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By. Pat Berryhill

Particles hung in the sunbeam and she recalled hearing somewhere, sometime, dust is nothing more than an accumulation of dead skin cells and that’s why it could feel greasy. Staring at the window wasn’t the same thing as staring out the window and people mistook the two where she was concerned. They would ask, “Isn’t it a gorgeous day?” or “I believe that’s the little dog from next door. He wanders over sometimes. Isn’t he cute?” Occasionally, it was more personal… “Are you watching for him? You know he isn’t coming.”

Some would try damn near anything to goad her into talking, but it never worked. She had no interest in going outside either. Anything that transpired past the glass with the crisscrossed metal mesh and the metal bar shutters, stopped existing for her long ago and she knew, oh so well, he wasn’t coming today, nor any other.

 

She saw it like an 8mm film reel in her head every night, fighting sleep and ultimately succumbing to the Trazodone. Dinner was at their favorite Italian restaurant, the bougie place with low light and small portions. He wore his noir slacks, dark grey shirt, and midnight matte tie. With his shiny black hair and naturally blue eyes, whispers followed him as he walked through a room. She had on her crimson couture dress. It was mid-thigh, sleek, and form fitting with spaghetti straps. The fabric felt good and was thin. She went sans panties or it ruined the line of the silhouette. She had black, 6 inch heel, Loui Boutons and a black Coach clutch. He made the remark that she need only to let her golden messy bun fall in curly cascades around her green eyes and dinner would be in tonight. Tempted, she still opted to go. They had reservations and on a Friday, they were hard to come by on short notice. She had managed tonight’s in a week’s time. Besides, she wanted to remain in good standing with the owner and chef.

If they had stayed in, if he had left his phone in the car, or had taken it with him to the bathroom, things could have ended so differently, but he didn’t. The phone vibrated and she glanced down. It was a message from Alice. “Tomorrow, I am all yours. Tom is taking the boys to the zoo, doing that hubby thing.” He had told her he was working all day tomorrow. It was why he wasn’t staying at her place tonight. When he returned from the bathroom, the Cannoli was in a to-go box, the table was cleared, and she was waiting at the bar. He paid and they walked in the drizzling, humid, Summer rain to his Beamer.

Less than two minutes on the road, she asked, “So what’s going on tomorrow?”

“Oh, just going over the upcoming case with the partners. We want to be certain all I’s are dotted and t’s are crossed for this new client.”, he replied.

She half snorted, but still spoke calmly, “You lying son of a bitch.”

“What?”

“Okay, who is Alice then?”

“Really? Are you kidding me?”

“Do I look like I’m kidding?”, she asked blank faced.

“No, you don’t, but you don’t realize this how funny this is sweetheart. There is a perfectly innocent explain-“

“Well, I know I’m not amused. I’m sure her husband who is taking the kids to the park wouldn’t be amused either.”

“The zoo.”

“Excuse me?”

“He’s taking them to the zoo.”, he replied and half grinned.

“I’m so glad you find this humorous. I really am. Know what? That’s it.” She had that tone in her voice. Not yelling, but distinctly different than before.

“What do you mean that’s it?”

“I can’t stay in this car with you one moment longer.”

She’d always been passionate. He loved that about her. Occasionally, it had it’s down side. In one fluid motion, she reached for her seatbelt with one hand and the door handle with the other. He, knowing she would leap from the moving car, lunged with his right hand to grab her arm and his left hand jerked the wheel into the oncoming traffic by just eight inches. The pickup hit the Beamer and the car was no match for the old metal Ford. Her airbag deployed. His did not. She came to and realized he was badly injured. Not knowing where to apply pressure, there was so much blood, she called 911 and said, “I’m so sorry, babe. Help is on the way. It’s gonna be okay. You’re gonna be alright.” She realized he was trying to say something and leaned into his lips to listen.
She met Alice and Tom at the funeral. Tom was his cousin. And Alice? She was Tom’s wife. A legal secretary that was going to temp that day, help out. After the funeral, she said her thank-you’s to family and friends. She saw him placed in the ground. She went home and sewed her mouth shut with a sewing needle and silk thread. Neighbors called the cops when they saw her at the mailbox the next morning and she attempted to smile, the stitching pulled and tore a bit, causing crimson rivulets to run down her chin.

The hospital cut the silk thread, but couldn’t make her talk. She’d been hearing the last words he spoke since the day after his death. They came out the telephone when friends called with condolences, out the Pastor’s mouth at the funeral, out her air vents in the car, they echoed down the empty halls. Now, out the doctor’s mouth at monthly med checks and other patients’ mouths in group. From under her bed at night as she fought sleep, before she saw it all again…

“I’m so sorry, babe. Help is on the way. It’s gonna be okay. You’re gonna be alright.” She realized he was trying to say something and leaned into his lips to listen.

“I’ll have your lying tongue.”

Pat Berryhill lives and works in Winston Salem, NC. She has been published in Change Seven Magazine, Cultural Weekly, and will be in the soon to be released anthology The Devil’s Doorbell. She is also the founder of the NC Writer’s Collective.

Hectana is a musician from Russia.