seat and she takes it, setting her briefcase by her feet. They start talking for a bit before she pulls out her cell phone and shows him something on the screen. He gesticulates with his hands, then touches his ear like he’s playing a game of charades. I almost burst out laughing.

Three words.

First word.

Sounds like.

Bird.

Is it a bird?

Is it a plane?

Wait, now he’s sticking up his index finger while he says “Just a minute, I’ll be right back.”

“Sure,” she says and returns her gaze to her cell, swiping the screen back and forth. She seems content to wait.

My imagination is active today. I must be bored or nervous or both. I’m waiting for my man to return. Unlike the hipster servicing the businesswoman, my guy isn’t quite as committed or attentive to me. He excused himself fifteen minutes ago and has not returned. For the brief time after I shared my story when I sat down in front of him, he nodded and his eyes lit up. He asked a couple of key questions before stepping away.

I want to remain hopeful. That’s all I can do.

“Miss Hermeez?”

I swing around in my chair to face the man pulling up a seat in front of me. His main features are a jutting chin covered in peach fuzz and pretentious wire-rimmed glasses atop a Roman nose. He wants to look older than he is, but it’s not working—not on me anyway.

“Oh … hi, you’re back.” A sigh of relief escapes my lips. “Actually, the “H” is not pronounced.”

“Huh?” He looks at me like I have a third eye.

“My name is Hermes. The ‘H’ is silent. It’s French, like the designer.”

He stiffens his back and takes a deep breath. His vacant eyes tell me he’s never heard of Hermes.

“All righty then,” he says and continues in a robotic tone, “Miss ah … Miss ahhh … Air Meez.”

I decide against correcting him again. Charming, he is not.

So, here I am at the Apple Store genius bar, and across from me is Billy, who can’t even say my name properly. He’s obviously no genius. If he were, I wouldn’t still be sitting here.

“I’m afraid your laptop is now a boat anchor,” Billy says. “There’s nothing we can do. I hope you had everything backed up to an external hard drive.”

I bite down on my lower lip, and the room begins to spin. I see hipster dude walk out from behind the genius bar carrying a box. It looks like the latest iPhone. A wall of colorful accessories expands and contracts like it’s about to explode. The noise inside the store turns to a dead silence. I’m drowning in perspiration. It dots my back and rises to the surface of my forehead, then begins dripping down my face.

If Steve Jobs were still alive …

“Miss?” Billy says.

His voice snaps me back to attention.

“Are you all right?” He suddenly looks concerned.

“No … no, I’m not!” The sound of the room is reawakened by my voice. “This isn’t just my computer, it’s my life. If you’re going to give me bad news, you can’t say it like that. A little small talk at least, but this …”

Billy dips his fuzzy chin, and I half expect something snarky to come out of his over-entitled millennial mouth.

“Yes, Miss Hermes. I’m sorry to be so blunt. I just thought you would want to know. Did you …?” He drops his gaze again. “Were you able to save everything before your computer shut down?”

I swallow hard, shake my head slowly and feel tears welling in my eyes. Billy looks horrified and squirms in his seat. He jumps up, almost knocking his chair over.

“I’m going to call my manager,” he says. “I want a second opinion.” He holds up his palms toward me as if to say Hang tight, help is on the way!

Before I can say another word, he’s run off.

I pull myself together. I’ve never been fond of bars, especially genius bars.

Thank you for reading.

Feel free to leave a comment or question. Feedback, whether good or bad is always welcome.

~eden

**

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Comfortably Numb ~ My story for @RBwood’s #WordCountPodcast

You can also hear me read this story on: Episode #59 of R.B. Wood’s THE WORD COUNT PODCAST.

The prompt asked that we use 3 words in the story:

NEWSPAPER | CIGARETTE | SCOTCH

NOTE: This story is excerpted and rewritten from a longer one, which I wrote earlier this year. It is partly inspired by a friend going through a difficult life change, and of course, by Pink Floyd.

~ eden

* * * *

I’ve let go of so much. The kids are gone, moved away to University. They don’t need me anymore. My husband, Mike, still works. Someone has to pay the bills. He doesn’t need me either, but he puts up with me. I suppose it’s better than being alone, but my guess is it’s only marginally better for him. We navigate around each other without saying much. It’s not comfortable, but somehow we put up with each other. Complacency settles in after nearly thirty years of marriage, and with it, a dull ache fills my days.

It wasn’t always this way, but I remember exactly when everything changed. Six months ago, I picked up the Sunday New York Times like I did every week and read another study about climate change. I was a concerned citizen most of the time, but that day I thought: Why the hell should I care anymore? I’ll be long gone when the earth blows up. Even my grandchildren’s children won’t be around.

In that same paper, another article praised the benefits of alcohol and how previous studies had been overly cautious. In fact, scientists now encouraged drinking for middle-aged adults. Three to four glasses a day—beer, wine, liquor—it didn’t matter. Good for the heart and an excellent way to relieve stress. Next thing you know, they’ll be touting cigarettes as the new health fad!

I threw the newspaper across the room.

Garbage! All of it, garbage! I couldn’t believe anything anymore.

Something in me must have snapped because nothing was the same after that.

I was not the same.

*   *   *   *

Hunger wakes me up, but I don’t get out of bed immediately. After drifting in and out of sleep for what seems like hours, I make my way downstairs. It’s already close to noon.

Dishes and a frying pan balance precariously atop the counter next to an empty sink—Mike’s bacon and eggs from last night’s dinner, his cereal from this morning.

The kitchen is in need of a thorough cleaning. Why my husband does not load the dishwasher is beyond me. The appliance does not exist for him. It’s the same with the laundry. He must think clean underwear and shirts just magically appear in his closet. I resent picking up after him, but he’s right about one thing—it’s me who has changed, not him.

I have not wanted to do anything in months. Even the thought of a few household chores hollows me. My brain feels pickled. Most days, I walk around sweaty and lethargic.

The light on the home phone blinks red. It’s been blinking for weeks now. I know the messages are for me, but I don’t want to listen to them. I wish people would stop worrying about me. I don’t dare turn on my computer. The thought of unanswered e-mails in my inbox makes my stomach lurch.

Something burbles to life and I spin in its direction. My feet shuffle in a robotic motion to find the source. The buzz continues, and I register it’s coming from my purse. I snatch the bag off the dining room table and empty its contents on the floor. My cell phone vibrates on the ceramic tile like a small, frightened animal. I grab it in a panic.

“Hello, hello.”

“When did you get up?” says the voice on the other end of the line. Mike’s words jolt me to attention.

“Right after you left for work.” I’m on the defensive already.

“Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure, why?”

A pause. “I called earlier, that’s why.”

“Well … I must have been in the washroom, didn’t hear the phone.” I wonder if my friendly housewife voice fools him. “Did you want something?”

“Yes,” he barks. “Iron a few shirts for me. I need them for meetings this week.”

Please would be nice, I think to myself.

Mike’s words pinch, but I keep my thoughts to myself and somehow manage a cheerful, “Yeah, sure.” That’s how we talk to each other—no nuanced arguments, no fine points to be made.

I hang up and rage nudges up my stomach. It lodges in my chest like indigestion.

“How dare he talk to me that way?” I mutter to myself. Now I have to clean the house and iron. I loathe ironing.

*   *   *   *

It’s Mike’s night out with the boys, and I manage to throw together a dinner of lasagna (from frozen of course) along with a salad (out a bag). He doesn’t seem to care. His mind is on watching the game and drinking with his friends anyway.

Now that he’s gone, I plod to the kitchen and crack an entire tray of ice cubes into the sink. I scoop up a handful, drop them into a tall glass of white wine, and gulp until the cold freezes my brain.

I’ve become an impressive drunk in that way where no one suspects I’m drinking.

My doctor prescribed antidepressants for me. They must be working, as I’m more productive now. I’m cooking again, and the house is clean. I even managed to respond to a few phone messages, and the other day, I fired up my computer. When I saw more than 300 emails in my inbox, I shut it down. Responding to emails would have to wait.

Playing around with what my doctor recommended has been tricky, but it’s one of the few things I do to empower myself. Instead of one pill with food, I take half a pill with a shot of Scotch. Yeah, the alcohol is a no-no, but … I seem to be okay so far.

I even had sex with my husband last night. Afterward, he flopped off me like a giant walrus, a fat limb-less torso. The only thing missing were the tusks. I didn’t enjoy it, but he must have. He seems nicer to me today than he’s been in a while.

As for me, I don’t feel much anymore. Numbness replaces the dull ache. It’s comforting really, much like a warm, cozy blanket.

Thank you for reading.

Feel free to leave a comment or question. Feedback, whether good or bad is always welcome.

~eden

**

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