By J Thomas Fussell
(1 hour before)
Chapter 4: Tom Eastman starts his day
Tom Eastman decided to climb out of bed at 4:45 AM. A time when the dark and cold outside mirrored the feelings that corrupted his peace and tranquility inside. Another sleepless night of rumination clung to his psyche like a hangover that just wouldn’t quit, and he still felt no closer to a solution. Amy Eastman, his wife of twelve years, had left him three days ago. She had taken his daughter and simply left with no explanation other than a five-line note which read:
I’m leaving you.
I have Larissa
You will hear from my Lawyer
Don’t try to find me
Last night had gone no better than any of the nights since he found the note on the kitchen table. He tossed and turned, wondering how he could have done anything differently. He had not meant to hit Amy the night before she left. Of course, it wasn’t the first time (and certainly not the last if he had his way about it); it was just that he had not meant to this time. And in his mind, that meant she had left him unjustly and without cause. The main problem, as it had always been from the beginning of their fourteen-year relationship, stemmed from the fact that Amy just wouldn’t keep her mouth shut when instructed to do so. Like his Daddy used to tell him, “A woman has to know her place, and it’s man’s God given right to put her there.” To Tom Eastman, those were words to live by. Hell, it wasn’t like he hit her every day, but sometimes the bitch just wouldn’t shut up. When she found herself a topic, she would just nag, nag, nag until he gave in or lost his temper. He usually gave in, but this time… this time he had not caved.
He wondered into the bathroom and took care of his business. Once finished, he carefully crossed the living-room, placing each foot gingerly before putting his full weight down. Glass covered the floor in several places. It occurred to him that he may have lost his cool a little more than necessary; but God-damn-it, she needed to learn when enough was enough. Tom looked around and shook his head, missing her already. She would have already cleaned this mess up if she had been here; but no, she had to take Larissa and go to stay with some unknown friend at some undisclosed location. The stupid bitch would clean it up when she got home. The mess was her fault after all. She would clean it if she had to pick each piece of glass up with her teeth. Yes sir, a man could take that to the bank. God, he loathed and loved that woman in equal measure. Why couldn’t she just do what he said? Was that so damn hard?
He made it to the kitchen and flipped on the light. He should have put on shoes. The kitchen was worse than the living room. How much had he had to drink? By the look of the floor, he had shattered every plate, drinking glass and bottle in the kitchen. It would cost a fortune to replace it all. Damn if that didn’t piss him off even more, and like everything else in his life, it was all Amy’s fault.
He sidled around the wall being careful of his foot placement and still managed to cut his foot in two places.
“Fucking Bitch!” He screamed at no one. There was no one at whom to scream.
He opened the back door and stepped into his screened-in porch. The forest loomed large against the backdrop of the night sky. His house was the last house on the left and sat directly across the gap between Gerald’s 012 and Oscar’s 010 on the other side of Silent Glade Drive.
He and Amy purchased 011 in 2009. They were the second couple to buy a lot, and they, like everyone else in the neighborhood, paid a premium price. He pulled a pack of smokes out of his pocket and lit one. He looked to the north and stared off towards the round-about and the deep forest beyond. He and Larissa used to hike those trails. Now he would likely never get to see his daughter again because that stupid, fat-ass of a wife thinks she can get one over him. On him! Who the Hell did that stupid bitch think she was fooling? Pull one over on him, Hell. She wasn’t smart enough to…
“What the Hell?” he whispered.
A soft yellow square of light sat between him and the forest beyond the round-about. It looked like a window bathed in the soft light of a candle, but there was no house out there. His was the last house on the left, so what could that be? He tried to recall if he had ever noticed a shed out there. He had not. Of that, he was as sure as he was about the sun rising tomorrow.
He wracked his brain. Could it be a new house was to be constructed in the near future? Or maybe, the HOA of Silent Glade had erected some sort of shack for grounds equipment. Then again, this neighborhood was full of kids. Maybe one of the little shits had built a fort. He and his brothers had built one a summer for years when he was a child. Regardless, it would not stand. His house was the last house on the left, and that was all there was to it.
His yard-boots sat next to the glider swing on the porch. He grimaced as he took a step and looked down to see a bloody footprint. God-damn glass cut him deeper than he thought. He sat down on the glider and took a look. A small square shard of porcelain from one of the plates stuck through his sock and bit deep into the arch of his foot. He pulled it out and gasped; that hurt far more than it should have. The shard was almost half an inch long.
“Impressive,” he said bemused, wondering why it did not hurt more than it did. Pain was an old friend. One he was not ashamed to embrace from time to time. Oh yes, embrace and deliver.
Oh well, he could deal with that later. First, he had to deal with whoever’s offspring decided to put a fort in view of his house. He pulled off his now bloody sock and wrapped it around the wound like a bandage, then tied it across the top of his foot. He slid his injured foot into one of the boots, left it untied, and put on his other.
He glanced at his face in the reflected glass of the back-door window. His ephemeral image looked haggard and worn. Dark bags bruised his eyes. At least he still had his hair. That was something the bitch wouldn’t be able to take from him. And at their age, she would be lucky to find another dick with a full head of dark hair. He smiled at that. Amy had peaked with him. She didn’t know it, but every other sucker she found would be a letdown. Hell, that little bitch might even try to come back, but he wouldn’t let her. Fuck no. He might let her in just so he could straighten her out good (God knows she needed it). Then, he would kick her ass back to the curb. He smiled at the thought.
First though, he would deal with the little upstart who thought they could fuck with his view. Oh yes, he would deal with them first. He opened the screen door and marched across his yard and into the small copse of trees between him and the square of glowing yellow light.
As he approached, the image began to resolve itself as if it were sliding out of a mist. At first, he could only make out the window back-lit in candlelight. Suddenly, a woman, maybe in her early twenties, walked in front of the light. Her thin veil of a nightgown just hiding her alluring curves. Who was this? He took a step closer and more of the house beyond the window came into view. It was a cottage compared to the rest of the neighborhood. He bumped into a short white picket fence and nearly fell over it. The fence surrounded the house, marking out a modest, well-manicured lawn. A stone walk led from the front door through a gate in the fence and out to the road where a mailbox stood as if it had stood there forever. Tom scratched his head and grunted. He must be going crazy. How could he completely forget this house? He took a step forward and almost fell across the fence again. This time, his shirt and belly caught on one of the pointed wooden slats. His shirt tore in an audible rip and the board sliced him clean. A shiver ran down his spine as the front of his shirt turned red. Then the pain hit and fire burned his side.
“Oh, Jesus. Cut myself,” he exclaimed and stepped back. He pressed his hand against his side and winced. Nice, this day was getting better and better.
“Are you okay, sir?” said a sweet, feminine voice as musical as the morning.
Tom spun around and gasped at both the pain and the stunning creature in front of him. He had never seen such a beautiful woman. She was curvy and voluptuous with wide set brown eyes that melted his heart. Her long brown hair, or was it blond, hung in ringlets around her head. His head ached at her beauty. She was the girl from his dreams, every man’s dream really. Who wouldn’t love a gorgeous young woman like this? Besides, any man with taste different than his own was flat wrong. There was his taste and bad taste, and this hot little thing was just what the doctor ordered.
The sun began to drift above the horizon and light the sky in deep morning blue. A halo of light briefly surrounded the girls head although he couldn’t be sure from where, because the light was only there a moment, and the sun still sat below the hills to the East.
God, she was beautiful.
“Oh sir, you’re bleeding. Please, come inside. Let me tend you. I’m so sorry. This old fence is so sharp.” The young lady stepped closer to the slat that had speared him. Two small rivulets of blood slid down from the point.
“Oh my, yes.” She wiped the blood with one of her fingers. “You have been injured. Please, come inside. Let me help you.” The last two words echoed strangely in his mind. The world tilted sideways, and he stumbled even though he hadn’t moved.
Tom shook his head; he must have lost more blood than he thought. He glanced back at the beautiful woman and didn’t know what to say. He had never been struck dumb before. He said what was on his mind and people listened. Who wouldn’t? But now, now he felt like his tongue was stuck to the roof of his mouth. He just nodded his head to indicate he would go with her and then looked down at his blood-soaked shirt like a teen boy who had been caught eyeing a pretty girl on the beach.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
She smiled and said, “I’m Mary Sue, Mr. Eastman. You’re worrying me. Come on, let’s get you inside. Let me know if you need me to carry you.” She started back around the fence to the front of the house.
How did she know his name? Tom did not remember telling her. Could he have forgotten this house? No. There was just no way he could have forgotten such a stupefying beauty. God, maybe he was losing it. Did she say carry me? The young lady moved so serenely that she appeared to float. He took two more steps. Did she just raise her bloody fingers to her mouth and lick his blood? He couldn’t be sure. Things were fuzzy around the edges and getting fuzzier. He couldn’t think straight, suddenly the world began to spin and Tom fell to the side. Everything went black.
Tom couldn’t remember much about what happened inside. All he knew was that it had been wonderful. Vague recollections of his head pressed into that amble bosom as she nursed his wounds sprang to mind. He remembered he lay with his head in her lap, or… or was he in her lap, curled up like a small dog. He must have lost a lot of blood, because that couldn’t be right. Ah, but she was beautiful, of that he was sure. They talked about all kinds of things. He doesn’t remember much, but what he did remember was important. Oh yes, very important.
Mary Sue had said, “I can’t believe you let Amy do you like that. A big strapping man like you? No, I just can’t believe it. Why didn’t you put her in her place?”
“She snuck away like a little, scared bitch; that’s why,” Tom had replied. “What was I supposed to do?”
“Well go get her, of course. You don’t know where she is?” Mary Sue asked.
“No. I wish I did. I’d show her. You can bet your sweet ass on that, honey cakes. You can bet your sweet ass.”
“Oh, but I can help you. The truth is you do know, don’t you? You know where she went. I mean, where else could she go?” Mary Sue said.
Her voice echoed around his head again as if she were speaking to him in a tunnel. She gently touched him on his bare shoulder. Why had his shoulder been bare? Was he naked? God, he hoped so, because that implied all kinds of fun he would love to believe.
Things went soft around the edges for a second and them Tom knew where his wife had gone. He said, “She went to her friend Julia’s in Murfreesboro.” He grinned wide. “Why didn’t I think of that before? I mean, where else would she go.”
“Exactly,” Mary Sue said, “You should fetch her. She needs to be taught her place.”
That was it. That was about all he remembered from his time in the house. Tom found himself standing outside the little cottage’s front door on the stone walk. Morning had risen and the neighborhood was waking up. His side still oozed, but he didn’t feel as woozy. He looked back at the house. The front rooms were dark. How had he gotten from Mary Sue’s lap to the front walk? And dressed? He felt untethered, like his mind was slipping.
A bloody footprint stood out starkly against the grey stones on the walk. He wasn’t wearing his boots. Had he left them inside? He must have, but where? The bloody puddle on the stone seemed to shrink and disappear as if the stone were some sort of sponge. This whole place made his head hurt. He stepped to the front door and knocked. No answer. She was just here. Why would she ignore him now?
Suddenly, a scream followed by an unmistakable cry of pain split the stillness of the morning. The sound seemed to come from somewhere near the round-about. The hairs on the back of Tom’s neck stood at attention. He shivered. He didn’t know who or what that was, but it was none of his business. His business was in Murfreesboro, and that was where he intended to go as soon as he reached his car. He forgot all about his missing boots until he made it home. It didn’t matter, he would get them another time.
After he changed clothes and put on other shoes, he left to go find his wayward wife. He would teach her. Oh yes, she needed to learn her place. And when he was done with her, he would go visit Mary Sue again. Next time, he wanted to remember what went on behind the doors of that gorgeous creature’s house. Tom didn’t even notice Gerald jogging up the street as he left the neighborhood. He didn’t notice anything at all.
To be continued…