by Maddie Anthes
I keep a list of what I want to say. I’m nervous I will forget something and regret it later. My hands shake as I trudge through it all – my feelings, my fears, my questions – and he laughs. He says it’s time I heard his side. When he walks me to my car a half hour later, he doesn’t say he loves me. I feel as though it’s all my fault.
His face turns purple as he looks between us. I realize I don’t know this man; he has turned into a monster. He points at her and she stares back; I want to step between them but I’m anchored to the couch, horrified but too afraid to move. I know that this is the moment it was all beyond repair.
I am swimming but I’m not fast enough. It will catch me soon. I can hear the teeth snapping behind me, nipping at my toes. If I can just make it a little farther, to the edge, through a tiny space somewhere, I may make it out alive.
She is in pain, so she takes a few more pills. It’s late and we’ve played cards for hours. Her eyes are droopy as she asks my sister to get her lotion, and she pulls up her shirt to expose her back. I realized I’ve never seen the skin of her back before; it looks like crumpled tissue paper. She closes her eyes at my sister’s touch, and I think she’ll die without knowing the truth.
He tiptoes across the expanse of his lawn and pinches the horsefly by its flank. Quick quick he ties thin thread around its body and hands it to me. I take the leash and I run too fast. I tug the fly behind me and it gets caught on the clothesline. I go to him crying and tell him it died, but he tells me it’s too close to dusk to grab another.
I am crying on Christmas because it’s all changing but I don’t know how to voice it. I hold crumpled wrapping paper covered in Santas, and I have powdered sugar on my cheek. I can feel something slipping away, something I’ll miss so dearly, but I can’t find the words to explain. Maybe I can already tell he was keeping a secret. Maybe it’s because I always cry on Christmas.
Madeline Anthes is the acquisitions editor for Hypertrophic Literary. Her writing can be found in journals like WhiskeyPaper, Lost Balloon, Cease, Cows, and Jellyfish Review. You can find her on Twitter at @maddieanthes, and find more of her work at madelineanthes.com.