This story is by Rebecca Jean and was part of our 2022 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
He comes at night.
His footsteps echo down my hallway. He doesn’t even try to sneak, he proudly walks through my space, making as much noise as he pleases. And I can’t blame him. On the first night, I tried to phone the police, but there was no response. It’s not that they ever listened anyway, but at least they used to come round, they’d tell him to leave and encourage me to provide a statement in the hope to build up enough evidence so that one day I might be free of him. That never led anywhere. His name is still on the deed and though we may be separated we aren’t divorced yet. This is his home too.
I listen to him downstairs moving beneath my feet. I hear his weight hit the old armchair, the slap of his hands hitting his thighs as he lands. He turns on the TV, settling on some action movie, gunshots blaring. There’s a thump, followed by another one as he throws off his boots. He never did clean up after himself. How many times did we argue about that damn shoe rack? That he had bought and then ignored, expecting me to follow him around. It was always me putting away his shoes. Tidying his things. Even packing his lunches. The entitlement of it all! He works but so do I, the only difference is that when he came home, he was able to sit back and relax while I had to cook, and clean, and make this place a home.
I pace back and forth, my blood boiling. Somehow after finally kicking him out, we were back to this nightly routine. He may no longer call out to me as if I’m his servant but this. Treating me as if I wasn’t here, as if he could do as he pleases, for two weeks I’ve put up with this and it’s making my head spin. This is my house. This is my space. He has some nerve to come here, to relax here.
I would show him.
A flash of a memory halts me. My vision goes hazy as I am transported from the present to the past. There he is, my husband, towering over me like a hateful demon, looking nothing like the man I married. His spit hits my face, he’s yelling. I can’t hear the words, but I do see his fist. It’s covered in blood. His face goes fuzzy as my eyes concentrate on the thick liquid in front of me. A puddle of blood grows on my white tile kitchen floor where I lay. My cheek pressed against its cold surface. My eyes close and I am embraced by darkness.
Back in the present, I feel a tear roll down my cheek, I go to wipe it away, but my hand comes away dry. Why was I crying?
My jaw tenses and my breathing comes out in gasps as I hear him opening the fridge door. Bottles clink together as one is removed. I thought I had gotten rid of all the alcohol. I hate it when he drinks. The past and my tear are long forgotten, the anger in my heart burning everything else away.
I’m behind him now. He pops the lid off, the bubbles sizzling to the top. He takes a large gulp. The bottle flies out of his hand and across the room before smashing into the wall. Glass and alcohol explode across the room, he flinches covering his face. He chokes on his drink, coughing the beer up. I stay watching him, feeling nothing.
He swings around to look at me, the one who slapped that bottle right out of his hand. His eyes seem to look past me, his brows creasing in confusion. He’s probably already drunk.
“Amy?” He asks, dumbly. Who else would be in my home? “This is insane.” He mutters under his breath, running a hand through his hair and looking away from me.
“Stop acting like I’m not here!” My voice breaks, it’s dry and shrill, I hardly recognise it as my own. I see a shiver rake through him, and yet he still won’t look at me. So, I do what he’s done to me hundreds of times before.
I punch him. My fist connects with his cheek. I feel his bones beneath my knuckles. He falls back, catching himself on the counter.
A flash. My blood dripping off the butcher’s knife. I shake my head, forgetting the image but not before noticing that that very same knife is missing from its stand. A stand that is in my reach with other knives at the ready. I grab one.
Or at least I try to. Instead, I’m left watching as my hand passes through the handle. I can’t even feel it, it’s like nothing is there. The stand and the knife are still as if I wasn’t there.
“Amy.” He grabs my attention; I turn to him and find that he is already looking at me. Looking at me but still not seeing me. A slow smile grows on his face, it’s cold yet gleeful. The blood rushes from my body leaving me cold as that vindictive smile becomes manic laughter. “I knew you were here.”
“This is my house.” My tone is stronger than I feel. I back away, retreating.
“We just can’t leave each other alone, can we?” I’ve seen him like this before, only once and I wished to never see it again. His face and laughter are like a nightmare clown without his make-up but his body and movements are like a predator ready to pounce on his next meal. Me. “You push me away and I came back. I kill- “
“-Stop!” I scream. His eyes widen with glee as he finally sees me.
“Baby.” Tears well in his eyes, his smile remaining. He reaches out to me, his hands hovering by my sides. If it was possible his near touch makes me colder as if I was standing in front of an open freezer. “I did it. You’re stuck here with me. Forever.”
From the open wound on my neck, like a wicked, red grin from ear to ear, blood falls to my collarbone, down my body, and off my feet, never staining the tile below.