She couldn’t stand it anymore. He never raised his hand to her or spoke stinging words. He supported her, both with words and with money. He was kind, if sometimes cold. They no longer spent long nights talking about philosophy, God, and the world. Passionate lovemaking was a long memory. He went to work, he returned, and he situated himself on the couch. That was all.
His face stayed fixed, like that of a gargoyle. She saw the weariness. How fucking annoying.
Then, there were the others. How she dreaded the drumming of their feet on the hardwood floor. The screaming. Mommy, where is my toy? Mommy, I want a drink. Mommy, come play dollie with me.
The fucking brats had ruined her life. Her body never recovered from the third. They sucked away her time and energy, and the overwhelming time commitment distanced her from her friends. Their money vanished, and Daddy’s work was no longer enough. Part of him died for them. No more long nights talking about philosophy, God, and the world. No individual identity remained. They’d become Mommy and Daddy.
Disgusting little creatures. They’d destroyed everything.
How boring it became, and how she nurtured her anger as it built. She lay awake at night, resenting his soft breaths beside her, and the inevitable creak of the bedroom door when they came to her. They’d ask to sleep in the bed with Mommy and Daddy. It was dark, and the dark was scary. She always said yes, but as the bed dipped downwards as they crawled up beside her, she felt bile in her throat.
One night, she opened the cabinet in the dining room. She’d found the key in his tackle box – a clever hiding place, but she’d always known where it was. The key was only for emergencies. They’d stashed it away from the children, but Mommy and Daddy always knew.
She left the key in the lock as she pulled the forbidden cabinet open. Inside, the long shaft of his hunting rifle was propped in back corner. She reached for it.
Something primeval held her back. She imagined the roar. No more soft breathing and no more “Mommy”. There had to be another way.
Two days passed. The door clicked shut, and she dropped her bags on the hard hotel room bed. She’d driven all this way, far from the rugged Appalachians and into nowhere. Here, there was soft breathing, and no “Mommy”.
She breathed deeply and laid down. The dappled ceiling looking back at her, like television static. They were gone.
The ceiling courted her gaze for hours. Distantly, she thought she heard feet slapping against hardwood floor. Her mind couldn’t trick her, just as it halted her from lifting the rifle. She wondered if she should have done it anyway. At least then, she could live a new life knowing that the damnable footsteps didn’t exist anymore. She couldn’t be tempted to return.
Was this regret that she felt? Regret for leaving, or regret for leaving the rifle nested in its cabinet.
She had her new life. She wept.