by Marc Lowe



She had had enough. There was little he could say that would appease her. One promise too many made; one promise too many broken. She packed her bags while he was passed out and contemplated making her escape. Was she afraid? Fear was an emotion she had become well acquainted with, but it was not what she felt now. This was more a sense of liberation, accomplishment. He was sleeping, for he had imbibed his fill of wine. She had seen to it that he drank his fill. And now, at last, her new life was about to begin.


The gauze mask covering her nose and mouth, she set to work. Within an hour she had completely repainted the vehicle and replaced the old plates with the ones "discovered" in the trashbin near her place of employ. She was looking forward to leaving him tomorrow night—for good. She would buy some bottles of red wine (his favorite) and, at the right moment, slip a crushed Xanax into the bottom of his deep, wet glass. He would drink, as he always did, and then sleep. Then she would have her chance.


She was in the bedroom. He lay on the bed, passed out. She opened the closet, took out the largest suitcase they owned, and began to place her clothes into it. Had she had the opportunity, she would have done this yesterday, but there hadn't been any time. He wouldn't be waking for a long while, at any rate. This thought comforted her. She might even have given him too much. The bottle of pills had been nearly full; now it was nearly empty. Or had she taken some, too? Yes, perhaps she had, to calm her nerves -


Having finished repainting the car and replacing its plates, she removed the gauze mask from her face and again began to think about him. Why he had done all that he had done to her. Why he had changed so much after they were married. Why she hadn't seen the signs sooner. Why she had put up with his lies for so many years. Why she hadn't left when things had started to go sour, instead of waiting until they were completely spoiled. She replaced the gauze mask on her face and opened the small refrigerator to get a drink.


The two empty bottles lay on the bed beside him. She crouched over him to have a closer look. A few drops of crimson stickiness had already stained the sheets. Her in-laws had given them the sheets on their wedding night. They had been an heirloom, or so the story went. Now, they were ruined. Or perhaps not. Perhaps they could be bleached. Perhaps the stains would come out. Nothing was permanent, was it? She felt an urge to retch, but repressed it. She would leave tonight. He looked so pitiful just lying there.


The car was ready now. She had, again, removed the mask. What was that noise? Was he home already? No, it couldn't be him. The wine was for tomorrow night, but she needed it. To calm herself down. She had already taken a Xanax earlier, but now that she had finished spray painting the car she realized she was in need of a stiff drink. As there was no other alcohol in the house at present, she had decided to open one of the bottles of wine she had bought for tomorrow night. She could always buy more later.


One of the bottles had fallen to the floor with a thud. Had she knocked it off the bed, or had it just fallen? Perhaps he had moved and knocked it over with his elbow. No, his position had not shifted, or had it? She couldn't tell. She looked back at the suitcase. All set to go. She was woozy, but still in control of the situation. She knew she was. She just knew. This was the moment of truth. She could hardly wait to leave him, his salacious, draconian ways. She was through with this man. It was over. Over.


The wine was good. 2003. Merlot. It had been on sale. She had saved a good $3.55 on two bottles. She sipped at her glass with hedonistic contentment. It didn't matter; she would buy more. She could even serve him beer, though he preferred wine (said the tannins did him good, as if tannins could make him a better person). How many Xanax had she taken? She felt quite tired of a sudden, dizzy. It might be the smell of paint, now that the gauze mask had come off. Perhaps she should drink inside. Perhaps she would.


Over. He was out. She was sitting on the suitcase, watching him, so still. She had never seen him like this before. He had been drunk on many occasions, but he'd never passed out. Had she given him too many pills? She had thought she'd crushed only two, but upon further reflection it may have been more. How many pills would it take to kill a man of his size, she wondered. How many would it take to kill someone of her size? Would this night end in a double [wo]manslaughter? Lover's suicide? Accident?


She made her way up the stairs, still holding the glass of wine. The bottles clanked around inside the small backpack she'd slung over her shoulders. Fuck it. She'd drink by herself tonight and buy more for tomorrow. He wouldn't be home until late. And yet, when she opened the bedroom door, there he was, plain as day. When did you get in? she asked, but he did not answer. You look like shit, he said. I know, she said. Let's drink. I bought some wine. He shook his head. No thanks. Not tonight. You drink, I'll watch.


The body did not move. The stomach did not rise and fall. Or was she merely imagining things? She didn't feel quite right. Something was amiss. What day was it today? Friday or Saturday? Or was it still Thursday? She could not remember. She would leave, at any rate. This was her chance to escape, to start a new life, without him. The bastard. He deserved what was coming. He should have changed sooner. He shouldn't have allowed himself to get so out of control. The goddamned sheets were stained. Goddamn.


She drank. He sat at the edge of the bed and did nothing. Nothing. Here, have some wine, she said, her voice shaky. He pushed her away. You're drunk, he said. Lie down. Both bottles had been emptied. Had she polished them both off herself? No, you lie down, she said. I want you to. What are you talking about? he said. You're drunk. Go to sleep. But she did not want to sleep. She would escape. She would leave him, take off in the repainted car with her luggage. But she hadn't yet had time to pack. No time.


Two empty bottles. The bed. The body. Where is the woman? She has gotten into the car with her suitcase. She has turned on the engine. She has forgotten to open the garage. She has fallen asleep. Two bodies, both sleeping. Over. Both out. What day is today? Is it Friday or Saturday? Or is it Thursday night? Perhaps. The gauze mask lies on the floor of the garage. The refrigerator door is still open. The bottle of Xanax is empty. How did this happen? Someone will have to investigate later. Her new life is about to begin. Again.



Copyright 2007 by Marc Lowe