I could feel him standing behind me, watching as I retched into his downstairs neighbor’s garden. As my shoulders hunched and my body shuddered, I anticipated his palm on the center of my back, between the shoulder blades, that slight nudge that would send me over. There was no reason to keep me around, spare my life. He’d shown me the devil, etched away the thin crust and revealed to me the darkness he’d kept buried inside his heart for most of our relationship, and I had rejected it.
“Will you call the police?” he asked softly, with the same voice he used to tell me he needed me, pleading, desperate. I turned around and looked into his eyes, glowing gray in the moonlight, tears shimmering as they collected around his lower eyelid. One tear dripped from the corner, began to glide down his cheek. I reached up to wipe it away, and he snatched my wrist. “Will you call the police?” he said again, more forceful this time, the bass growing in his voice. He squeezed my wrist, the tips of his fingers pressing deep into bone, drawing up blue veins, cutting off circulation, curling my hand forward, drawing me to my knees.
“We have to,” I said finally, and he tossed my wrist back into my face and spun around, scratching his head with both hands.
“Because there’s a dead girl in your bed!” I snapped.
He knelt in front of me, curled his hand around the back of my neck. “You still don’t get it, do you?”
I hung my head as he tickled my spine. His hand was large—his thumb running up and down my throat while the rest of his palm cupped behind my neck. Would he press forward, cut off the air to my lungs? Would he snap my neck, bend his hand as if twisting the lid off a glass soda bottle.
“We can tell them she went to bed drunk and choked on her vomit during the night,” I suggested.
“They’ll check her stomach.” He patted my shoulder as if to say, thanks for trying. I’d shown him an inclination to help. My life was saved— for now.
“Plus they’ll wonder why I took so long to call,” he added, standing and leaning against the patio door.
“How long…has it been?”
“A couple days!” I stumbled back into the railing, the metal hitting the center of my spine directly. I put both hands on the bar to brace myself and keep from flipping backward at yet another shocking bomb dropped onto my conscience. His dead ex-girlfriend in his bed. Her body festering for a couple days. What was next?
“It’s a wonder your neighbors don’t smell anything. I could smell it as soon as I got here. I thought it was an animal.”
“That’s why you have to help me!” He rushed to me, swept me into his embrace, bending my back over the banister. He kissed my shoulder and neck hurriedly, but as he moved higher he slowed, biting on my cheekbone, planting a row of kisses down to my lips.
“Stop,” I whined, but he wouldn’t let go, holding tighter, kissing harder, slipping his hands into the front my jeans. Before I knew it, we were back inside, where I again couldn’t breathe, the reek of decomposition impairing my better judgement. He laid me on the loveseat, knocking litter off the coffee table as he wrestled me out of my clothes and mounted me. It was then that I realized this was another way to live. If I couldn’t help him rid himself of his ex permanently, the least I could do was relieve the tension in his groin, make him feel he didn’t waste his time showing me his evil secret. Though lying on her back got the last one killed, if I could give him what every man expected and wanted from a woman, silently, maybe he would feel less murderous, less vengeful. Maybe his desires of being a father would awaken once again. Maybe we could forget what he’d done, start over with a clean slate, save my life and cleanse his soul.
When he finished, he sat on the arm of the couch and lit a cigarette while I slid back into my clothes. He took a long drag then turned and handed it to me. “Why not?” He shrugged. He knew I didn’t smoke, but what was the point of being righteous now, wanting to extend my life? We all died eventually. If not by the hands of someone else, someone we undoubtedly knew and loved, then by our own hands.
I held the cigarette between my index and middle fingers, inhaled the nicotine, and listened to the echo of the final nail being driven into my coffin. “Do you have a suitcase?” I asked.