Five. God damn. Years. And this is what it had come to.
A streak of orange light painted the inside of my car, the last signs of a dying day. The light illuminated the tear and makeup streaked face that I was unfortunate enough to catch a glimpse of in the rear-view mirror.
“You’ve seen better days, Hun,” I said to myself, shocked by how the woman in the mirror looked. “Maybe that’s why it didn’t work out”.
I chuckled, revealing a row of unhappy little teeth filling my mouth. It had been four days since I hadn’t been home and the inadequate petrol-station hygiene was really starting to take its toll. The phone on the passenger seat lit-up and displayed that I had twenty missed calls that day. Twenty. That’s three less than yesterday. No doubt it’ll be half as many calls tomorrow and zero by the end of the week. I was becoming forgotten.
Five years. Ended, by her.
I looked across the lawn at the house. In only four days, my relationship with this house had blossomed. I knew every little detail of the building. I knew its curves, its blemishes. I knew that the drain pipe rattled in the wind, and that the front door caught on the frame. I knew which window had a crack and which light was always on. But from all my study, all my obsession, I knew one thing most of all. I knew that the kitchen window just wouldn’t lock properly. You could jiggle it around, slam it closed, or do a number of other fixes. And it still just wouldn’t catch the lock.
I leaned back into the head rest and closed my eyes for a moment. I allowed my hands to drift downwards, settling on the cool steel that lay across my lap. The weight of the blade felt like the most reassuring thing in the world. My safety blanket.
And so we are finally here, I thought.
I opened my eyes again to a familiar scene transpiring in front of me. Same time. Same exact order.
“You’re so predictable,” I mouthed, feeling disgusted.
Long, blonde hair could be seen gliding through each window pane in the house in front. The mop of hair would pull each window shut, throw on the lock, before disappearing behind a section of wall momentarily to head to its neighbour. Visions of the first time I had seen this blonde head traversed my mind. My husband’s face visible peering over the top of it, in what was the longest and most intimate ‘Friendly Hug’ I had ever seen.
My heart began to thud when the blonde head approached that back kitchen window, and I instinctively held my breath. The woman pushed and pulled, hit and shook. But the lock wouldn’t work. It just wouldn’t work. I let out my breath, feeling silly for being so nervous.
“Apparently you’re not so perfect. You’re lazy. Too busy with hair salons and destroying marriages to worry about things like this.”
I let out a small cackle. I had this girl all worked out.
The blonde head had given up and was climbing the stairs to the second floor bathroom. The woman began busying herself, washing her face and removing the day’s makeup. In truth, she didn’t even need makeup like I needed makeup. She was stunning. The contours of her face lined up precisely and her eyes gazed dreamily out at the world. Me. Blemished and deformed. Her. Polished and glowing.
The sun had gone, allowing the lights from the house to be projected directly at my seat in the car. My own little cinema, just for me. The theatrics continued inside with their usual elegance. She glided from room to room with precision, choreographed and flawless, as she was preparing for bed. I let out a pitiful little sob.
“How could anyone not like you,” I croaked.
Of course, he swore nothing was going on. After work events, lunch meetings, Friday night drinks. He always said nothing was happening. He always said I had nothing to worry about. But how could that be true? Just look at her. Just look at me.
The anger began to bubble up from my viscera, spilling out and pouring all over me. She wasn’t stupid. She knew exactly what she was doing. This whole mess, orchestrated by her. There were so many atrocities in the world that were left unpunished. But not this one. There would have to be ramifications.
As if on cue, the woman drew the curtains in the upstairs bedroom and the final light flicked off. The performance was over, and it was time. A moment of panic and doubt swept across my nervous system at the realisation of what I was about to do. The blood drained from my face and I felt cold and clammy. I looked up at the eyes in the rear-view mirror and probed them for answers. They stared back at me, spoke to me, told me what to do next. I took a calming breath and dropped my gaze to the blade sitting motionless in my lap, eventually placing my shaking hands on the handle. I’m so glad you’re here, I thought.
The click of the car door split the silence of the night. I carefully pushed it open, stepped out onto tarmac and started for the house without even bothering to close the car door behind me. There was no point, and the house was beckoning for me to come closer. I marched silently across the road, knife in hand. I had spent four days with this house and I knew it intimately, but now I was up close it seemed even more inviting. It was suddenly irresistible to me, begging me to enter, and it took all my power to not break out into a run. Keep it clinical, keep it calm, my mind told me.
Any hesitation or doubt I felt dissolved the moment I caught sight of that back kitchen window. This window, a gift from god. The cosmos aligning the rights and wrongs of the world, concentrated in this little square of wood and glass. What I was doing was justice and my decisions were no longer my own. I was a mere proxy of the universe, doing its bidding.
I reached out and placed my hands on the window frame, my grubby fingers looking out of place on the brilliant white of the house. I pushed the frame and the house welcomed me inside, ecstatic to finally meet me. I clambered over the threshold until I felt a slight tug behind me. My dress had got caught on the only ugly part of the entire structure. A loose nail clung to the material, its rusty grip attempting to pull me back towards my old life. Without a second thought I tore the fabric free and climbed inside.
My senses were bombarded and the house hit me with its revolting, sickly sweet scent. Perfume. A smell that reminded me of each and every time I had met her, filling my nose with memories of pain and deception. Images of my husband played through my mind. Times he had brought me along to work events, brought me to her, in meagre attempts to seek the peace. All deception, all under her spell. No doubt about it.
The staircase almost appeared to wince as I placed my filthy canvas shoes on each step. The soft fibres of carpeting attempted to pull away, each trying to avoid being sullied by my filth and grime. The house was used to a woman that was nothing but the best, and I was a cancer, treading all over it. I climbed the steps until I was greeted by a slightly ajar door at the top of the staircase. Silently, carefully, I tiptoed toward it and peered inside. The evening light spilled in through the gaps in the curtains, coating the room in a blue glow. The moon was my guide, and it shone its brilliance on a figure lying comfortably in bed at the centre of the room, drawing me closer.
I approached the bedside and looked down at the body before me. The woman radiated beauty even while sleeping, simply a work of art, and I felt suddenly self-conscious by my appearance. I wished I had made more effort before coming up here. My face reddened and I felt embarrassed for being next to something so beautiful. I was the unwashed scum about to ruin some masterpiece. I noticed a light smile carved into the face of the sleeping woman. A sculpture that was mocking my weakness. I clenched my eyes and shook my head, fighting off the emotions. This was nothing but her magic winding its way through my body, just like it had wound its way through my husband’s. This was all part of her ruse. Fight it, I told myself. Fight it.
The knife hung at my side, moulded to my right hand, and I gently raised my left to hover above the woman. She was on her back, with her hair neatly splayed out. A few chaotic strands were draped over her neck in what was the only disorder in her whole appearance. I slowly lowered my hand towards her neck until my finger tips grazed the few hairs. Gently, I brushed them off. She didn’t stir, she just kept that fixed and knowing smile. The woman’s neck, now bare, was made of exquisite marble. Anatomical perfection, carved by master hands. But I knew this was nothing more than further deception. It was soft, and there was warm blood coursing through it just beneath the surface — just like me, just like everyone else.
The knife began to hover of its own accord and I couldn’t let go, even if I wanted to. It had its own plans, and I was nothing but an observer. It angled its way, point first, to what it desired most. Swimming through the air like a predator, the point of the blade finally rested on the side of the woman’s throat, indenting the skin in the process. She wasn’t made of perfect marble after all.
Eyes snapped open, iridescent and blue, staring directly into my soul. Time began to bend and contort, and the world had stopped moving. The trees sat speechless and the stars stopped to watch. The cosmos held its breath. Everyone, everything, was waiting. Realisation flooded in, and the woman’s eyes screamed with terror. She didn’t say anything. She was unable to speak.
I caught my reflection in the blade. I looked so damn good.