Strings : the day it began and everything else ended

The place is called Old Man’s cliff, small thing at the edge of the town; and as she stands there now, she kind of understands it. The grass beneath her feet faded and brown, shirking growth and life even with the season’s urges. The lone tree stands heavy, near dead branches sagging, moving slightly in the evening breeze.

    it’s the silence..it’s so quiet here. She leans against the trunk now, and rubs at her arms absently. I should have brought a jacket, but it shouldn’t be taking this long…  She remembers the last time she had come up here. With Dije.

It was in the early days, when she wasn’t the punch line of his joke on their nights out with friends, her drink clasped tight in her hands, false smile on her face. When the neighbors in the building didn’t give her pitying looks, because of “all the shouting and screaming dear, and are you alright?”. When she didn’t wear sleeves everywhere, constantly tugging at the cuffs, desperate to keep them covered (he doesn’t mean to be so rough. he loves me. he loves me). When sex wasn’t always in the dark or at his whim, with her face pressed down into the pillow , his voice loud in her ear, “this is all you fucking deserve, you know. this is all you’re good for. I fucking put up with you. no one else wants you. no one else.” Later, he would hug her and apologize, eyes wet and insist that he loved her. That he didn’t mean any of it , that “I just get so mad sometimes, babe.. so much shit in my life and i just…and you don’t understand what I’m going through…i’m so sorry.”

They had met two years earlier. She was fresh out of the university, ready for her life to begin. She had majored in Photography and Web design, against her father’s wishes. He had wanted her to follow a more generic path, or in his words, more stable. Something in the sciences, or at the very least, in the educational system. “You’ll make a wonderful teacher, Oma. You’re so brilliant, why do you settle for less?”. Her mother, whom had chosen the life of a housewife, leaving her degree to gather dust at her husband’s wish had silently encouraged her. “Darling, I support you, you know i do. you must find your own way in this world, independent of the male influences in your life. Your father will talk all this, but in the end, he’ll support you too. Be firm…” Her mother said this, lying next to her in her room, and in the following silence had stared up at the ceiling fan. (what are you thinking, Mom? do you regret leaving your ambitions behind? why did you do it? what are the stories you won’t tell me?)

She had gotten work quickly enough, and her father had begrudgingly congratulated her choices, though she could see the pride in his eyes. He didn’t like being wrong, but she was his only child and he didn’t want to keep silly grudges.

It had been a hot Thursday, when Deji had literally and figuratively burst into her life. She remembered the day well. She had worn a blazer to work and by midday, having taken off said blazer, had begun to contemplate skipping work and just soaking in a cold bath the rest of the day, when the door to her office opened suddenly,

   “Hello… I had cancelled an earlier appointment, but..” He had paused and seemed to take her in, his dark eyes lighting up and then, “hi. I’m Deji”…  Tall, dark toned, easy on the eyes. She had tried not to stare, but if the resulting smirk on his face had been any indication, she hadn’t been doing a good job.

About twenty minutes into the meeting, she had agreed to a date and couldn’t seem to stop smiling. Everything about him had just seemed right.  He was a literary agent, bright with ideas and everything he said had just made sense. When she fell, she fell hard.

Her parents had been concerned over the whole relationship.

  “it’s too fast, Oma. it’s too fast. the man just met you when and now you want to move in together?? which one is that? does he not want to marry you? what are you doing?” Her father had said, eyes stern at her over Sunday breakfast. (“papa, it’s fine. we are going to get married. we’ve talked about it. this is just us being together. it’s fine. it’s quite the norm these days, you know”). Her father had learned when to let go, but had given her the cold shoulder for a few visits after that.

Her mother spoke in with her in the ‘after’. She always did. She would wait for her husband to be done, eyes full of words she’d never say. The nights she slept over, her mom would lie with her for a bit, her soft voice loud in the quiet room, “sweetheart, this is a mistake. you’re making a mistake. I won’t raise my voice at you even though i want you. i won’t force you to remain here, even though i want to. you need to choose for yourself, but you’re choosing wrong….you’re making a mistake”. Over time, her words had blended together, each conversation sounding like the last. But always in the same tone, always.

 

Now, as she stands there, the past year playing like a movie in her mind, the reel broken, stuck on a scene. She, nodding her head agreeing to their first date, (Yes, Deji. I’d love to… Yes, Deji. I’d love to… Yes, Deji. I’d love to). 

She’s fingering a small bottle in her hand. She had passed a pharmacy on her drive, and why not? The clerk had been nonchalant, after all the hours at work, one face blended in with other. Her request had been basic enough, no brows raised and as he packed it up, he gave the store mandated “speech”, “this drug is recommended for pain relief and should be only in such instances according to the recommended dosages….thank you for your patronage. have a nice day”. In a moment of madness, she had wanted to tell him what she actually meant to use it for, if it would be enough, if she ought to get more; but reason had won and she had simply thanked him return, leaving with the bag tight in her grip.

   just do it. just take them. it’s better than now. it’s better than now..

She’s crying now, a shaky hand reaches to wipe the tears away, the other tearing at the label of the bottle. The voice is more insistent now, do it. the pain would stop. just do it.

She rushes forward suddenly, an arm flings out and the bottle is gone, and the voice is silent. She leans forward a bit to watch it fall into the small creek below, and a part of her absently worries over the polluting effects, but the other is insistent, no. not like this. no.

 

It takes her a while to get back  into the city. Traffic was a bother in the norm, but on weekends, a near stand-still. The apartment is quiet, as she lets herself in. She had always admired the apartment. It’s easy elegance, with the warm colors they had decorated with. she remembers shopping for all the knick-knacks that now filled the place, and how her heart had almost burst with how happy she had been because, (this is for our home. we’re building a home together). 

She drops her purse and keys on the stand next to the door and walks to their bedroom. It’s just as she left it earlier in the day, sports bra and leggings strewn on the floor, closet door open with a few hangars askew, the bed rumpled. She had been unable to touch it in the morning, and even now as she stared at it, she couldn’t almost hear him above her, his breathe hot in her hair, his hands rough, and everywhere hurt. Everywhere.

She approaches it slowly, and picks up her phone from the dresser. It comes alive, noisy with notifications. Her parents had called, probably about her visiting tomorrow. Dinma had called too, and she remembers they ought to have had lunch together. She sets it down again, and starts to take off her clothes. Shirt, jeans, bra, panties litter the floor on her way to the bathroom, adjoining the bedroom. The tiled floor cold against her feet, but she barely notices. She stops at the mirror over the sink and just stares. Dark brown eyes stare back, in a soft and fair face, slimmer than she had thought, cheeks sunken. She pulls her ‘fro up into a ponytail, and splashes some cold water on her face. She stares again for a bit, then walks into the shower.

In an hour, she’s standing over the stove in her favorite floral dress, flaring off at the hips to nip in at the knees, and heels. She stirs at the sauce, and takes a careful, careful not to mess up her makeup. “Old skool” music is blaring from the speakers in the living room, a collection of songs ironically gifted to her from her mom, when she had teased on her mom’s weird taste. “just listen, dear.. it’s good for the times when nothing else makes sense”. She had laughed it off then, her mom seemed to converse in double-speak, saying one thing, meaning something else.

But now, as she moves her hips to the bit, she gets it. She sings along as she cuts up vegetables for salad, as she sets the table for dinner, as she fingers the knife in the hidden pocket of her gown.

He comes home by the time she’s done, waiting for him in the living room, glass of wine in hand. He stops at the sight, caught off guard, suit jacket against his arm, briefcase in hand. “You’re all dressed up. What’s the occasion?”   His voice is quiet, cautious. She’s hasn’t been like this in a long while.

She says nothing for a few uncomfortable seconds and then, “Welcome home, Deji. Dinner’s ready.. Do you want to shower first?” She’s stood up now, and is walking over to the sound system to reduce the volume a bit.

His eyes follow her, ‘No, I”ll eat now.. Put it off. I don’t like that song.”

“No. I’ll leave it on. I like it.” She stares right at him, eyes fierce and determined “You’ll take off your tie, drop your jacket and briefcase. We’ll sit down and eat together. The music will stay on.”

He’s frozen in place for a bit, but then sneers, “Fine, dear. You had better bring this fire to bed tonight, instead of lying there so fucking still all the time.” He dumps his stuff on the armchair next to him, and tears at his tie, glaring at her.

She’s silent, but refuses to look away. When he’s done, she walks past him to the dining area, sets her glass down, and reaches over to pour into his glass. He stalks in behind her, steps loud, and takes his seat.

Dinner is a quiet affair, except for the music from the other room, and the soft clinks of the silverware. He opts for vodka mid meal, pushing the plate of spaghetti and beef sauce away, throwing her another glare. She isn’t surprised when he’s drunk by the end, and when he drags at her arm tugging her to the bedroom, she follows, stray hand reaching down to feel against the knife again.

She had cleaned the room, cleared up the clothes off the floor, but had left the bed untouched. She senses his annoyance over this, but pushes her down on it all the same. She gets up quickly, and says, “No. Let me”, reaching for his shoulder, pushing him down onto the bed. In his state, he’s befuddled, but compliant.  She starts with his shirt, then singlet, trouser, socks, coming back up and settling against him, and he reaches up to hold at her waist, “Why are you..What’s..?”

“Shhh.. Let’s try something different tonight…” She walks away and comes back with rope and the bottle of wine from dinner. He tugs a bit as she ties his arms and legs to the bedpost, but his eyes are bright and excited. He’s smiling up at her when she settles over him again, sock in hand. His expression turns wary, when she moves to stuff it into his mouth.

“Shh.. don’t worry. This would be fun”.. She’s smiling now, as she reaches one hand into her pocket and the other caresses his cheek. He starts struggling when he sees the knife, and she’s never wanted to laugh so much in her life.

His first scream is muffled by the sock. The knife sinks into his right shoulder, and at first, the amount of blood surprises her. She stabs again at the other shoulder, and he’s crying now.

“Shut up! Shut the fuck up”, she slaps him hard, screaming in his face, “This is all you fucking deserve!”

Now, she’s stabbing wildly, screaming loudly. There’s blood everywhere, and he’s still struggling against her, still crying. And it makes her so angry, everything is making her angry.

It takes her a while to realize he had stopped moving, she slaps at his face, but he doesn’t move. There’s blood everywhere, on him, on her, on the sheets. She drops the knife and wipes off the blood on her hands.

She then reaches for her phone beside the dresser, dialing her mom’s number in. It takes a few rings before she picks. “Hello, mom. I know. I’m sorry it’s late….. Mom, I killed Deji. I stabbed him and now he’s dead”

There’s shouting on the other end, questions screamed at her, but it’s done. they know now. She cuts the call, and reaches over to pick up the bottle of wine. She walks back to the living room to wait, and the music welcomes her back in.

 

 

 

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