‘I’m sorry, Rebecca’.
‘You keep saying that, David’ Rebecca says. ‘Stop; please – just – stop. I don’t want to hear it again. I. am. tired. of hearing. you say it’.
‘No, David. No. No’. She puts her hands over her ears and wonders how much longer this is going to go on, how much longer she is going to last. It has been close to an hour since he came in, found her washing the dishes, kissed her neck and said Becky I have something to tell you. For that hour there have been words — pled and shouted, imprecations and implications — from both of them. Now she is out of strength, out of anger. Out of everything except a desire to be alone.
She wonders if he can put an arm around her, take her into his arms, make love to her, make everything all right; again. ‘Look’, he says, ‘I know I’m wrong. I am sorry. Jesus Christ, Bec, gimme a break. I have never been sorrier in my whole goddam life’.
David sighs. She can hear him, of course, although she hums a soft monotonic hum which is amplified in her covered ears. She thinks: why does it sound like that, like the roar of the sea in a giant shell; but then David’s hands grasp her wrists and pull her hands and her hum away. ‘Becky’, he says. ‘It’s just something that happens. It doesn’t mean anything’.
‘How come’? she says dully.
‘How come what’?
‘How come you do it, that, if it doesn’t mean anything’?
He sighs again. His breath is warm. ‘I don’now. Some things just don’t’.
‘They do to me’.
‘Aw, Bec, come on. You know I love you’.
She stands limp, as if immobile. Slowly he eases her hands downward, presses them, beneath his, to her hips, presses his mouth behind her ear.
‘Becky’ he whispers.
‘What’? she says.
‘Everything’ll be all right’. She feels him smile. ‘Hey’, he murmurs; ‘let’s go upstairs’.
An hour later he’s lying beside her, asleep. The bedroom is hot, her body is dappled by her sweat, she lies in theirs. Rebecca raises an arm, watches a rillet swivel along it, splash onto her chest, looks at the beads collected around the soft curves of her breasts. Oh, she thinks, that this too, too solid flesh could melt. She puts the arm down and looks down at him sleeping, lays a hand gently on his shoulder. He snores but does not move. ‘David’ she whispers.
He doesn’t answer.
She slips away and without dressing goes downstairs. From a closet she takes a small shoulder bag and walks through the first floor filling it with things she doesn’t associate with David, then gives up and dumps the bag in the garbage: She associates everything in this house, thirteen-years-of-marriage worth, with David. She stands in the kitchen and looks into the yard, the patio. The grill is still dirty from last night; if she leaves she will not have to clean it. The trellised roses need trimming; if she leaves they will die. At the kitchen sink she runs cold water into her hands, bends, sinks her face into them, lets the water run slowly off between her fingers. Then, still wet and undressed, she goes to the den and makes a call to Los Angeles. Tim answers the phone and calls Chriss; when he picks it up Rebecca says ‘Could I come visit, for a few days’?
She starts telling Chriss about today; quickly, she begins to cry. The Kleenex box on the desk is empty so she wipes the tears away with her hand, wipes the hand on her thigh, leaving an inch-wide gray-blue smear. ‘Oh, God, Chriss’ she says, ‘it’s so awful. What’s wrong with me. I don’t understand, I don’t. Why’?
‘There’s nothing wrong with you’. Chriss sighs. ‘Sometimes’ he says, ‘I think all men are pigs. Except faggots, of course’. He laughs: a short, self-deprecating laugh. ‘We’re just hams. In wry’.
‘What’? says Rebecca. ‘I don’t understand’.
‘Nothing, Sis. Just a double entendre, a pun. W-R-Y for R-Y-E. Faggot humor’.
‘I wish you wouldn’t talk about yourself like that’.
‘Umm’ Chriss says.
‘Is Mom okay’?
‘Mom’s … Mom? You know’.
‘Dad sprang the news he was getting married again. She went … well, crazy. -Er. Kindly old chap, he is’. Chriss takes a deep breath and whistles it through the phone. ‘Are you really going to come’? he says. ‘You know you’re welcome’.
Rebecca sniffles. ‘I don’t know. No; probably not. D’you think Tim’d mind’?
‘Never mind what Timothy minds. Do you really want to come’.
‘Maybe; I don’t know’.
‘Who’re you talking to’? David asks from behind her.
‘Oh’ she says, suddenly aware she isn’t dressed, ‘listen, I’ve got to go now. I’ll let you know as soon as I’ve … worked it out. Okay’?
‘The schmuck’s there’?
Without meaning to, she laughs. ‘Yeah. Uh-huh. ’Bye’, she says and clicks ‘end’.
He is wearing his bathrobe, purple velour she bought him for a birthday or Christmas, she can’t remember which. Why does it only feel soft, she thinks, if you rub it the one way? ‘Who was that’? David asks. Through the top of the robe, she can see his freckled chest covered with the curly red hair, coarse no matter which way I rub it.
‘Well’? he says, and jams his hands into the robe’s deep pockets.
She closes her eyes and breathes deeply, listens to her pulse and watches the patterns in the blackness. Then she opens them. ‘Well’? David says, again.
She walks past him and goes upstairs.
‘Becky’ he calls, ‘what are you doing’? When she doesn’t answer, he climbs the stairs, stands in the doorway, sees the suitcase on the bed. ‘Oh shit’ he says. ‘Becky, this is so stupid. I made a mistake. A goddam mistake. That’s all. Can’t you at least try to understand’.
She shakes her head and goes on packing.
He watches her a full minute, arms folded. Then he looks at his watch and snorts. ‘Well’, he says, ‘if you won’t I know someone who will’. He yanks his clothes off the dresser and goes downstairs.
In a few minutes she hears the door slam. She stands, hands on the open suitcase, looking at one of David’s socks on the carpet. Finally, she picks the sock up, carries it to the bathroom, drops it in the hamper. She washes the smear from her thigh, then goes back to the bedroom carrying the towel, and dries her entire body before the mirror. For a moment she looks out the window, at the untrimmed roses. Then she goes to the dresser, takes out a fresh set of underwear; to the closet: slacks, a blouse. She closes the suitcase; it locks with a click.
Rebecca places it on the floor and stands beside the bed, dressing.
Evan Guilford-Blake’s novel, Noir(ish), is published by Penguin, and Holland House will issue American Blues, a collection of his short stories, in October. His plays have won 42 competitions; 30 are published. He and his wife (and inspiration) Roxanna, a healthcare writer and jewelry designer, live in the southeastern US. Find him at : www.guilford-blake.com/evan