I followed the concrete path with my face down and fists buried inside the cheap plastic pockets of an oversized raincoat. I’d walked that path a million times. But that day I noticed them all. Numerous small jagged cracks peered up to greet me, and my eyes followed their shadows slipping into the darkness just below. I didn’t just see the darkness but I felt it and my head bobbed up, begging the sky for distraction. The wind ruffled the tops of trees before punching my hood back with an icy blow. It was going to rain – a cold, drenching rain. The kind of cold that burns as it whips at your face. That was the night I ran away at just sixteen.
I met Charles at nineteen. I was his waitress, and I smiled at the way he eloquently spoke. His voice was deep, like a hole you couldn’t quite see inside. He ordered a drink and left a tip, slid it right under the glass. His ‘tip’ was scribbled on a napkin. He suggested I quit and work for him. His number, penned in red, bled straight thru to mar the table.
I’d been in my right mind when I’d said yes – all those years ago. He had money to spend and said I was fun to spoil. The money was generations old – old money for a young bride. He was sixty when we married. I was just twenty-five. I’d seen the money as freedom, not just for me, but for Mom. Father was dead and she was granted bail.
It’s been five years since that day. Is it too late to change my mind? I wonder if I still have one. Charles plans my days, so I don’t have to think and Mom never misses a meal. She’s comfortable in the guest house. She says she’ll stay awhile. Some days I just want to run and fall into any shadow that will hide me. But my life is his under lock and key. He pays the guards well for surveillance. They watch me as I swim in the pool. My wedding ring pulls me down, secure as an anchor in the ocean.
The will states I’ll have it all, but only in the event of his natural death. I think I may die first. He seems rather spry at sixty-five.
I sing a song to pass the time. Time means nothing, and I know my future. My beautiful clothes will stay new in the mirror. He’ll lift his glass high when I call out the numbers on Bingo night. Like Vanna, I’ll smile, my enamel stripped bare, a salacious white. And when the party’s over, I’ll head upstairs for a surprise. His spotty hands will caress my neck, to fasten a diamond choker, a little tighter than the last. And he’ll laugh as I pull my shirt up, off over my head, the light silk catching on diamonds, the snagged collar strangling my neck.
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