The Housewife

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Helen snapped the suitcase shut seconds before she heard her husband slam the front door. She shoved it under the bed and hurried to the washroom, turned off the running water and slipped into the tub.

“Hell of a time to take a bath,” he said, leaning in the doorway, pulling at his tie. “When’s dinner?”

Helen stopped soaping her legs and looked at him. She almost started screaming but instead she smiled and asked what he thought about her frying up a couple of steaks and eggs since she had such a busy day and hadn’t had time to prepare anything else.

“Fine,” her husband said.

“Fix yourself a drink, David. There’s a new bottle of bourbon and ice in the freezer.” she said. “I won’t be too long.”

He mumbled a reply and left her alone. Helen took three deep breaths and calmed down. She turned on the hot water and sat there until her skin stung and turned a deep pink. Then she stepped out and toweled off.

David sat at the kitchen table drinking and reading the newspaper. He didn’t look at her when she came into the kitchen and muttered something when she said she’d hoped she didn’t take too long. With the frying pan heating on the stove, she seasoned the thin steaks and pulled four eggs from the carton.

“How was your day?” she asked.

David kept on reading, ignoring her.

“Mine was just awful,” she said, “The buses were running late and overstuffed because of the snow. You wouldn’t believe the crowds. One little snowstorm and the whole city goes mad. All civility and decency buried under their heavy boots and mufflers. You’d think it was the end of the world and everyone was out for themselves.”

He picked up his glass and rattled the ice. Helen brought the bourbon from the counter and poured. She waited for him to thank her, and when he didn’t she turned back to the stove. Holding her hand inches from the bottom of the pan she felt the heat coming up. She held it there for a few more seconds, relishing the feeling, then plopped the steaks down, where they sizzled and browned.

She flipped the steaks and cracked the four eggs into the same pan.

“I saw one man push a woman, actually shove her hard enough so she fell, just so he could take the first taxi along the curb. Can you imagine that?”

“That dinner ready yet?” he asked, folding the paper and setting it down on the table.

Helen turned shimmied her spatula under the eggs and flipped them awkwardly, so the yolks broke. She cussed under her breath and hurried to move them to the plate.

They ate in silence except for her husband’s comment about the steaks being overcooked. She gave him a meek apology. They finished eating, and after clearing the table, Helen lit a cigarette and let the match burn down to her fingers. David turned on the radio and went back to reading his newspaper.

Helen finished her cigarette and crushed it in the ashtray.

“I was talking with Mrs. Mathers, the lady down the hall, this morning,” Helen said. “You know, her family were farmers. And she said a storm like this at the end of winter means a long, hot summer.”

David folded the newspaper.

“Don’t you ever get tired of running your damn mouth?” he said. “You think I work all day and want to listen to what some dried up old bag thinks about the lousy weather?”

Helen ran from the kitchen before he could see her tears. He swore to himself, took a few deep breaths to calm down, and went after her. The bedroom door was closed, so he knocked lightly and opened it. The room was empty. He walked over to the bathroom, and saw that it too was empty.

“You aren’t sulking in the closet like a child, are you?”

“No.”

He turned and saw her in the bedroom door, the gun held in both hands, pointed right at him. He started towards her and she fired three times, the first two missing, but he caught the third in his chest and fell backwards, arms flailing and groping for anything to hold. Helen knelt down and pulled the suitcase from under the bed.

David gasped on the floor, blood bubbling at the corners of his mouth. She walked over, and shot him again. Then she put the revolver in her hip pocket and purred against its warmth.

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4 thoughts on “The Housewife

  1. You could totally feel her frustration and his callousness, but I still can’t quite forgive her for the ending. I like how you made me side with her and then took her a step too far at the end.
    Couple of typos – “closest” for “closet” and a missing word before “her husband what he thought”. Possibly also “come slam the door” in the first line, although that could just be a voice I’m not used to

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