Nothing More Beautiful

Normally I'd give a genre here, but I think this might be too short to really have one. Slice of life? Psychological thriller? I don't know. Suggestions welcome.

Warning for abuse.

The door slams shut and I know she’s home. I save my work, turn off the monitor and go out to meet her. When I reach the front room of my little apartment she is facing away from me, bent over to pick up some mail that she’s dropped. Her jeans are pleasantly tight, and I take the time to look before I greet her.

“Evening, Sandra.”

She straightens up and spins around, paling noticeably. “Rhiannon! Sorry about the door, I just, it’s a bit heavy, and it’s – I – uh...” I hold up a hand, forestalling any more babble before she loses coherency any further.

“It’s fine, Sandra. How was your day?”

Sandra flushes with relief as she realises I’m not angry. I haven’t been for the three months we’ve known each other, at least not at her, but old habits die hard.

“Oh, you know,” she says, “the usual. One minute I’m rushed off my feet, the next I’m bored stiff.” There’s a slight quaver in her voice. She’s frightened of me, just a little, and I should be unhappy. It’s not my fault, and that should make me less unhappy. I’ve never been good at feeling what I should.

“Go relax,” I suggest, “and I’ll get dinner ready.” She nods and hurries away.

Later, I’m in the kitchen, slicing vegetables while the oven heats and the meat marinates. Sandra walks in and sniffs the air appreciatively. The scent of the marinade is strong.

“Smells good,” she says. “Anything I can do to help?”

“I have the food well in hand, but it would be good if you set the table.” I tell her.

“OK.” I hear her footsteps on the tiles, the creak of the cupboard door, clinking plates and a few more footsteps... capped off with a squeal of shoes sliding on tile, a little shriek and a brief but startling symphony of smashes. Turning around, I see a pair of plates in ruins at Sandra’s feet. She’s not looking at the shattered crockery; her big brown eyes are on me, hands clapped over her mouth and skin pale.

There is fear in her eyes, and there are few things sweeter to me. It’s bittered, though, by the knowledge that it’s not truly me she’s frightened of. She expects me to rage or sneer or possibly strike, and it wasn’t me who set those expectations. I am not the Other Woman, who was far too free with her words and her fists.

I should comfort her. I should hold her gently until she is calm and tell her it will be alright. Later, after dinner, I should convince her to get help with her anxiety, look for a therapist, get better. I should do - should have done - a lot of things. What I want to do is back her against the fridge and... well. How can I bring myself to help someone when their suffering is so sweet to me?

In the end I find I do nothing until Sandra acts herself. It’s only bending down to try and sweep up the pieces, apologising all the while, but it’s enough to shake me out of watching my id fight my ego.

“Don’t worry about it,” I tell her as I fish out a dustpan and broom. “They were cheap crap anyway. I can always get more.”

Dinner is served without any further incidents. She compliments my cooking and I her choice of wine. After, we settle on the couch and watch TV. She picks the channel; I find most of it equally insipid, but she finds it relaxing and prefers to have company.

We’re watching some reality show – her gasping at what are presumably the appropriate moments, me fantasising about filling the sets with nerve gas – when an ad break starts and she mutes the TV.
“I’m sorry about the plates.” She says.

We’re already cuddling, so I give her a little extra squeeze in lieu of a hug. “Accidents happen.”
“I know. It’s just... that was what happened the last time. That was what I did to set her off.” Her. The Other Woman.

“That was what she used as an excuse to go off,” I correct her. “Her lack of control was her fault.”

“I know.” She says. To me she sounds unconvinced. “She wasn’t all bad though.”

“Bad enough.” Worse than me, and that’s saying something.

“I wonder if she’s gotten any better?” Sandra wonders aloud. Then the ad break finishes and the sound goes back on.

She hadn’t gotten any better when I last saw her. Not that I regret our last meeting. The Other Woman hadn’t recognised me – she’d been drunk, I believe, the previous times we’d met – but had thrown a few insults on general principles. From there she graduated to threats. I’d only grinned, and she’d gotten nervous, which for abusive thugs is the same as aggressive.  She’d taken a swing at me, and things got interesting.
I still remember the expression on her face at the end. The blind animal terror... there is nothing more beautiful. Then she’d run.

She hadn’t watched where she was going.

She wouldn’t be getting any better, but maybe I might. Maybe that memory might be enough for me. Maybe I’ll suggest therapy to Sandra tomorrow.

Or maybe not.

We’ll see.


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