***TRIGGER WARNING*** Details of abuse, rape and child lose.
The cut-throat razor barely glistens anymore. Years of slicing, scraping and shaping have gradually worn it down. Made it obsolete. Its bluntness won't deter me though, I'll just have to cut a little harder.
I turn it in my hand, a museum clerk appraising a lost relic, a murderer savouring the moment, a lover lost in loneliness. Your initials are almost worn from the walnut handle. I had it engraved specially, just for you, gold leafed, just for you. Everything just for you. Everything.
The massacre streaked clown in the mirror looks so pathetic that a nervous laugh bubbles up out of nowhere. This bathroom was a haven of sorts, my safe space, cool, refreshing, running water to hide my tears, a lock to close away your anger. I eye the splintered, patched, smashed and repaired door frame, multiple screw holes never filled, a sad account of your determined strength. Some locks just weren't built to hold back your unbridled love.
I run a hand through my thick red curls, gathering them as the executioner gathers his noose, hosting them over one trembling gibbet of a shoulder. They were always so overbearing, so demanding, so you.
“Love your hair.” Your first words to me all those years ago. Fresh faced out of university, leaning against the packed bar like the world owed you something and you’d arrived to collect. Damn but you were James Dean cool. I tripped right into those ocean blue eyes of yours, sipping my cocktail to hide my stupid giggles at every one of your terrible jokes. Then you kissed me. You. Kissed. Me.
Two years, two glorious years of sunny holidays, dancing, surprise gifts, moonlight dinners, it was everything a goddamn hallmark movie wants to be. Even a proposal before the crackling yuletide fireplace. But I said no.
Perhaps my gut knew you better than I did, perhaps it could see through your slick greased hair and perfectly manicured nails to something much rougher. Yes I loved you, yes you were good to me, but that wasn't enough. I was only twenty three after all. I could hardly imagine a month ahead, never mind years.
Then came one late period, two blue lines, and another reason to say yes.
Small and fast. Not the adjectives you want to hear from your fiance's parents when planning a wedding, but they were the big city lawyers with the dinero so who was I to say no. I should have though. No to the proposal, to the holidays, to the kiss. To you.
But that was my problem, maybe it's better to call it a weakness. I'd never been one for confrontation, always scared of violence. Still it found me all the same. I'm sure some second year psych student could tell me why. Maybe because daddy hit mommy whilst you cowered behind the sofa, they might say. If only I still cared.
So they planned the wedding, the bride an afterthought, their special little boy front and center.
Swollen, bloated and sore all over, simply the perfect combination for a perfect day in white. Although your bitch mother demanded I wear cream, the good Catholic that she is and all that. I forced a smile, we kissed, they applauded, we signed a registration and suddenly I officially became we. I never realised what I was signing away until weeks later.
It was playful at first, make dinner wife, get me a beer wife, I would snigger and waddle to the task at hand thinking it all a joke. But the punchline never came.
Ten weeks out from meeting our precious little boy and you came home drunk. Another late night with the rest of the rookies from the station. You called out my name in that disgusting sing-song as you stumbled down the hall, like you were some cheap horror villian. You never were cheap though.
Sex. You wanted it. I didn't. You demanded it. I said no. You stared with a killer's glint. I made for the stairs. You pulled me by the hair. I screamed. You laughed, pushed, held, tore, forced, ripped, choked, came. I wailed, all night, until trauma and fatigue carried me from one nightmare to another.
Searing, crippling pain woke me. Barbed wire tightening around my belly, kicks and punches coming from within. Something's wrong mammy, help me mammy. My child, my boy. The crisp bed sheets of the guest bedroom puddled in our blood, I….
The memory is too much, the blade clatters in the sink, I grip the porcelain edge sobbing for the child that never was. I didn't just lose a son, I lost the possibility of everything he could have been. I lost the 'what if'.
I tear at the strap of my black velvet dress, three days was enough to mourn you. I'm done. Should have left you years ago, but I stayed for twelve years. Twelve, fucking, years of abuse followed by roses, slaps followed by kisses. But never an apology or explanation. You moved us half way across the country for a fresh start, so you could be a detective. What a shit one you were. And I took the brunt of all your failures. Always thinking it's the drink, or the pressure, or the grief.
More fool me.
The dress slinks to the ground and I stroke my yellow mottled ribs, your last and final kiss.
I grab the razor, my hands shaking. There's no point waiting anymore. I hack, and slash, and slice. Red ribbons spill onto the bathroom floor, dropping like autumn leaves, the dead falling away so the new can begin.
Blood runs in rivulets down my forehead, across my ears, stings my eyes. Look at me, a fucking shield maiden of old, barbarian here to stab and maim. Steam clouds everywhere, the shower washes away the blood, makeup, and phantom grief with it. Oh I put on a show for you darling. The perfect grieving wife by your fresh grave.
Dripping, I pad across your pristine hardwood floors to the landing. Only two weeks ago I stood down there watching the men in white put out their little numbered yellow placards, bright flash photos highlighting the judging detective's glares. One of their own found dead. An accident? Murder? I was prime suspect number one. Of course. As I knew I would be.
I descend past the remnants of shattered spindles, where you twisted your arm, the badly repaired plaster where you struck your back, the glorious final step where you cracked your head, snapped your neck ever so sweetly. My fingers touch the well scrubbed blood splatter that keeps coming through the paint.
Stories tell us death smells bad, to me it stinks of casserole and flowers. I need a drink. You always told me I was embarrassing when I drank vodka, so guess what I reach for. Closing the fridge door I see Dolores' back porch light is on. Our little signal. She is awake and there if I need her.
She's the only good thing that came from our move here. An unexpected friend when I really needed one. She knew the tell tale markers, big sunglasses, turtle necks jumpers in midsummer. She never pushed, only told her own story over our shared fence. Her husband came back from war a different man. Seems a uniform and gun change some people. Or gives them permission to be the bastards they always were.
We bonded. She was the shoulder I cried on, the mother I never had, the best of friends. An ally. An accomplice.
I wrap myself in a throw from the sofa and slide open the patio door. Swigging my booze I wander across the lawn to the crackling bonfire. Your suits, pictures of you, our wedding album, everything with you in it. Everything. Bye bye darling.
I run my hand over my stubbled head, wince at one of many cuts, then laugh.
"You did it then?"
I don't need to turn to know it's Dolores, for a woman close to seventy she moves like a cat. You would never hear her enter your house, or cross a landing, especially if you were distracted arguing with your wife.
"The neighbours are going to think I lost my mind," I hold out the bottle.
"Let them." She drinks deep, smiles at me, puts one arm over my shoulder. I lean in.
"No, never thank me dear. Sure we were in the backyard saying our goodbyes. Remember?"
I breathe deep the smoky air.
"Is it working?" She asks, nodding towards the fire.
"Strangely, yes." It was another of Dolores' ideas, she's great for ideas. Get rid of all that was you, all that held power or sway over me. Like a ceremony, cut it out, burn it away, until you are nothing but a shadow and ash.
"So you feel better?"
I tilt my head to the full moon, resisting the urge to howl, the night breeze gently caressing my bare, glistening skin. My edge is coming back. I smile, a wide deeply felt smile.
"I feel free."