Women Like Kendra

Submitted into Contest #98 in response to: Write a story involving a character who cannot return home.... view prompt


Drama Suspense

 Kendra Miller lived in Glitters, Texas up until her abrupt departure on a scorching July 14th afternoon. The mosquitos sizzled amidst the heat, smashed against the hot metal of her speeding Chevy Silverado, bound for anywhere past simplicity.

 Kendra lived in Glitters, and she could not go back

People in the town were of simple patchwork, intertwined in ordinary ways like a machination with outlined, uncontested purpose. They swallowed steak and potatoes, bathed in buttered bliss and the smell of the South, a signature scent of piety and weaponized chivalry at every corner of every quaint vinyl-sided house.

Glitters was always simple. Wives were for husbands, husbands were for money, and children, whose timely conception was always politely inquired about, were for God. It all fit together like the construction of a tawdry wooden shelf, adorned with bibles and ashtrays—corners slick with roach repellant

For Mrs. Miller, nothing stung quite like helplessness, which meant that being a woman in the pits of the summery South held with it a specific, mutually unstated kind of hell. Women like Kendra proved cumbersome to most, extending towards things out of reach, unmeant for the grasp of their delicate homely fingers. In Glitters, she could be little without a man to prove her value. Men knew this, men like Nelson Miller. 

Nelson saw women like Kendra and felt a bubbling rush down to his toes, his knuckles popping with elation and fervor at a woman unknowing of her place, and the prospect of teaching her. As someone with few intimate connections, shaky family ties, and a town that relegated her voice to a muffled, unruly, and rebellious gasp, Kendra was perfect for men like Nelson.

The two were a lesson in method and power dynamics, both pieces in a game they felt compelled to play, as mandated by their playing field. Nelson was blaringly charming, twiddling those in his life between his softened, well-manicured fingers. He did not raise his voice, or his fists, or his expectations of the adequately attractive girl at Sunday service. Kendra knew the bar was in hell for the men of Glitter, so she did not raise a fuss, or her guard, or any objection to the courtship of the man at Sunday service. Soon they married, and a Kendra before Kendra Miller felt like an undefined concept, for was she really a woman before she had a man? The town welcomed her finally, in the arms of a well-meaning husband.

Mrs. Miller’s house was kempt, her life as she knew it secure and nailed down amongst the swarm of other married parties. Men, women, and children together in the grasses; steak and potatoes rested on their plates. There was no room to complain. Nelson had saved her, given her a place and a purpose, so amicable and benevolent was his nature. She felt like a fish below murky water, suddenly submerged and yanked out at her husband’s command. The other wives were jealous. For someone like Kendra, too complicated and unfitting, to land the best man in Glitters? It was unquestionably beyond lucky. Her gratitude should have known no bounds, her happiness gliding past the horizon of forever. But not before blessing him with a child, of course. 

Mrs. Miller’s pregnancy remained pending, hanging above the household as sure as prophecy. Her neighbors looked on, her husband ever persuasive and only the slightest bit forceful, the kind of forceful that made her question whether it was ever forceful to begin with. His tone was a slither between her psyche, his presence like still air—muggy and fogged, and lifted at a moment’s notice with a smile. He played a game stacked in his favor, and Mrs. Miller’s corner remained empty.

It dawned on her that she did not want a child. She did not want Nelson’s child, most deeply of all, for his hegemonic masculinity would funnel down into her womb, festering in a baby shaped cocoon, passed onto the world as a Miller, foreign to Kendra and her own identity—something she was unsure of still possessing.

What was she but a wife, and soon to be mother? What was she but a woman with a clean home and able body and nothing to complain about save the boiling temperatures? Suitable finances and suitable health and suitable days dwindling on her back porch where she thought of planting a suitable garden, which her husband disagreed to. Nelson Miller politely disagreed to many things, and when Kendra thought to disagree about her pregnancy, he disagreed to that as well, notably with less politeness. She did not bring the subject up again. 

Mrs. Miller’s temples came to ache, the smoke of her mind compressing to the walls of her cranium so that she could hear a strained creak like a phantom weight pressed against the floorboards of her skull. Leaving never seemed a possibility, not until that July 14th afternoon, when it suddenly remained the only thing left to do.

Her husband stood across from her, apple bits between his teeth, speaking of nothing at all. He was halfway to the core, the bright yellow of its insides shining against the crimson outer skin. She watched the wet whip of his tongue as he enunciated words, his big teeth peeking at her through the pinks of his lips. She did not absorb his musings, but remained focused on the movements required to utter them. It took her a moment to realize that he was no longer speaking, his mouth caught in an O shape, spittle flying at her. She finally met his eyes and was greeted with an unfiltered panic. His cheeks frantically filled with a red almost matching the apple he was so casually gobbling, now rolled to the floor, the seeds popped into the crevices of the blue kitchen tile. Ah.

 Nelson Miller was choking. A bobbing lump jutted from his throat; The skin of his neck stretched against the apple piece in a fatal digestive limbo. He keeled over and peered at his wife with watery eyes, finally seeing her for the very first time. His body flailed at her desperately, urging her to assist him. What in the world was she just standing there for, the simple woman? But he was wrong, Kendra was the farthest thing from simple in all of Glitters. She waited in anticipation as he writhed in twisted gasps for Oxygen, her breath almost as bated as his.  

He then coughed wetly, and a spit covered apple chunk flew from his mouth, landing in a damning pose between Kendra’s feet. Her eyes grew wide as she realized that the gamble she’d made turned up a loss. Her husband heaved on the floor, fully aware that in her inaction, Kendra had made an abundantly clear choice, and one that he strongly disagreed with. What was there to do after your spouse sees you stand in the face of their death, unmoving, hopeful?

Kendra dashed into her room, gathering what little she felt she could and tossed it into a black garbage bag. She clumsily tripped over herself on the way out her front door and into her car, jamming the keys into the ignition with quivering fingers. She saw Nelson stumble forward, hand on his throat, limp in his knees as he teetered towards her. She pressed the gas, and her life in Glitters flashed by her like a terrible vision.

After about fifteen miles, she felt herself sigh, a pressure released from within her. She could not go back, and something within that felt ultimately freeing. The clouds rolled by, caressing the edge of a sky above a Kendra born anew.

She would not go back. Women like Kendra would not go back for anything, not for all the money in the world.

June 19, 2021 00:46

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H L McQuaid
10:44 Jun 21, 2021

An entertaining story, visual, sensual and visceral. I like the repetition of Kendra's appearance, it had a nice rhythm without being distracting. One comment. The first paragraph is really abstract, compared to the rest of the story, and I almost didn't make it to second paragraph, which would have been a shame, because the story really picks up. So maybe consider starting with "Glitters was always..." or even "Kendra Miller lived in Glitters, Texas.." and then work the other paragraphs in after that. Nice work!


E. B. Bullet
16:37 Jun 21, 2021

Ahh thank you for reading! I actually felt similarly about the first section when re reading the story paragraph but wasn't sure what to take away or how to edit it down. I'm pretty awful with clunky beginnings LOL I'll see what I can do 🤔🤔


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