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The Paths We Take #34: One Day Left   

Oct 16, 2018






My sister thinks that I should just go back to him. I see myself ringing the doorbell — poor little me standing there, probably in the rain, probably soaked through to the bones, probably with black tears mixing with the rain as it streams down my cheeks. I see him opening the door, watching me begging him to take me back — pleading for him to forgive me.


Forgive me? For what?

. . . I’d rather die.


I put the single China Girl pill in my glovebox. It’s funny how such a little thing can make you feel sogood. And I need to feel something besides anger.

It’s been two days since I left the letter at his apartment. I wonder if he’s read it, or, like me, he dismissed it to be dealt with when it was more convenient for him. Maybe, I should have put the envelope in his hands, kissed him, and then walked away like some soap-opera bullshit. I do want to see his face when he lips the words as he reads. He will pay for what he’s done to me.

I wipe a stream of sweat from my forehead as I wait in the alley beside his office. The big July sun smacks me as I take in the smells of musty clothes and decaying furniture. The stench almost creates a visible fog outside the rear of the second-hand clothing store on the opposite side of the alley. From where I’m standing, the alley appeared to be forged by erosion caused by some strange river of trash barrels and townie foot-traffic. It’s a deep wrinkle on an aging town. I check my watch; it’s ten minutes before noon.

When we first moved back to Red Pines, I would meet him for lunch at The Tavern. Despite the unoriginal name, The Tavern is my favorite lunch spot in Red Pines, but we haven’t eaten there in months. This is the perfect time of year to eat without the background noise of hangover-and-regret conversations of the local Covington girls. I’d always catch him looking at them, as if asking himself, why can’t my wife be more like them?It didn’t matter where we were, his mind was always somewhere else. I just wanted it to be on me.

I’m wearing the denim shorts he likes with a teal tank-top that fits a little looser now that I’ve lost weight. I have the last letter in my purse and I can feel the extra-weight of the gun pulling on the shoulder strap. I’ve been practicing taking the safety off without looking.

The rear door to the second-hand clothing store opens and a gray ponytailed lady carrying a cardboard box stumbles out. “Shit,” she mumbles under the weight of the box as she struggles to lift it up onto the edge of the dumpster. She shoves it in with both hands and I hear the thud and echo as it smacks the bottom of the metal.

“Hey there . . . Sorry for the language but when you turn sixty-five I figure you can say whatever you damn well please.”

She smiles, and I laugh. I wonder if I would become a salty old bird like her. I’d love to say anything that waltzed through my mind.

“The view is way better from the street, honey.”

“My husband asked me to wait for him here. We’re going to cut through to go for lunch at The Tavern,” I lied.

The woman gave a perfunctory nod. I think she would have responded with the same cavalier head-shake no matter what I’d answered with: I’m here to kill you, or,I’m in the market for a sweat-stained blouse and a pair of “I-give-up” khaki pants.

She hauls a couple more boxes outside and then shut the door behind her. I look at my watch again; it’s two minutes before noon. I’ve played out what I’m going to do in my head a thousand times, but I still can’t keep my arms from shaking. Cool sweat trickles down my back and soaks my tank top. I light a cigarette and take a couple long drags until I feel the smoke clawing at the back of my throat.

I watch as his silhouette turns the corner and enters the alley. He stops as my eyes meet his. He watches me, and I feel the edges of my lips curling upwards as I try to stop them. A bolt of hysteria strikes me, and I choke back a laugh. I put my hand in my purse and grip the gun, flicking the safety off as I lift it out of my purse and aim the front sight at his chest.

His eyes go wide, and his jaw drops as his lips move in violent jolts. He is saying something, but the only word that I can hear is my name, “Katie . . . Katie . . . Katie.” My arms are shaking, and the front sight is bouncing against the blurred backdrop of his white button down and gray blazer. I feel the tears on my cheeks. This isn’t going how I planned. I’m not supposed to cry, but this will still end the way I want.

My hand shakes as my finger presses the trigger. A thunderous crack sends me a few steps backward. The sun, the alley, and my husband are all a blur. I look at him. He’s still standing. I missed.

He takes off around the corner and my feet pound the ground underneath me as I bolt through the alley in the opposite direction. The tears are blurring my vision and I can just make out the outline of the car door and the handle.

I feel my left hand grabbing the seatbelt and my right hand turning the key in the ignition. My eyes are still stinging and blurred from the tears. What did I do? What am I going to do?

The streets are a blur in the rearview mirror as I manage to hit Market Street. I expect to hear sirens in the distance, like in the movies, but I hear nothing, just my heavy breaths as they consume all the air around me. I gasp for more air as the heaviness on my chest pins me against the seat.

I manage a breath, then another, and another. I remember that I planned this. I feel the smile setting on my face again. The air feels softer in my lungs as the weight lifts. I planned to miss.

He has one day left.


© Josiah A. Miller 2018. All Rights Reserved.