This story is by Mike Conradt and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
A Change of Heart.
Each afternoon, while leaning on my hoe in the garden, I watch my neighbor, Natalie, sunbathe. Her bikini barely covers her breasts, let alone the rest of her. Long periods go by while standing there and gazing dreamily at her unquestionable beauty. It is no secret she notices me. With her sideward glances, bending over to straighten the blanket, bringing attention to her lovely little butt. The way she stretches her arms above her head while looking my way. There is only one conclusion, she is teasing me and enticing me to come over.
When I come in from the garden, my wife is vacuuming and dusting the house, moving slowly without determination. A woman with sagging breasts and a bulging midriff. Her legs are short and chubby, sauntering around the house with arthritic knees. She is nothing sexy to look at and complains a lot, following the same script day after day. Then my thoughts wander to Natalie next door.
One hot afternoon while I work in the garden, oblivious to the heat and thinking of Natalie, it becomes apparent she is not out sunbathing yet. Usually, she is out already. It could be because of the fierce argument she had with her husband. He forgot their first wedding anniversary today. My anniversary is tomorrow, and I have only one wish, which is to be with Natalie.
Finally, Natalie comes out the door looking over in my direction. She waves. Her desires for my kindness, wisdom, gentleness, and sexual prowess become evident. She waves again with more enthusiasm. I straighten up, showing off my physique, and wave back. My blood flows hot in my veins, prompting sexual sensations to increase.
Natalie flashes her seductive smile as she watches me. In my mind, she is conveying her desires for me. Standing on her blanket, running her hands up and down her body while I watch. My heart races as the lust for her grows more profound. She calls to me in my dreams. I deserve to have her.
That evening, in my garage, while sharpening my knife for a hunting trip, I constantly think of Natalie. Steadily my lust grows. My cravings turn to needs. Stopping and staring out the garage window, I see myself in the glass. My face is contorted, ugly, an image of madness and insanity.
Like a breeze through the door, it comes, rustling the papers on my workbench, speaking to me, inciting my thoughts until they are in a frenzy. Then, in all its clarity, a plan emerges. The virtue in my murderous intent becomes visible. My all-consuming passion for Natalie is apparent.
I go back to sharpening my knife until it is as sharp as my senses focusing on my murderous intent. The most insignificant details are not forgotten. I rehearse the plan over and over in my mind; the clock strikes midnight, procure the knife hidden in the silverware drawer of the china hutch, approach the bed quietly, plunge the knife deep into her heart. Simple and with perfection. Free of my vows to her. I smile and get ready for bed.
The feeling of being in control overwhelms me, so free, fearing nothing. My heart pounds with excitement as I climb into bed thinking of Natalie. My wife plods into the bedroom, her nightgown up around her neck. Suddenly a smile on my face emerges as she turns out the light. I wait for the sounds of her slumber.
The clock hands inch their way to midnight. Sleep escapes me as I toss and turn. My wife of forty years sleeps soundly and contently. I quietly slip from bed, tiptoeing down the hallway, placing each step carefully so as not to wake her. Stopping in the living room near the front window, I wait, listening for any sound or disturbance from the bedroom. My absence does not wake her.
The clock on the wall nears midnight. The hunting knife is safely hidden behind the tray of good silverware. While looking out the open front window, I listen to the crickets and their mating calls, the lightning bugs drifting through the darkness, looking for mates. There is excitement and foreboding while contemplating what is about to happen. There is a heaviness in my heart.
On the western horizon, lightning flashes announcing the approach of a distant storm. The air is calm and heavy. Not a breath of air stirs. A feeling of evil enters my soul, my shallow life revealing its empty desires. I am drawn to Natalie with uncontrollable lust, dreaming of her naked body next to mine. An impetuous passion conjures up within me.
I step back as a bolt of lightning lights up the sky, bringing me back to my senses. It flashes consistently now as the hands of the clock come nearer to midnight. My hands tremble at the thought of what I am about to do. But my lust will not let me turn back.
Quietly I open the drawer to the china hutch and withdraw the large knife from its hiding place. Then silently, I move down the hallway to the bedroom with the hunting knife firmly in my hand. The darkened hallway gives my stealthy movements the perfect cover as I approach the bedroom door.
The door, partially open, lets in no light, while the window, with the curtain slightly open, allows a narrow shaft of light to shine across the bed. In the dim light, I quietly make my way to her side. If my wife is awake, she does not show it.
Standing over her in the partial darkness, her face is visible as she sleeps innocently, breathing steadily with slow inhalations. In moments the knife will find its way into her heart, quickly and with no mercy. She will be unaware of her assailant.
The clock strikes midnight. Slowly I raise the knife above my head as lightning flashes brightly, lighting up the room. Thunder crashes, rumbling into the distance, making me aware of the task before me. Taking a deep breath, ready to plunge the knife downward with the ferocity of a man swinging a sledgehammer, another flash of lightning with a crash of thunder louder than before. Looking down, I see her face. She looks so young, like on our wedding night forty years ago today. The rage in my heart softens from the memories of that night. Slowly I lower the knife.
Remembering our wedding night, the rain coming gently down, a soothing sound as it falls on our roof. A feeling of love and contentment floods back to me. The beauty of my wife’s naked body, her enticing smile, the smoothness of her skin, the curvature of her body. Then my thoughts come back to Natalie.
Lightning continually flashes with the intensity of the sun. The thunder crashes as the windows rattle. The storm comes to bear as the wind blows with rage-breaking small branches and driving the rain straight as the house shakes. I look out the window, startled.
My senses become acute, my vision narrows, the madness in my heart returns. The lust for Natalie is back in my thoughts. Views of her perfect body, her sexual laugh so teasing with her breasts gently moving up and down. So perky under her white shirt, her cleavage showing their bare skin. The tightness of her shorts showing every part of her. I lust for her; my desire to touch her is overwhelming.
I raise the knife up again, ready to plunge it down with all my power. The lightning flashes again, and I see myself in the dresser mirror, the ugliness of my rage on my face, my despair is evident. Again, my strength drains. I bring the knife back down slowly as my breathing becoming heavy and hoarse. My wife does not wake from her deep sleep. She merely rolls to her back as I gaze upon her.
I begin to shake as I bow my head. Grief overwhelms me. I put the knife down on the nightstand while gazing upon her sleeping, so gently and unassuming. Her chest moves up and down slowly. I see the woman I love and cherish. Her beauty shining through the ages. My shame and remorse weigh heavily, the madness in my heart too much to bear. I raise my arms and look to the heavens crying for forgiveness. Then with a contrite heart, I climb into bed next to her. Putting my head on her shoulder, I sob uncontrollably. She wakes to the sound of my sobbing.
“What is wrong, dear?” she asks. The only words I can find, I mutter quietly.
“Happy anniversary, my dear.”
The fury of the storm subdues, giving way to gentle rain. I cuddle with her in bed, listening to its patter on the roof. It reminds me of another night forty years ago today.