Day two of A Gathering of Horror continues, this time with a short story from Kimberly Kinrade, written a few years ago. It originally appeared in Bits of You & Pieces of Me. It may sound like a romance, folks, but remember what week it is!
Each day this week check back here for a new FREE short story. On Halloween, our daughter who turns 11 that day will have a special treat for you with her own short story!
PLUS! We’re doing a giveaway. Leave a comment on these short stories and you’ll be automatically entered to win a signed copy of Seduced: Rose’s Story, the book the Man Candy Radio Show named its ‘spooky, sexy’ book pick for Halloween!
And now, without further ado…
‘Til Death Do Us Part
by Kimberly Kinrade
On two red placemats sat her very best white china holding the meal she had slaved over: chicken Marcela served with creamy parmesan fettuccine, Italian green beans, garlic and herb dinner rolls and a green leafy side salad with homemade dressing.
Wine glasses were filled with a light Cabernet. For dessert she had made his favorite cheesecake with three different toppings: strawberry, blueberry and apple.
She looked in the mirror and vowed it would be the last time she fiddled with her outfit and hair. After all, she was only wearing a black teddy that barely covered anything. Her light brown hair hung past her shoulders in waves. Red lips. Green eyes outlined with black liner to make them pop. Even she could admit she looked hot.
This was their first Valentine’s Day together as a married couple. Their first ever, actually, and she wanted it to be perfect. Everything did, in fact, look perfect, except for one minor problem. He was late. Again.
She paced the room in her black heals, trying not to break her ankle in the process.
Honestly, either a man made these shoes, or else a very sick woman, she thought as she struggled against the pain already forming in her feet. She much preferred sandals, or bare feet. But the black leather devices of torture looked sexy, and sexy was the real main course for tonight.
They had been married six months as of today.
Everyone had told her that the first year of marriage was the hardest. She hadn’t believed them. After all, they were perfect together. And the chemistry…wow! Just thinking about it made her flush with desire.
John was smart, if not formally educated. Gorgeous. Talented. Funny. She was educated and smart, and had done well for herself in the world.
Pausing in her thoughts, she broke her own promise and looked in the mirror again, fluffing her hair.
And not bad looking, she thought. Not bad at all.
She just hadn’t been prepared for the fights. For the drinking. For any of it. No one warned her about that. But even if they had, would she have listened? Probably not.
As it was, in the few months they had been married, they’d hardly had a meal together. He always had to “work late.” Funny how working late always left him drunk.
He’d lie, say he wasn’t drinking, but she wasn’t stupid. She could see the difference in his eyes, the way he talked, the way he carried himself. Even one beer left its mark on her beloved.
Her impatience grew as the clock ticked the minutes away.
Three hours later she was sitting on their hand-me-down couch with her bare feet curled under her, wearing an old blue terry cloth robe. The candles had melted down. Dinner sat on the table looking as cold and unappealing as she felt.
Her carefully applied mascara stained her cheeks with black tarry tears. Her eyes were red and swollen. She knew from experience that she would have a hard time even opening them tomorrow. She had too much experience with this in the last few months.
Did all newlyweds go through this? Was this normal? She wondered how any marriage lasted if it was. And yet, she was still here, determined to make it work. But she was so tired. And heartbroken.
Anxiety formed a knot in her gut. Again, a familiar pain. One that hadn’t really left since the first time he came home drunk a week after they said “I do.”
The framed wedding photo sitting on her bookshelf mocked her. The couple in that picture looked so happy and in love. They smiled and their eyes shined. They were beautiful. And she didn’t recognize herself in that picture at all.
When John came stumbling in at 1 a.m, Laura jerked awake from her troubled sleep. Every car that passed their house, every cat’s meow had made her jump. At least he was home.
She rose to meet him, accusing him with her eyes.
“Hey baby. Sorry I didn’t get home in time. Had to work late. You know how it is.” His words came out slightly slurred, with the deliberate effort the drunk often make not to sound drunk. Over-enunciating even as they slurred. The effect would have been comical if she wasn’t so pissed.
“It’s Valentine’s Day John. You promised. And you have not been working, unless you’re now getting paid to drink.”
“Look, Daryl brought beers for the guys and so after we finished the foundation on the house we all had a few. It would have been rude to say no, and we both know I need this job.”
“You don’t need it that bad.” Her blood pressure rose even as she fought to keep her voice under control. It was a fight she was destined to lose.
“It’s been a long day and I just want to go to bed. I don’t need this shit, ok?” His face took on that cold, cruel look he got when he was shutting her out. She hated being shut out.
“No, not ok. I worked really hard to prepare a nice evening for us. You could have made an effort to be on time.” She was starting to sound whiny, and she knew it and hated herself for it, but she couldn’t seem to stop.
He pushed past her, knocking her against the wall as he headed to their bedroom. It was a tiny apartment, so he didn’t have far to walk. She followed him in and slammed the door.
“I’m tired of you treating me this way, damn it. What the hell is wrong with you? You need to stop drinking. You’re a serious asshole when you drink, you know that?”
“No, I’m not an asshole; you’re just a demanding bitch who can’t seem to handle being alone once in awhile. I’m not going to be told what to do by you just because we’re married. I’ll do what I want, when I want, and with anyone I want,” he said in a voice hard with rage.
“Then why did you ask me to marry you in the first place? Why not stay single? I can tell you why. Because you were miserable. It wasn’t as much fun as you seem to remember. And I’m perfectly fine being alone. I like being alone. But I don’t like being stood up and treated like shit by my husband.” She was screaming now, she couldn’t help it.
She was tired of being ignored. She needed her voice to be heard. But he wasn’t listening. He didn’t want to hear. He never wanted to hear.
He grabbed the coat he’d just thrown on their bed. “I’m outa here. I don’t need this shit.” She blocked the bedroom door. “Get out of my way Laura.”
“No. I will not. You’re drunk and I’m not letting you leave this house and drive. You could kill yourself, or someone else. No.” Her palms were slick with sweat. She shook with fear but stood her ground, guarding the door.
He grabbed her and swung her around, placing his arm around her throat. Throwing her to the ground he began to choke her. She tried to scream, but nothing came out. She tried to kick or punch him, but he was using his body to keep hers from moving. Tears stuck in her throat.
“You shouldn’t have tried to stop me, Laura. You need to learn, everything we do has consequences,” he said as he choked her.
She couldn’t believe this was her husband, the man who had made her feel like the most beautiful woman in the world when they were dating. The man who hung on her every word and gave her the best sex she had ever known. The man who had promised her the world.
She was about to pass out when he threw her down and fled the house, keys in hand. The car started and peeled out as she lay there crying and clutching her throat, trying to breathe.
Her body shook as she lay, stunned, trying not to swallow for fear of more pain.
She stayed on the floor the rest of the night, too shocked to move.
He still hadn’t come home the next day and didn’t answer her repeated cell phone calls. She sat in their apartment wondering what to do.
She had called in sick from work, knowing there was no way she could greet clients at the insurance agency where she worked while looking and feeling like this.
Unfortunately, she’d been calling in sick a lot lately. And all because of fights with John. She knew her boss suspected something. But she was strong and independent, so people chose to ignore their suspicions.
Though last night was definitely the worst, it was by no means the first.
She tried to remember the life they had been planning. Children, one boy and one girl. David and Darleen. They’d be close in age with the hopes that they would be the best of friends.
They’d buy a house on some property somewhere. She’d cook fabulous meals. They’d have the best dinner parties in town. All their friends would want to spend time with them.
As their kids grew older their house would be ‘the’ house. With a way-cool mom who made them yummy snacks, and a fun dad who played basketball with them and built them playhouses and tree houses.
Then the vision in her mind turned dark. He would keep drinking. She would spend years cleaning up his messes. He would destroy their credit, wipe out and overdraw their accounts, and probably get arrested a few times for drunk driving. Maybe he’d go to rehab, but he’d be back at it soon enough.
The violence would escalate. He would choke her, hit her, belittle her. He would depend on her to keep their home running, to keep the kids happy and healthy, while he did ‘what he wanted, when he wanted and with anyone he wanted.’
She would become an indentured servant, catering to his whim, scared of what he might do or say if she didn’t keep him happy. Her health would deteriorate from the constant stress. She would give up her dreams in order to support him, and her kids would see this.
David would think this is how men are supposed to treat women, and he would repeat the cycle. Darleen would either end up in an abusive relationship herself or hate her mother for being weak.
And Laura would hate herself for allowing a man to treat her this way, for allowing her kids to be raised this way.
She rubbed at the bruise on her neck. It still hurt like hell.
As the pain of that abuse spoke of her future, she knew her mind. This wasn’t how she was going to live. No way.
Laura rose from the couch and paced their small apartment. Anger building in her. Hatred for that life she was being forced to live.
She saw their wedding picture from the corner of her eye and winced at the naivety of that foolish girl staring back at her.
Something inside her snapped, and she knew what she had to do. Taking the picture, she threw it across the room and watched the glass shatter.
John came home the next day, having indeed wiped out their bank account in order to indulge in his drinking binge. When he got home, the house was clean and Laura was dressed in tight jeans and a white tank-top. The smell of pot-roast greeted him. His favorite.
“Look honey, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what got into me. I love you more than anything in the world. Isn’t that enough?” His tone was soft and seductive.
She used to love when he spoke to her like this. Now it left her cold and angry. They needed to talk.
He walked over to her and put his strong arms around her. Arms that used to give her so much pleasure. Kissing her deeply, he slipped her tank-top off and began palming her breasts as he nibbled on her neck. She moaned reluctantly.
Within minutes they were both naked and he was exploring her body with all the passion and talent that had originally made them so good together. She decided to enjoy their last ‘roll in the hay.’
Once they were both fully satisfied, he held her in his arms, lightly running his fingers down her body. She felt tears forming in her eyes for what she was about to do, but she couldn’t go back. She couldn’t endure the life she knew was coming.
“Why don’t we eat? I’m starved,” she said, slipping on a robe and leading him to the table.
“That sounds perfect,” he said, stealing one more kiss as he took his seat. She served him a generous portion, took her own plate and sat down.
“I can’t do this, John,” she said sadly as he ate.
“Do what?” he asked between bites.
“Us. I can’t do us. What happened last night…it wasn’t ok. Not at all.”
He sighed and put down his fork for a moment. “I already apologized for that. What more do you want? I swear it won’t happen again. I’ve just been under a lot of stress with work and stuff.”
“That’s just it, if this is causing you stress, then how are you going to feel when we have a mortgage and two kids to support? This will happen again, and I can’t accept that,” her words sounded unsure, even to herself.
But she was sure.
“That will be different. I will be different. Look, babe, I’ll do whatever you want. You want to go to counseling, we’ll go to counseling. Whatever. Let’s just eat and enjoy our night. Let’s not fight.” He went back to eating.
She sighed. “Fine. Whatever. We’ll talk later.”
Looking pleased, he finished off the entire dinner and even had seconds.
He put his fork down and looked at her with an odd expression. His face was deathly white.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, concerned. She went over to him and felt his head. It was cold and clammy.
“I don’t know. I feel sick. My stomach hurts and I feel like…oh shit…” he ran to the bathroom but didn’t make it. Vomit flew everywhere.
Laura had to hold her breath to keep from vomiting herself. “Oh, John, my God. Are you ok?”
She got a cold rag and held it to the back of his neck.
“I don’t know. I’ve never felt this sick before. I’m…having…a hard time…breathing.” His words stopped. Oxygen was in short supply it seemed.
Laura was scared. “What do you want me to do?”
He couldn’t answer as he pointed to the phone.
She nodded and went over to it. Then stopped. Tears streamed down her face.
“John, I can’t call 911. You’re dying. Arsenic. It shouldn’t take long.”
He looked at her with pure shock on his face. Horrible, but she couldn’t back out now.
She didn’t realize it would be so hard to watch someone die. But she shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, she did love him.
But she couldn’t let him live. He was an abuser and a user. If she left him, he’d just do it to someone else. No. Men like him didn’t deserve to live.
John continued to choke and spasm for several minutes. She wanted to go to him. To hold his hand in the end, but she was scared. She stood, watching her future die with each tortured breath.
Then everything went quiet. Laura went over to him and felt his pulse. Nothing.
It was done.
She put her head on his chest and sobbed.
She saw their unlived future as she held him. The house. The garden. David and Darleen. All dead. He had killed them with his drinking. With his abuse. And so she had killed him.
After all, he needed to learn that everything we do has consequences.