Bev Vines-Haines
Todd Slater left his wife in Iceland.  It wasn’t what he intended to do and even now, ten years later, he still had wakeful bouts of guilt during the night.  We all do things like this, he would whisper to comfort himself.  He remembered the small terrier with matted fur he’d had as a child.  How his parents, disgusted by the creature, had given it a huge bowl of food, tied it out at the doghouse and moved three states away.  He cried throughout that long drive until an enforced exchange of promises had them all agreeing never to speak of the dog again. 

That’s how he managed the memories of Tennyson.  Most of the time.  She was so agreeable.  Adaptable.  She’d put up with the cold, the distance between Reykjavik and her family in Houston, poverty, the loss of a child and eventually his own unfaithfulness and abandonment.  She was the original poster girl for the saying, NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED.

Gentle, understanding people annoyed the hell out of Todd.  You get from people exactly what you expect, he remembered telling her.  But I love you, she always replied.

Love, Schmove.  Who endures abuse? Who does that?  

He tried to imagine her now.  Maybe she’d moved on.  She was a Librarian. (Of course she was.  Those people live for peace and quiet, contentment at any price) She was a soother, always covering every problem with platitudes and hope.  Even weirder, she expected that same level of goodness from everyone she met.  Once in a while he could convince himself he had done her a favor.  People were not all good.  They just are not!  And because of him, she now knew that.

So in her moving on maybe there was some schmuck who believed in people, too.  Maybe he came into the library and they combined their crazy optimism into a crazy dysfunctional family with four or five happy overachieving children.   

He pulled the drape at his living room window back just a little.  For close to a week he’d had an eerie feeling of being watched.  It wasn’t that he was afraid.  Nervous maybe but not afraid.  He’d gotten a strange call on his cell phone two or three times.  Just quiet female breathing.  That’s what brought about all these thoughts of Tennyson, he decided.  Soft breathing like hers.  Quiet.  Patient.  It was more comforting to believe she’d moved on to a better man than to realize she might have come to her senses at last.

He heard a whoosh as the front door opened and closed. Even in the darkened room he recognized her. Funny, she’d never carried a shotgun before.


First published: February 2016
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