I push the hair from my face and nurse my twisted arm, slowly, carefully. I can hear the sound of his shower running and I can almost picture him under, hands pressed to the wall, breathing heavily. The hot water must be really good, I think because it's been long minutes in the bathroom upstairs. The pain in my left arm is terrible, like nothing I have ever felt before and yet it isn't this that makes me so afraid. It is something else, something so bad I forget the kettle on the kitchen stove. All I can hear is the shower running and all I can see is the framed picture on the wall.
At last, he turns off the shower and I can feel his heavy feet moving ruthlessly in the room upstairs. He is big and strong and his agility is fearsome and provoking, all the deal wrapped up in one man. Perhaps it is this that leads one young secretary in a small firm to leave all else and run away with him. To be honest, I hated the job with a kind of unspoken passion and coupled with that, I was grossly underpaid so maybe running away with Frank seemed reasonable at first.
But not so much now.
Last night we had a fight about a lot of things. He said the dinner was always burnt and I said I wasn't his maid or anything. I told him about the lipstick on his shirt, a lipstick that was clearly not mine, and he said to leave him alone. This morning, he slapped me and I fell and dislocated an arm. So maybe he had spent so much time in the bathroom to cleanse himself, to get rid of the stench of betrayal coming from his tired heart.
I walk to the window and with my head pressed so firmly against it, I can see the snow and nothing else for a mile or so. Our cabin in the middle of nowhere seemed a great idea at that time when he'd asked me to lunch. Frankly, it had felt really nice to be with such a nice man, alone in a cabin with the snow falling and all.
Back then, I had pictured a lot of beautiful silly things to help keep us warm. Like apart from the heater and stuff. It had seemed great at that time though.
I ease my head back and stare at my stoic reflection. My red hair listens faintly and my lips are a bit bruised. There is old blood on my forehead and frantically I clean it away. I can see my face staring back at me with tense insecurity. I blink twice and let out a groan.
He comes out now looking all fresh and handsome. He is wearing a pale blue sweater and beneath it is a long sleeve shirt and beneath those too will be another shirt safely tucked in.
He walks to the kitchen and brews a cup of coffee for himself. He likes it black and strong but the coffee is probably inferior. Then he sits on one of those chairs and opens a box of cracker biscuits topped with chocolate(my favorite) and begins to chew dutifully.
"Hey, Frank," I say turning to him.
He says nothing, doesn't even look in my direction nor acknowledge my presence. He just keeps on chewing and sipping and repeating it like it is a kind of ritual.
I linger over the window just watching him eat and, tired of it all, finally turn my attention to the photo by the wall. We've been in this cottage for a week and each time I saw that photo it just seemed plain. It was of a boat or a chair or a bathtub, I have never really been sure of it and neither has Frank. But on it is written a single word that somehow now struck me as I stand and stare: Perspectives.
I walk closer to the photo and raise my good arm to it, left it there for a good while, my hands stroking and cajoling it to release it's secret.
"I'm sorry Annabel for everything. Both last night and this morning too. I am sorry." Frank is on his feet by now.
In the fridge, there are dozens of canned food and in the kitchen freshly baked bread. I know now is probably not the right time but suddenly I feel hungry and tired too.
Frank says, " This morning was wrong. I shouldn't have reacted in the way I did and I'm sorry." He is sobbing quietly behind me and the picture stares back at me, the words disturbingly familiar in a strange way.
Perspectives, I whisper to myself. And again the word spills out relentlessly, aching and probing. My hands close around the object of attraction and with a gentle pull, the photo comes off its position.
"Annabel say something please."
With reluctance, I turn to him. He reminds me of someone else. I remember now. He looks so much like that man in the green overalls who came from the company, said he was a plumber and did some repairs on my kitchen sink. In the end, he had stood towering before me and told me how lovely my home was, as though he knew something I didn't. This is the way Frank is looking at me now like he knows something I do not.
"You hit me!"
"I know and I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking straight."
"Well, I cannot keep doing this. I am tired of being hit and bullied by the man I love..." Maybe I'm exaggerating with the last bit of my argument or not, honestly, l do not care anymore.
"Baby, I love you." He says.
"I am not a baby!" Was that needed? Wasn't that a little childish?
Outside, the snow continues to fall and the sight is breathtaking. There is firewood in the grate. It is funny how I pick up these little details while avoiding eye contact with Frank. Perspectives.
"I'm sorry, " He says again.
He goes back to his chair in the kitchen and brews another cup of black coffee. He slips for himself a piece of bread but doesn't eat it. He stares it down, hard and fast.
"I'm sorry too," I say.
I walk out of the winter cabin with the picture still in my hands. My left arm aches still. I walk to the swing by the side of the cabin and sit on it. The snow on it melts into my sweater and seeps into my skin but then again, this is just from my perspective.