“Daniel was a good man. He was a caring husband and father. He loved, and he was loved…” her voice continued, but her mind stopped. What the hell was she talking about? Hadn’t he beat her mentally every day and left her alone with their newborn child? Hadn’t he caused her endless weeping, her infinite suicidal thoughts? “He’d come home everyday from work and give me a kiss,” said her voice listlessly. Yes, he had done that. Right after greeting her with a new nickname: “cow.”
She’d hated that man. She hated him with a sweltering, searing passion. With his male arrogance, she despised him; with his male dominance, she loathed him. She even detested him when he was sweet. How dare he bring her flowers when he’d caught her crying? Hadn’t he known it was because of him, with his lashing words, his sarcastic looks? And he’d dared to take her out on expensive dinners for their anniversary! Hadn’t he known that he made her life a living hell? Hadn’t he realized that she’d been trapped in that hate-filled marriage?
He deserved that bloody death. Yes, a fall down the stairs is what he deserved. Instantly, she felt remorse for that thought. How cruel could she be? Her husband had just died, for Christ’s sake. There must be something wrong with her head, she must be in shock. He’d stripped her of her pride in life, and even in death he stripped her of her sanity.
Maybe that’s why she sought after Jacks’ touch. To feel his strong arms around her was bliss. His passionate kisses on her lips drove away whatever madness Daniel had brought that day. He’d whisper ‘I love yous’ in her ear, a phrase she’d barely heard from her husband after a year of marriage.
What kind of ridiculous world was this when a husband beat a wife, and everyone accepts it? She wondered, her mouth moving as she spoke of Daniel’s ‘great devotion.’ Honestly, she’d told her mother, her sister, and her friends. They’d all replied: “Oh, Daniel’s a great guy. You’re lucky to have him. Plus, you are looking a little pudgy these days, haven’t you lost the baby weight yet…?” Her own family had turned on her! She seethed inside her skull, her anger dripping into each thought like poison.
What kind of blind society is this, she ranted to no one, where everything was taken away from those who couldn’t afford it? She’d married Daniel partly for love, yes, but partly for his money. It saved her parents’ house from foreclosure.
Her thoughts turned back to Jack. Before Daniel’s death, he’d been his partner at the firm. She met him when she hosted that God-awful Christmas party. She’d never been so fatally attracted to someone.
Good God, she thought, shocked. I’m thinking of another man at my husband’s funeral! But she felt nothing at this, only the surprise society passed down on her. Why couldn’t she think of Jack, with his short blond hair and forest green eyes? Why couldn’t she think of the way his back muscles looked as he made coffee in the morning?
Because that is what society dictates, she determined. Religion rules the household. Once you become an adulteress, you see that. It dictates what you eat, who you marry, how you live. She’d never really gotten into the Christianity her parents forced on her. It wasn’t like she really believed in God or anything. She may have gone through the motions of a humble, church-going wife, but inwardly, she was just bound with the life society chose for her.
He watched her speak. To anyone else, it would have seemed that her tears were of passion for her dead husband. He knew them for the other reason; the reason he felt the insatiable need to love her. It was tragic, really, the way his best friend and partner had treated her. He’d thought Daniel was a stand-up guy before that party, but once he’d lain eyes on Vera, he knew the darkness that was harbored in his friend’s heart.
He could see her eyes glass over. She was daydreaming under the pretense of a eulogy. It excited him. Was she thinking about him? He hoped she was. He loved her more than anything. Her silky hair, her soft lips…the way she whispered his name. She was beautiful, this weeping and broken goddess.
He caught himself before his mind went further. He was at a funeral, for Pete’s sake! He wondered if God could hear his thoughts. Would he be angry? Sad? Disappointed that he was all too human?
He shifted in his seat as she stepped off the podium. He felt like he needed to run to her, kiss her; make the terrifying thoughts of God go away. He wanted to love her, right then, to make the ghosts of his ex-wives disappear. He wanted to forget everything but her.
Who gave a damn about that sadistic bastard? That fall down the stairs was a shamefully quick death for him; the bruises on Vera’s arms and the tears in her eyes were evidence to his guilt. But no matter, he was roasting in hell by now, Jack thought. He imagined the flames of Hell consuming the casket, the people, the scenery, until Earth became nothing more than a second sun, a ball of flame suspended in darkness.
I suppose I’ll be joining him there, he thought with a long, world-weary sigh. I cheated on all of my ex-wives. Molly, Sarah, Kylie… All of them. Even after the wooing, the supposed “love” that I fell into. After all those fights, breakups, tears… None of them even so much evoked a feeling of remorse during those times. What the hell is wrong with me?
He pondered this, gazing with glazed eyes as Vera spoke. He watched her lips—those kissable lips—form words of feigned affection, knowing that she’d never really loved her husband. In that way, they were the same. He always fooled himself into thinking he was in love. He never was. He’d sought their soft arms, their beautiful faces, only to find another’s sweet touch. Maybe he was the sick bastard, purposefully hurting the women he loved. He watched Vera descend the stairs. He knew that if he made a commitment to her, he’d find someone else before the year was out.
Their eyes met. For one split second, among the black and the death, they stared into each others’ soul. They each saw the same thing: exhaustion with life. They were tired. They were lonely. They were spent. Then Vera reached the bottom and turned away, never looking back again.
This is probably my favorite work from high school. I keep returning to it over and over, fixing little things or shaping the story better. I love it mainly because I have no idea where it came from. What do you think of it? I would love to hear your experiences with tragedy.