Monday, November 3, 2014

The Widow

Don grabbed Cassie by the waist and hoisted her up onto the kitchen counter. She squirmed in his grasp and whimpered as his mouth went to her throat. She looked up at the ceiling and her eyes rolled back in her head as he ripped her blouse open and his lips traveled sensuously down her bare flesh. She thought of Tom and tears stung her eyes.
“No, Donnie, we can't do this here... not now.” She pushed him away and pulled her blouse tightly around to cover her nakedness. She folded her arms defensively across her chest unsure of what to do next. She was confused and hurt, the passion he'd always stirred within her brought out long repressed feelings of guilt and shame. She had truly loved her husband.
Don stood temporarily dumb struck in front of her, his face flushed, his dark blond hair tousled and his green eyes wild with lust and frustration. 
Cassie shook her head, “I'm sorry.... it's Tom. I just can't. Not... not yet.”
Don took her face in his hands, “Cassie, come on. It's been six months.. nobody expects you to become a nun.”
Hot tears rolled down her cheeks. “I know that. I just... I'm sorry.” 

She hopped down from the counter and ran out the back door, never stopping until she reached the open field behind the farm. Their farm. The place Tom's parents had helped them buy. The place the two of them were gonna grow old together; the place they were gonna raise kids. Lots of 'em. Tom had wanted a big family, as he'd been an only child.
Cassie fell to her knees on the muddy ground and cried until she threw up. She lay on the ground looking up at the early evening sky as tears continued to flow. She couldn't stop herself from pleading with God again... 'Why? why?".

All of her dreams had died on June 7th in car accident on Route 10... he had been two miles from home. Two miles. She'd never understand. If only... the question burned in her mind. If only she'd taken him to work that day. But he'd wanted to drive his truck, said he was gonna pick up a load of gravel on his way home. She'd been after him for weeks to fix the walk from the house out to the detached garage. A long weekend was coming up and they could work on it together. Fill in all the empty spots and sparsely filled areas.
She'd smiled and kissed him on the cheek. The last time she ever saw him. She heard the sirens, the police and the ambulance. It was a quarter past seven, the phone rang. It was Don. He said he'd come get her and drive her to the hospital; there had been an accident. She knew. 

It all seemed like a dream... a nightmare. She could barely remember any of it now. She'd almost lost her mind. The only reason she'd made it this far was because of Don. He'd been her best friend since she was five years old. He had always loved her, even when she didn't love him back. Even when she fell in love with his best friend Tom. Even when he'd kissed her on her wedding day and she'd slapped him. And now.... she was confused and hurting and frustrated as hell. She wanted to die, she wanted to love him back, she wanted to disappear inside herself and never feel anything again. She wanted Tom back. She was going to lie in the mud forever.

She heard footsteps crunching leaves. 

"You gonna lay there all night? Want me to get you a blanket? Gonna get pretty chilly out here all by your lonesome. 'Less you want some company? I'll lay out here with you and we can stare up at the stars forever." Don had a way of saying the most insane things in a way that they made sense.
Cassie sat up and looked up into Don's kind face. Deep inside, a part of her did love him, maybe a part of her always had. But she couldn't get past her guilt. She wasn't sure she'd ever be able to.
"Nah, give me a hand. I'm gonna go take a shower." She held her hand out to him and Don helped her to her feet. He wanted to kiss her again but settled for pulling her in close and holding her for as long as she let him. 

"I love you Cassie. I will always be here for you."

Cassie nodded her head and relaxed into his chest. She needed to be loved almost as much as Don needed her to love him. Maybe one day she would.

 ©2014 Garden Summerland

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Lesson

I found them online. Searching forums and chat rooms, message boards and alt groups. It took a while, but it was worth it. They were cheap; the website was called "Satisfaction Guaranteed". Within days, business owners Krager and Stark pulled up in my drive. They just nodded at me as they got their worn black satchels from the back of an enormous black SUV. We walked in silence to the house; I held the front door open for them and we walked into the living room.
"Nice place... ah...Ms. Smith." Stark said as he looked around appreciatively. I had no fear he was casing the place; petty theft wasn't in his repertoire.
"Yeah, thanks. Um... he's downstairs, sedated like you suggested. I had a hell of a time getting him down there." They exchanged glances as I led them down the hall to the basement door. I slid the dead bolt back, and slowly opened the door, waiting to see if either of them went first. Neither of them did, so I headed down into the damp coolness of the finished basement and they followed carrying the tools of their trade slung over their shoulders. I wondered exactly what the big black bags contained. Rope? Duct tape? Chains and saws? Knives? An ax? I shuddered. Maybe I wasn't up for this after all. I just wanted to teach him a lesson.
Stark got to the bottom of the steps and waited. "Well we'll knock off a few bucks for that. You've already done the hard part for us, you'd be surprised how many people don't have the stomach for this. And the fact that you're sticking around for the main event, lady I'm impressed. Are those the magazines?"
They were rolled up in my hands. I looked down at them and shook my head.
"Yeah just two of them. They look well used, I figured they must be his favorites. Is that what you needed?" I had no idea why they wanted to actually see what he was looking at. Wasn't it enough that I told them about it? I'd almost burned them.
Carl was on the concrete floor in the corner; I'd propped him up against the cement wall and he was slumped over. Stark walked over to him, dropped his satchel then took his foot and pushed Carl away from the wall. He fell over hitting his head on the floor. I caught my breath, what if it had cracked his skull? I turned to go back upstairs. This wasn't what I'd wanted.
Stark called out, "Handcuffs? Nice. You really were ready for us, weren't ya?" He snickered and glanced at Krager who was lighting a cigarette.
I wanted to tell him I didn't allow people to smoke in the house, but that somehow seemed ridiculous under the circumstances.
I nodded my head and started up the stairs.
"I'm gonna get something to eat." I called back over my shoulder. There was only silence. I left them to their work. I didn't want to see it, I just wanted results.
Six months ago I'd found out my husband had a pornography addiction. Magazines and DVD's, internet chat rooms and twice he'd paid for personal performances from some stripper website. He'd paid over $600 dollars for one of those shows. I looked at the date, it was the day after our anniversary. The one where he'd said he didn't have the money to get me a "nice" present. We'd been married 12 years. I was heartsick and in shock. He'd never shown any interest in anyone other than me. Things had always been... good in that department. Or so I'd thought.
At first I cried. Then I'd decided to leave him. Then I got angry. Really angry.
He had humiliated me. He had lied to me; kept his secret life... well secret. I wasn't going to take this lying down. I thought of all kinds of vengeful scenarios... but all of them involved degrading myself in some manner and I refused to sink to his level. I wasn't about to have a revenge affair just to even the score. He needed to be humiliated back. Now I was the one going online, visiting chat rooms. But I was collecting information. With a few phone calls and for a little more than what Carl's stripper shows had cost, I was going to get satisfaction. Guaranteed.

A week later I was sitting in the diner across from Carl's office downtown. I looked up at Stark and he grinned a surprisingly perfect smile. He was very pleased with himself. He pushed glossy photographs across the table. They were fanned out and I could clearly see the look of humiliation on my husband's face. I remembered the layout from one of the magazines. Red high heeled pumps, ripped fishnets and a corset. Only in these photos, it wasn't a buxom brunette wearing them, it was my husband; in full make-up and he was bound and gagged. They had put him in the position of the poor unfortunate girl from the magazine. He needed to see how it felt to be objectified and used, and from the looks of it, he had. I still wasn't quite sure what all they had done to him. I never asked, and he never said. But I was pretty certain it had worked. Stark seemed anxious to give me details, but I didn't ask him either. Something deep within me told me that I really didn't want to know.
The waitress approached to refill my coffee and I moved the manila envelope to cover the pictures. Stark smiled again and looked up at the waitress. She winked at him and took forever to refill his cup.
When she'd finished and walked away, I picked up the photos and put them back in the envelope. I didn't want to see them. It was embarrassing. Now that my initial anger had dissipated, and my husband had been punished, I saw no need to further my relationship with Stark and his associate. I took a fat white envelope from my purse and laid it in front of him to conclude our business.
"That should do it." I spoke softly and took a sip of my coffee.
He picked it up, looked inside and nodded.
"Well Ms. Smith, if it doesn't, you know where to reach me. Oh, and we do keep negatives on file, just in case. That was in the agreement."
"Yes, I know. I don't think there will be cause for anything further. He has been a changed man ever since."
"Oh yes ma'am, I'm sure of that. Once is usually all it takes. But we have had instances..."
I interrupted him, "I have your number."
I took the pictures and got up from the table. I wouldn't need to call them again. I was going home to a candlelight dinner, flowers and soft music, and my husband waiting with a glass of wine in hand. He was back, the man I'd married all those years ago.
Yes, he had learned his lesson, and I'd learned mine.

©2014 Garden Summerland

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Bottle of Regret

Sarah opened her eyes and squinted as she glanced around the room. Her focus was a little off because she'd slept in her contacts. The blinds were drawn tightly but slivers of muted light filtered in here and there and she figured it was around eight-thirty in the morning. Normally she would have awakened at sunrise, but not today; not after last night. She stifled a yawn and fought the urge to stretch. The man from the previous nights debauchery was still asleep beside her and the last thing she wanted was to awaken him. There would be questions. Too many questions. And awkwardness, there was always awkwardness afterward. She hated that. It wasn't like in the old days when they'd leave you asleep in bed and plop a few bills down on the nightstand. But those days were gone. Now they wanted to face you in the morning, have chit chat and pay extra for a quickie after breakfast. She shuddered inwardly just thinking about it.
She slipped her hand from beneath the thin white sheet, gently rubbed her eyes and then massaged her forehead. Her entire head ached. Served her right, she'd broken her number one rule: no alcohol. An empty whisky bottle lay on the floor next to several condom wrappers. What had she been thinking?
She'd made the no drinking rule almost four years ago after she'd been severely beaten and left for dead by some creep she'd picked up on the corner of South and Main. He'd had blue eyes and a boyish grin and two bottles of tequila. And she'd ended up in the hospital for a week. She still didn't remember much about it. Then Carmen had fired her, put her out on the street; said she couldn't afford to keep insurance on girls that posed such a high risk. Sarah had been freelance ever since. At the time it hadn't mattered much, she knew that eventually Carmen would have found out she was underage and would've sent her packing for that. It had all been a blessing in disguise. Since she no longer had to hand over forty percent of what she made to someone else, Sarah could afford a nice apartment, high end clothes, a car and her own health insurance with no help from anyone. How many nineteen year olds could say that?
The man beside her rolled onto his back and began to snore. That was her cue. She carefully slid out of bed, retrieved her clothes from the bathroom and got dressed. As she pulled her sexy black dress over her head the man let out a loud snort and gasped for breath several times in succession. She froze and waited for him to open his eyes but he didn't. The sooner she got out of there the better. She grabbed his pants from the floor and found his wallet. She took three hundred bucks from the five he had and then flipped through his photos. She couldn't believe anyone still carried pictures in their wallet. It was old fashioned and sweet; she smiled sadly. No one had ever had a picture of her in their wallet.
There were several photographs of a school aged boy and a toddler girl; must have been his kids. There was a picture of him and a middle aged woman in a bikini at the beach; that was the wife. And then the last one was a little girl of maybe six or seven, lying in a hospital bed. She had black circles under her eyes, no hair and a huge smile on her face. There was an IV needle stuck in her arm, but she looked... happy.
Sarah got a lump in her throat and she dropped the wallet on the floor. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she looked over at the man now sleeping soundly.
From what she remembered it had been a pleasant evening. Drinks, but no dinner. He'd gotten them a room and they'd drank some more; she'd stripped for him, talked dirty and then they'd had sex a few times. Nothing kinky, nothing out of the ordinary, just straight sex. And then he'd gone to sleep, and she'd finished off the bottle and apparently passed out.
She slipped on her shoes and stood over him watching him sleep. She put the three hundred dollars on the nightstand and leaned down and kissed him on the cheek. As she left she grabbed the empty whisky bottle and took it with her. It no longer held whisky, but for her and a man whose name she didn't know, it would always be filled with regret.

©2014 Garden Summerland

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Long Hot Summer

 With the strike of one match, my world had changed. I looked around at the chaos I had caused and breathed in the scent of burning wood and flesh. This was different than the last time. I was more in tune with my feelings. Now I knew I was on the right track. Even the air felt sharper; it was cold and clear and beyond the smoke, I could see my life had purpose. I learned something today. I learned an easier way to kill, one that I enjoyed, one that I could get away with.
Daddy sat with me on the curb, watching our house burn to the ground. He put his arms around me and held me for a long time, tears streaming down his face as he tried to be strong for me. I'd lost my mother and my younger brother in the fire. But I didn't cry; I wanted them gone. Daddy wasn't like them; he understood me, he loved me. No matter what, he loved me. I thought about telling him what I'd done, but decided against it. Perhaps it wasn't a good idea to test his love for me when he was so obviously shattered. He had loved my mother. But then, he didn't really know her; not like I did. I'd watched her and studied her and kept journals about her. Where she went and who she saw and what she did with them. She had been unfaithful to daddy many many times. I'd been left sitting in cars in motel parking lots for hours at a time. I wondered sometimes if she was making money at it. It wouldn't have come as a shock. I even suspected my younger brother Jaime wasn't really my brother at all but the bastard spawn of one of her many dalliances. He was as sick and evil as she was, spying on me when I was in the shower and stealing my under clothes. He'd never been so bold as to try to touch me, but I knew it was just a matter of time. Now I was free of them, and daddy was too. I'd done it for both of us.
The fire report would show the the fire started in Jaime's room. Cigarettes. He'd been smoking in bed. Bad Jaime. He was only eleven, but he'd been hanging with a bad crowd since the end of the summer when he'd started middle school. I confirmed it to the police, I'd known about the smoking for a few months, but he was my baby brother and I hadn't wanted to get him in trouble with my parents. I was so sorry now, I should've spoken up. I even tried to seem broken up about it. It seemed to have worked, the officer put his arm around me and escorted me back to my father. I was in control now. I hadn't felt that way in years. I bowed my head and smiled; it was nearing the end of June and it was going to be a long hot summer.

©2014 Garden Summerland

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Imaginary Fiend

I pushed open the freshly painted white gate and rushed up the steps of my son's newly purchased brick house. He'd just gotten a new gas grill last Sunday for father's day and was anxious to try it out. It was the first BBQ of the summer. I banged on the over-sized green door; once, twice, three times. No one came. I called out to John and then Linda; there was no answer. I turned the knob and stepped inside.
“Hello? Anyone home? Where is everybody?” It was oddly quiet. Something was wrong.
I heard a delighted squeal from down the hall. My grandchildren! I ran towards the sound, but stopped dead cold as I entered the living room. My eyes went to my five year old granddaughter Annabelle standing motionless in the center of the room. There was blood everywhere. Everywhere except on little Annabelle. Horror consumed my soul. There were three lifeless bodies in the middle of the room and she stood over them holding a bloody knife; her clothes were spotless.
I screamed at her and she turned to face me, her big blue eyes shining with glee.
“I killed them grandma. Dan-Dan told me to.” She smiled and held the up the knife.
I opened my mouth to speak but my voice cracked as fear strangled my words. I swallowed hard.
“Baby, put the knife down and come over to me honey. We've got to get you out of here. Now.”
“But grandma, Dan-Dan said to kill everyone in the house. That means you too.” She took a step towards me.
“Annabelle... put the knife down.”
“Dan-Dan says you don't love me.” She looked down at my son, his wife, and my other granddaughter. “They didn't love me. That's why they had to die.”
“Annabelle... honey... where is Dan-Dan now? Did he leave you alone to do this? Has he gone away now? Come to Grams, you don't want to stain your pretty dress... Come on baby, put the knife down and I'll take you to get an ice cream, okay?” I choked out the words as I felt bile rising in my throat.
She looked around the room as her expression changed from child like innocence to that of a trapped animal. She let out a blood curdling screech and flung herself down on the floor, the pool of blood soaking into her pristine cotton dress. She was having a seizure. I ran to her and pried the knife from her hand. I watched helplessly as her eyes rolled back in her head and she convulsed. I couldn't call an ambulance. All I could do was watch in horror as she took her last breath. I cradled her limp body in my arms and sobbed. Whose fault was this? No one had listened when she told them about her imaginary friend, even when she said he had made her do bad things. 

©2014 Garden Summerland

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Never Knew

I'd asked Olivia over with the intention of telling her why I'd been so upset the last few days. But after she'd arrived, I changed my mind. I knew she wouldn't understand.

“Scoot over.” She pushed me over on the bed and sat next to me. “So are you gonna open it or what?” She insistently tapped her pen on my shoulder. She knew how much that irritated me. I turned abruptly and snatched the pen out of her hand, then slammed my laptop shut.

“It doesn't make any difference now does it?” I snapped at her, then realized my slip. I absently looked out the window wondering if she'd even noticed.

“What do you mean it doesn't make any difference? Damn Lizzie, you're the one that's been whining about how you haven't heard from him in six months. He finally sends you an e-mail and you sit and stare at it for three days. Open it for crying out loud. I'm sure he's got some lame ass excuse for blowing you off all through Christmas... and New Years.. and Valentines day... and...”

Tears stung my eyes. I forced them back, I didn't want her to know. I didn't want any of my friends to know. Mara, Joanie and Cora. They'd just laugh at me for being stupid. Or worse... feel sorry for me. I couldn't bear it either way.

“Forget it. It doesn't matter. I'm just gonna delete it. I'm so over him.” I glared at her and turned away. I cleared my throat trying to choke back the pain. “He was a jerk, and anyway, I hardly knew him. Just some guy I met in some stupid forum. It was lame.” I was trying to convince myself of that, anything that would lessen the pain. My head ached and my eyes filled up again. It was time to change the subject. I took a deep breath and tried to sound cheerful, “So... you going to Karl's party Friday or what?”

“Yeah, Mara scored some primo stuff from her dad's stash and I think Joanie's sister is buying the booze... you gonna ask Donnie?”

“What? Hell no... we haven't been out since I caught him with Cecily Tomlinson in the bathroom at The Waffle Shack.” I got up and paced back and forth in front of her. “You really need to come down off your high every now and then... check in with the rest of us, it's called reality.”

“Ugh Lizzie you are such a downer.” She scoffed and rolled her eyes. “You're either crying all the time cause your precious Kaeden hasn't e-mailed you, or you're bitching about Donnie and Cecily. It was only that one time, geez, I thought you religious types were supposed to be more forgiving.”

“I'm not religious... I'm just... moral.”

Olivia burst into laughter. “Yeah, call it what you want. I call it a real drag. I'm outta here... call me if you need a ride to the party.” She hopped off the bed, tossed her long blond hair over her shoulders and she was gone. I heard the front door slam and her car spin out on the gravel drive. Sometimes I wished I could be more like her; oblivious to anything other than her own pleasure. Getting drunk or stoned was all she wanted to do; maybe she was smarter than I gave her credit for being. I'd never seen her cry over a guy. Certainly not a guy she'd never even met.

I plopped back down on the bed and opened my laptop again, staring at the screen. “One new message”. It was screaming it at me. I wasn't ready. I clicked over to Kaeden's Twitter page. I scrolled through his tweets, avoiding the most recent one. The one from three days ago. The one that had ripped my heart out. The one his mother had posted.

I scrolled up slowly until I reached the top. And I couldn't help myself, I read it again.

This is Kaeden's mother. I am sorry to inform everyone of my son's passing this past Sunday. He loved you all.

It had seemed like a sick joke. And then I'd watched as Tweets flooded all over his page with condolences. It was real. He was gone. I didn't know how, or why. I knew nothing and I never would. It was crazy, all of it. I had loved him and he'd never known, now he never would. I clicked back over to my messages. I highlighted his e-mail and hit delete. I couldn't bear to read his last words to me, whatever they had been. It was better if I never knew. 

 ©2014 Garden Summerland