This story is by Mallory Nelson and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
It was beginning again, bubbling up like sticky lava. His head swooned, the room spun. Chest pounding and mind racing: he lived for this. How could he explain to her that it wasn’t about respect? He needed this. She had her wine and self-harm, he had this. Each feigning their own obliviousness. With shaky hands, he took out his phone. Good gods, how he loved technology. When he was younger he had to dial random 900 numbers and search for the back of newspapers. Now?, now it was all there in so many search engines. Who will it be today? What will it be today? Something new, something different. Always changing, always secret. It had to be secret. If it wasn’t a secret it wasn’t fun.
It had been a long weekend with the wife and he needed some stress relief. He scrolled through endless profiles, listings, and pictures while pretending to shit. Isn’t that what all men do? In some form or another? He agreed with himself and kept searching. Ah, yes. This is the one for tonight I think. Lila. What a goddess. Flowing ebony waves of curls he could spend hours nuzzling or pulling, he hadn’t decided. Back in bed he clicked Private Message. That fateful night when he chose the most important notification bell he never could have known. Had he any idea what he was in for he might have chosen differently. Had he been an honest man capable of any real introspection he would have known that he would have done it anyway. But sadly, he was not. So thoughts such as these filled his every waking hour and tumbled out of his doughy-physique of a brain through his delusional mouth to spew whatever happened to fit his need at the moment. This unfortunate trait leads many astray, himself included. Tonight would be no different. He did his usual song and dance about needing air and going for a walk, would she like anything from the store? Knowing the answer was Cupcake’s Red Velvet or “anything red” he dressed and walked out the door without actually hearing her answer.
` When he arrived at the hotel Lila was waiting for him. She was tall with strong powerful legs, bewitching fierce eyes and a friendly, yet, guarded smile. She greeted David with a hug which he found unusual and uncomfortable. He tried to break free but she was much to strong. “Amor Vincit Omnia.” She says low David wasn’t sure she said anything at all. When she ended the embrace David felt relieved. “Hi David. Great that you could make it. But tell me, honestly, where is it that you want to be right now?”
“Home.” Home? Home! What was he thinking? He just escaped home. Why on earth would he say that? “Because that is where you truly belong.” Answered Lila as if hearing his thoughts. “Isn’t it?”
David’s thoughts returned to home. He thought of Mary and their life together, how they met, why he married her, and why he stayed. He knew she didn’t need to hear an answer. He thanked her and left for the store. He purchased a second bottle of wine, various chocolates (you could never be sure which Mary would want), and a bouquet of daffodils. When he arrived home Mary laughed and said “Back so soon? Is it my birthday?” Oof. A laughing Mary was a drunken Mary. This wasn’t going to be easy. But then, he knew he couldn’t fix things in just one evening.
He would not remember any of this.
His eyes pry themselves open, little popping noises as the crust breaks, letting in the bright light streaming in brokenly through the blinds. His hand reaches up, scratching idly at the bandage on his shoulder. He still had no memory of leaving Lila’s, unsure of where the bandages came from, or why they were even on his shoulder. His eyes travel across the room, taking in the empty bottle of Red Velvet Wine, the smile widely plastered upon Mary’s face, the rather disheveled state of the entire room, his ripped, bloody shirt on the lamp, and her robe, torn sash dangling limply from the belt loops.
“The police called back, no hospitals reported seeing you, and no animal sightings around the store.”
David slowly climbs out of bed, the aches and pains of sleep fading quickly as he heads towards the bathroom. “I dunno what to say Love.” he mutters, trying to make sense of his lost memories. Sultry blue eyes meet his in the mirror, startling him to double take, strangling an exclamation as his confused his emerald eyes blearily blink back at him. He looks at his shoulder in his reflection, the bandage a matte white contrast to his naturally olive tone, he slowly peels it away revealing fading scars, the only evidence that anything happened last night. He slowly changes the old ones out with new, not wanting the added questions Mary would have, knowing he couldn’t even answer them for himself. His hand, slightly shaky, opens the door to see his elated wife standing a few feet away, head tilted to the side, slightly worried look in her eyes and unasked question on her lips. “Breakfast?” He asks with a smile, “I could eat a whole Elephant.”
“You were so sweet last night, it was amazing!”
“I was?” confused and perplexed, David desperately searched his mind for any inkling of what happened.
“Yea, where did that even come from?”
David had no idea and that worried him. His worry worried him. Never before had he had such care for anything. Ignoring her question as rhetorical, he quickly grabbed his phone and slipped into the bathroom to scam for clues or perhaps jog is memory. Did he really stay home last night? He opened a Private Browsing window: nothing in emails or direct messages. One voice message. It was Lila. As he listened to it pins and needles assaulted his scalp. His stomach turned and his skin went cold. She both frightened and intimidated him. How could he have picked this woman? It seemed so unlike him, didn’t it? Outside the door Mary was quietly pacing. With a wavering voice asked if he was going to be much longer. She was acting more suspicious than nights they didn’t “sweetly” interact. Or was she? Had the sweetness, as she called it, triggered something in her to be on the watch. Was he only just now aware of her behavior? The tinging on his scalp turned to burning, his chest felt strange. “Am I having a stroke? Is this the end?” Breathing in the air felt fuzzy. He felt for his throat and chest. Everything seemed the same. When a knock came to the bathroom door his chest exploded in a warmth that he was sure he’d not experienced before. He had an overwhelming urge for a hug. “A hug?!” he thought, “what on earth would I do with a hug?” but when he heard Mary speak again, the concern in her voice didn’t sound to him as troublesome nagging but the comforting sound of rest. He sighed and before he knew what he was doing he threw open the door and had Mary in his arms, rendering her all but speechless only a surprised squeak escaped her lips. “I’ve missed you.” He says. ” Lets go downstairs and I’ll make you pancakes.”
“I don’t really like pancakes all that much.”
“Then we’ll have whatever it is then!”
“Traitor eggs it is!”
They raced downstairs, giggling like school children, not caring why or how. Leaving all the Lila’s in the past.