Three times in a week, Henry had been late for dinner. Wren noticed. Henry Jr. noticed. Elmo, the family mutt, noticed. Even two-year-old Rosie noticed as she played in the living room that third night.
“Mommy. Where daddy?”
Henry ought to know that Wren was not a fan of tardiness; he was twenty minutes late for their first date and she never let him forget it. For fifteen years they’ve known each other and not once after that first date was Henry ever late. Not until now.
The first night, Henry was full of regrets. He kissed Wren over and over, apologizing more than he needed to.
“Wren, my darling, I’m so sorry, I know how you hate it when I’m late. We had a meeting run long and I didn’t get the chance to call. I’m here now, it won’t happen again, I promise. I have Melissa sending you a cake from Oswald’s Bakery tomorrow, okay? Chocolate, your favorite. I’m so sorry.”
Chocolate’s not Wren’s favorite, but she figured she ought not to complain about a free cake. Melissa, Henry’s sixty-some-odd-year-old secretary, never did send a chocolate cake. Or any cake. She didn’t even answer the phone when Wren called her to ask about it.
Henry was late coming home again the next day. And again on Friday. That time the apology was less sincere but offered the same sorry excuse. A month or so rolled by and he wasn’t late again, but he wasn’t exactly present, either. He would often take his dinner into the office, lock the door, and wouldn’t come out again before Wren would retire to the bedroom. Henry had always kept the office locked, and Wren had respected that; Henry Jr. could be rather nosy. But it bothered her that she wasn’t allowed in there, either. She knew it was a pigsty without her to clean it.
A few weeks in to the new habits, she waited in the living room, determined to stay awake until she saw her husband again.
“What’s got you so busy, dear?” Wren had asked the moment he came out of the hall. “I hardly ever see you anymore. Henry J and Rosie miss you, you know.”
“It’s just a busy time of year for me. It won’t last much longer. Work stuff, you understand.”
Wren, in fact, did not understand.
“Who’s answering sales calls in the middle of the evening? Shouldn’t those people be spending time with their families, too?”
Henry cut a glare at Wren for her remark but didn’t entertain it as he mumbled into the dim room, “go to bed, Wren.”
She sat for a second in the stiff silence of the house. Henry let out a harsh sigh.
“Look, Wren, work’s getting a little more complicated than just making sales calls, okay? It’s been hard to keep up. When everything’s done and over, I’ll tell you all about it, okay? You wouldn’t understand it right now, anyway, and I don’t have the time it takes to explain it all to you yet. I just need you to trust me.”
Wren trusted him. She thought she did, anyway. He had never given her a reason not to. She continued to trust him even as the weeks went on and she saw less and less of him. She had grown weary of isolation and silent meals. At least he would always get the mail and take the trash out.
Weekends were fine. Fine during the day, anyway. He wasn’t home at night. They both played the roles of happy couple in public, masquerading perfection. But never any warmth. That wasn’t new; Henry had never been a fan of being affectionate in public. But he stopped touching her at home, too. The days they would spend together, Wren found herself constantly craving even just a pinky to hold.
She had started to suspect a mistress in the beginning. It would explain why they hadn’t slept together in months. But Henry had always expressed deep disgust when discussing friend’s affairs, giving Wren no reason to believe he would ever consider doing it himself. Right?
* * *
The nights got colder, and the sun set sooner. Wren no longer delayed dinnertime for her husband. Time had started to lose meaning for her, anyway. She took a long drag off her cigarette and blew it out the bathroom window. It was a new habit. She hated smoking, but she hated drinking more, and she needed something to calm her nerves. There was a knock on the door and Wren flung the cigarette into the toilet in a panic.
“Mama?” Henry Jr. knocked again and rattled the knob.
“One second, Henry J, I’m using the potty!” She flushed the toilet and mourned the half-smoked stick as it disappeared.
“Mama, when’s daddy getting home? I got a math question for him.”
Wren opened the door to her nine-year-old tossing a baseball up in the air and failing to catch it as it came back to him. She pushed past him with a heavy sigh and a discouraging, “I don’t know, J. And no throwing in the house, we’ve talked about this.”
“Is he ever gonna hang out with me again?”
Wren bit her lip and tried to soften her tone.
“Of course, he will. He’s just been really busy these past few months.”
“Well, can you help me with it, Mama?”
Wren turned to look at her eager son. She probably could help him, but her husband was a lot better at explaining things to him than she was. When she did try, he would often swoop in later and tell his wife she did it all wrong.
Wren rubbed her forehead and caught a whiff of the lingering smell of smoke on her fingertips. The timer went off for the lasagna and she decided her next break would be once the salad was prepared. She could feel her husband’s thirty-fourth tardy looming.
“I’m sure daddy will be home soon, kid, just ask him when he gets here. Go set the table, dinner’s almost ready.”
So, he did. Henry Jr. was a model child, there was no denying that. Hardworking, good listener, a heart bigger than Texas. He was born exactly nine months after Wren and Henry Sr. got married. Wren would always boast that he was the spitting image of her husband. Same brown eyes, same unusually small toes, same stupid, big head, only Henry Jr. still had the dark curls on top.
She had envied those curls since she first met Henry in high school; it’s what drew her to him in the first place. But it wasn’t just his good looks that caught her eye, or even that he excelled in sports. He was the star of their high school’s mathletes, and there was something so sexy to Wren about a man who was good at something she wasn’t. Back then, Wren was better at a lot of things. There were paintings and gymnastics medals hiding inside their garage to prove it.
Wren’s memories clouded her focus. Her knife had missed the tomato. She stared at the blood coming out of her thumb for a long time before she processed what had happened. It pooled around the tomato slices, picking up loose seeds like boats ready to set sail. She saw herself aboard a seed, arms wrapped up in the ropes of the sail, peering beyond the dark red horizon and bracing herself for the ride over the edge of the cutting board. Her vision started to spin.
All at once the pain hit her and she screeched. She grabbed the nearest rag and wrapped it around her thumb. It continued to throb underneath the cover, and tears fell from her cheeks before she even realized she was crying. She let out a whisper of a curse and the pain subsided just a little. Looking up from her wound, she saw Rosie in the highchair, eyes wide and curious. She asked her mother, “Okay, mommy? You okay?” over and over and over again. Her voice bounced around in Wren’s head, and she slammed her injured fist on the counter in a panicked attempt to shut her daughter up.
Both children froze in the dining room and stared at Wren, white with fear of the stranger claiming to be their mother. Her chest tightened with immediate remorse, and she apologized profusely. But the kids didn’t respond. Wren mumbled something about the bathroom and grabbed a loose cigarette from her purse as she exited. Henry Jr. stopped setting the table after two seats and picked up the sippy cup his sister had dropped.
It was another dinner without her husband. But this one was worse than the others. She had never reacted to her kids in such a violent way, she could tell they were still shaken from it. Rosie had quickly exonerated her, or just simply already forgotten, as toddlers do, but Henry Jr. wasn’t so quick to forgive. When she sent him to bed, he refused their nightly routine of butterfly, cheek, and forehead kisses. Wren’s chest continued to hurt until she went to bed.
She pretended to be asleep when Henry Sr. came home, hoping he would come to bed sooner. Her finger had been stitched up by the retired nurse next door, and she made sure to leave the wounded hand visible over the blankets. Henry didn’t even touch it. Or her. More tears fell onto Wren’s pillow as Henry clicked his lamp off and turned away from her.
Wren didn’t sleep. Well, admittedly she nodded off around two or three, but woke back up before the sunrise, so she didn’t count it. She’d never woken up before the rest of the house until about a month prior, and she’d grown to enjoy it. It was like a dream, watching the sky turn from red to orange to yellow to bright blue. The sunrise was a lot more beautiful than the sunset, she had decided, especially when she could have a cigarette with her coffee as she watched from the front porch.
The baby monitor lit up as she finished a second smoke; her morning of peace was over. She hung her coat up by the door and stared at the keys on the hooks. Wren and Henry had bought the minivan together when they found out about Rosie. It was a little on the expensive side as they bought it new, so they both gave up their smaller cars in exchange. They agreed that one car was sensible since Wren would be home most of the day with a new baby, anyway. But after going stir crazy for two years, she was beyond thrilled when Henry decided to buy another car a few months back. Although, she didn’t understand why it had to be a brand new, bright red, expensive sports car. She didn’t think they could afford it, but she’d always trusted Henry, and she assured her they could. She didn’t trust him anymore. She stuffed the keys to Henry’s car in her pocket and went to get Rosie ready for daycare.
Wren was just finishing her eggs when her husband walked into the kitchen. She made sure she took longer than usual this morning so that she would catch him. She watched as he poured his coffee into a travel mug. A scarlet tie sat over his belly and Wren didn’t recognize the pants he had on. When did he have time to shop for himself? She wasn’t sure if he was ignoring her or just hadn’t noticed her yet, so she decided to announce herself.
Henry almost dropped his coffee at her voice, then turned to her with a plastered smile.
“Hey, hey, morning. Didn’t see you.” He looked past his wife at his daughter in the highchair, having a battle with a Cheerio on her tray. “Hey, good morning, sugarplum! Oh, you are such a beautiful little girl.” Rosie cooed in response and wriggled her tiny fingers at him. “What are y’all still doing here, Wren? Where’s Junior?”
“He takes the bus now, remember? So that he can ride with his little Sarah friend. He’s been doing that for quite a few weeks, now.”
“Oh, right, right, right.” Henry tossed a bagel into the toaster and the house was silent again.
“Listen,” Wren finally said, “I need you to take Rosie to daycare this morning. I’ve got some things to do and—”
“What? No, Wren, I don’t have time for that now, I’m running late. Why didn’t you ask me this sooner? I could’ve made sure I was up earlier.”
“Well, I was going to ask you at dinner, but you weren’t there.”
Henry’s eyes narrowed, and Wren matched it. The bagels popped out and Henry flinched. “Look, I’m late, Wren. Use that brain of yours and text me next time. Or call me. Or email me. I got you that PDA for a reason. Why are you even still here if you’ve got so many things to do?”
“Because I never see my husband anymore and was hoping he’d be happy to see me, too.”
“Look, Wren, we talked about this. Work is… a lot right now. I’ve got a lot on my mind.”
“Right, and I’m at the bottom of the list, aren’t I?”
“Is that what I said?”
“That’s what you implied.”
Henry rubbed his neck and took a breath. “You don’t understand.”
Wren stood up.
“Wren, I’m already running late—”
“Marriage doesn’t work without communication, Henry.”
“I know, but now is not a good time—”
“Will there ever be a good time? It’s been months!”
“Yes, I know it has, Wren! Jesus, I know how time works. Like right now, if you look at a clock, you’ll see that I’m running late—”
“I don’t care. I don’t care! I want to know who and what is keeping my husband away from the family that he helped create.”
Henry slapped Wren across the cheek. He’d never done that.
“Don’t you dare use my kids against me,” Henry snarled, “and stop talking over me. It doesn’t make you sound any smarter. Work is busy. I am late. That’s all you need to know, got it?”
Wren nodded and watched as he approached the front door. Her cheek throbbed underneath her hand.
“Wren, where are my keys?”
Her pulse quickened and a rock formed in her stomach.
“I don’t know, honey, I haven’t seen them. You didn’t put them on the hook?”
“Of course, I put them on the hook, I always put them on the hook, but now they’re not on the damn hook. Where are they?”
Wren pretended to look in the kitchen, then pulled them out of her pocket while Henry’s back was turned.
“Look, Henry, they’re right here on the counter. You must’ve left them there last night.” He went to snatch them out of his wife’s hand, but she held on to them. Rosie was whimpering behind them. Wren’s voice went soft. “Kiss your daughter goodbye so she’s not scared of you.”
Henry rubbed the top of his head as if something had magically grown there overnight, but he complied. Rosie giggled as he dried her tears and smothered her with kisses. Then he went for the keys again, but Wren couldn’t let go yet.
“And your wife.” She paused. She couldn’t look at him. “Please.”
Henry huffed and reluctantly kissed her injured cheek before darting out the door. Wren rubbed the remaining key in her pocket. The tears came back. She thought the kiss would fill the hole he’d dug inside her. It only tunneled deeper. She didn’t recognize him anymore.
There was once a time when Henry couldn’t keep his hands off Wren. They were just young, little idiots, madly in love with the idea of being in love. They made it through high school together and getting married was just what high school couples in their little Southern town did if they survived that long. That’s what Wren’s parents did; “full of love until forever,” they would say. Wren thought she would last forever with Henry, too. She wondered if he ever really loved her in the first place.
Wren hated her PDA. The screen was too small and the little pen that came with it hardly ever worked right. But she used it that day. She waited impatiently for Melissa to pick up her call.
“Washburn Inc., this is Angie, how can I help you?”
“Angie? I thought this was Melissa’s number.”
“Sorry, ma’am, Melissa doesn’t work here anymore.”
“What? Henry didn’t tell me he hired a new assistant.”
There was a pause on the other end.
“Yes, he’s my husband.”
“I’m so sorry to be the one to tell you this, miss, but Mr. Wilson was let go.”
Earth stopped spinning.
“What did you just say?”
“Henry Wilson was let go quite a few months ago. He didn’t tell you?”
“No. No, he didn’t tell me.”
Wren hung up and threw the stupid PDA across the room. She broke into a sob and melted against the wall. Everything inside her body shattered, every fear in her brain conjured, every ounce of love tainted. She pulled a cigarette out from her back pocket and lit it right in the middle of the living room. The house would stink but she didn’t care anymore.
Halfway through the cigarette, the landline rang. Wren let the voicemail take it, thinking it was her friend, Lisa, calling to ask why she missed Mother’s Day Out for the third week in a row. But when Henry Jr.’s recorded voice instructed the caller to leave a message, there wasn’t one. The phone rang again almost immediately.
“Hello?” she shouted into the receiver. No response. “Hello? Who is this? This is Wren!”
There was a quick gasp on the other end. The phone clicked and the dial tone purred. Wren threw that phone, too. It was a woman’s gasp.
She stood in front of Henry’s office for a long time. She wasn’t sure how long, but she knew it was long enough for Elmo to fall asleep beside her. Her hands were balled up tight. She knew whatever else Henry was hiding would be on the other side of that door. She knew everything would change once she found out what he’d been doing all this time. But she needed to know. She was tired of waiting on her husband for answers. Her stomach turned and she was nauseous.
She stuck the key in the door and pushed it just barely ajar. Elmo, likely thinking that Henry was in there, pushed past Wren, his little stub of a tail wriggling.
The office hadn’t changed much since Wren had last been allowed inside, just a little messier. The chairs were all stained and mismatched. No lights except for an ugly lamp they got as a wedding present and a small saucer light on the ceiling. The air felt wet and thick. Wren’s chest tightened more with every inhale. He had clearly not been using the vacuum she gave him to clean the carpet. She opened a window.
There were no pictures on the walls, or anywhere. There used to be a framed picture of the family on the desk but had since disappeared. She caught a glimpse of herself in a stained mirror she had hung up when they first moved in; the lighting made her look old and sick. No wonder she was becoming invisible. She touched at her face and ran her hand down her braid. She’d always been a natural blonde, but she had just dyed it the week before. Rosie called her Ariel. Henry still hadn’t said anything about it. Her eyes went glassy, and the blue in her irises lost their shine.
Wren focused herself and went to the desk, rummaging through papers and any drawer she could open. All the documents looked like gibberish to her, obviously things to do with his job—or, what used to be his job. But there was one drawer that wouldn’t open. She pulled at it a few times, but it barely budged. The only other key that she saw on his keyring was to the house, so he had to have this one hidden somewhere. She threw papers around frantically. She ran her hand underneath the desk and around the open drawers. She checked inside a couple of books. She checked every possible spot she had seen people search on TV, but still couldn’t find anything. She plopped her little body into the giant desk chair and rubbed her forehead. She needed a cigarette.
Elmo nudged her free hand for attention, and she gave him a halfhearted scratch. He moved his head around her hand, and she went under his collar; that was his favorite spot. She moved to his chest and noticed he had something she’d never seen before stuck in between his rabies and ID tags. It was a small tag, long and thin, rectangular. How could she have never noticed this before now? Was it new? She took his collar off to examine it closer and realized there was a latch to open it. Inside was a very small key.
It was a perfect fit.
The drawer was full of mail. Mail? Why would he lock mail away? She pulled them out and noticed one from the bank. Two from the bank. Three. One with a big red “FINAL NOTICE” stamped across it. Two more from a loan company. An envelope tucked away in the bottom of the stack, handwritten and addressed to Wren. It had been opened, but Wren had no memory of ever reading it. So, she decided she would.
* * *
Wren made meatloaf, carrots, and mashed potatoes that night. It was both the Henry’s favorites. She made sure to text Henry Sr. in hopes that he would come home early. It wasn’t the best meatloaf she’d ever made. She wasn’t even sure she remembered all the ingredients. She had been preoccupied ever since she left the office, planning and plotting how she would handle the evening. Henry’s office keys sat on the counter, ready for the big reveal. Every time Wren looked at them, her heart rate would go up and she would get a craving. She took about four, maybe five smoke breaks during her meal prep. She was beyond nauseous. The bathroom reeked of cigarettes.
Both children were already in bed when Henry finally made it home. But not Wren. Wren sat in the faint light of the dining room, staring blankly at her husband’s dinner plate. There was a butt extinguished in his potatoes. Wren was on her second bottle of wine.
Henry tried to be as quiet as possible coming in the dining room, giving her a little smile as he went to grab his plate. Wren grabbed the other side. He wasn’t getting away this time.
“I know,” she said into the silence. Henry wrinkled his brow.
“You know? You know what?”
“I know your secret,” she sang, wagging her finger at him.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about; are you drunk? You hate drinking.”
“Who cares?” she grinned. Her teeth were stained red, and her breath smelled burnt. “I hated it in high school, too, but that didn’t stop you from forcing me to get drunk all the time.”
Henry tried to back out of the room. “Okay, we’ll talk in the morning when you’re sober. I’ve got some work to do.”
Wren roared a sarcastic laugh.
“Oh, do you? You’ve got some work to do? With your job that you don’t have anymore?”
“How drunk are you, Wren? What are you talking about?” His voice had just a bit of a quiver. He was nervous and Wren knew it. Her eyes burned into his.
“I know, Henry.” She stood up and pointed at the keys on the counter. Henry’s face went snow white. “You can try and try to avoid me, to avoid telling me, but I am your wife, and we don’t keep secrets from each other. I called Melissa. Only it wasn’t Melissa, it was Angie. And Angie was kind enough to tell me all about how you got fired five months ago. I thought, ‘surely that’s not true, surely my husband who exchanged vows with me wouldn’t keep this huge, huge thing a secret from me for this long. Surely, he wouldn’t.’ So, I decided to confirm it myself. I didn’t have to look very far.” She pulled the mail out from under her chair and threw it at him.
“What the hell is all of this? Are you out of your mind?”
“Things have never been clearer. I know that you got fired, I know that our house is on the brink of foreclosure, I know that you bought that stupid car with Henry J’s college fund.” She picked up the handwritten letter. “And this? Are you serious? I’m getting letters from, what is she, a prostitute? Telling me my husband owes her money for her ‘services’? Why does she know where we live? Why is she contacting me?”
“She’s not a prostitute, Wren, Jesus. I would never cheat on you, okay? Just listen—”
“Right, right. You wouldn’t cheat on me, but you would keep your unemployment and our potential homelessness a secret from me.”
“Listen, will you? Look, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, okay?” Henry went to hold his wife, but she shook him away.
“Oh, you’re sorry, are you? Oh boy, my husband’s sorry! That fixes it! That’ll save our house. That’ll un-fuck the prostitute.”
“She’s not a prostitute!” Henry was shouting now.
“Then who the hell is she?” Wren matched his volume.
“She was my… business partner. Alright? I had this big plan to open a business of my own, you know, like a store where I could sell watches or sinks or whatever, and she was going to help me.”
“Yes, a business. But I got in over my head and I… reached out for help. I’m not proud of it.”
“You reached out to another woman for help?”
“Not like that, Wren.” Henry threw his hand over his head and groaned. “Look, God, she sells drugs, okay?”
“Yes, Wren, drugs. Cocaine. Marijuana. Whatever else. I bought the car before I got fired, a little something for myself for once, then I got fired, then I couldn’t afford the car anymore, so I was trying to find ways to pay it back. I was losing money taking out loans for my business, so that’s when I—”
“When you stole money from your own family?”
“It wasn’t like that!”
“That’s exactly what it was!”
“I had to pay for the car.”
“Then sell it.”
“It wasn’t that easy.”
“Then give it to the drug woman.”
“She doesn’t want a car, Wren.” Henry’s tone was sharpening.
“You don’t get it!”
“I think I’m catching on.” She crumpled up a drink receipt from Southside Casino and threw it at him. “You gambled with our money.” She threw another receipt at him. “Treated yourself to nice meals.” The letter was next. “Secretly got our family involved with selling drugs.”
“I wasn’t selling drugs!”
“What were you doing, then?”
“My store was going to be her front.”
Wren took a moment to comprehend what he just disclosed.
“You don’t understand. You don’t understand any of this!”
“Well, I certainly understand that laundering money is extremely illegal! Money laundering and gambling? Are you serious? That was your plan? How could you keep this from me? How are we going to pay her back? Pay any of this? All that money from your parents, all of that was in Henry J’s college fund. And the savings. And in this house! And you’ve spent it all on a fake business you can’t even afford to open. I didn’t go to college. I married you and had your babies instead because I trusted that you would provide. That’s what you told me you would do for me. I can’t do anything to help this. I have no skills, no degrees, no experience. Without you bringing in an income, we have no money. If we don’t pay our mortgage by next week, we’re going to be homeless. Homeless. Do you understand what that means? Do you understand what you’re putting your family through?”
“Wren, I wanted to tell you it just… it kept getting worse and worse and I didn’t even know where to start.”
Wren was sobbing. She slammed her fists on the table. The light above flickered.
“Start here, Henry. You could’ve started at any one of these letters. We could’ve fixed this.”
“I’m gonna fix this, you just have to trust me.” Henry approached her, his tone flirting with the line between calm and fuming.
“Trust you? You want me to trust you? You’ve been secretly unemployed and draining every penny we had into a business that doesn’t exist, and you want me to trust you? We owe over a hundred grand and counting to some drug lord I’ve never even heard of, and you want me to trust you? You’ve ruined our children’s futures. I did trust you. I’ve trusted you for years. Years! And I thought I was doing the right thing by trusting you.”
“You’re my wife, you’re supposed to trust me! For better or for worse. Remember those vows?”
“You want to bring up vows? Vows? Let’s talk about how you broke the vow of always being honest. And faithful.”
Henry slapped her, harder than he did that morning.
“I was faithful. Don’t you dare say I wasn’t.”
Wren was seething. She didn’t deserve to be hit. Months of not being touched and the only contact she received was violent.
“Apologize,” she said.
“No. It’s the only way to shut you up.”
She rushed at him and shoved. The dinner plate fell but he didn’t budge.
“You don’t get to hit me!” Wren shouted.
“You don’t get to accuse me of untrue things.”
“You weren’t faithful, Henry. You lied to me. Every day. For months.”
“It’s not my fault!”
Wren froze. Her version was red and slanted.
“Not your fault? Not your fault? This is all your fault. You’re ruining this family. Everything. Everything is your fault.” She threw a book at him. “See? That’s your fault. You made me so mad I had to throw a book. Look at what you’ve done to me! Look at who I’ve become because of you! You didn’t think. You never do. You’re just as stupid as me! This affects all of us. Not just you.”
She shoved him again.
“Your baby daughter.”
“Your fucking wife!”
She tried to shove him over the couch, but he was too heavy for her. She punched his gut over and over and over again until he grabbed her fists.
“Let me go,” she barked.
Henry slapped her for a third time and Wren spit in his face.
“Wren that’s enough. You’re acting like a child. Let’s calm down and talk.”
His voice was composed and unsettling, exactly how it sounded when he would scold Henry Jr. It only made her angrier. Wren didn’t want to calm down. Wren wanted her husband to pay for what he put her through. She squirmed in his grip and continued to scream. Her knee shot up to his crotch and he let her go. She slapped him across the face this time, again and again and again. He went to grab her arms again, but she shoved him against the couch. He tried to regain his balance and she saw an opportunity. Wren pushed her teetering husband as hard as she possibly could against the back of the sofa they bought together. He toppled over backwards.
She heard a thud, and the room was silent. She stood frozen. Everything was spinning. She wasn’t sure if it was from the wine anymore. The couch was miles away from her and she couldn’t move.
“Henry?” she whispered. She forced a foot forward. “Henry?”
Her stomach was churning with acid and regret. Her throat tightened. Another foot forward. She could see blood on the coffee table and Henry’s legs in the air. She wanted to act faster, wanted to undo the entire day. She gripped the couch and leaned forward.
His head was bent over his neck and blood was spilling out all around him. Elmo was scratching at the back door. Rosie was crying from her crib. She waited and waited and waited for her husband’s chest to rise and fall. But it never did. All the anger left her body and she fell to floor as if the strings keeping her up had been cut. Her cheeks were wet, but she couldn’t remember when she started crying. She crawled to her husband and held his face, blood now soaking into her shirt and hair. She didn’t care. She wanted to be a part of him. Set sail in the ocean streaming out of him. Dock her boat on his island and claim it as her own. Then he couldn’t get away from her. Then he couldn’t keep secrets from her. Then they’d be together forever.
Her son’s sobs shook the living room.
The boat sank.
The island crumbled.
Maggie Hall is a creative writing student at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She’s loved to write for as long as she can remember, though her earlier works were less about death and more about foxes and ducks playing computer games together. She hopes her work will one day gain the approval of her cats, Bob Elvis and Dolly. They’re very tough critics.