Playing House – Chapter 4

Special Excerpt from Chapter 4:

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Finlay is taking me home for war. I know the drill. Sit there and take it like a woman. Make dinner. Get bitched at for baking it wrong. Clean up the clear glass when he slams the dish of lasagna off the side of the table. Cry on my knees while cleaning the floor, broken like Cinderella but unable to keep a steely face with him standing over me screaming about what a mistake of a human being I am.

“What is wrong with you?” he screams. “Can’t you do anything right? All I ask for is an edible plate of food on the table. Is that too much to ask? You can’t even get that right.”

“I’m sorry, okay?” I cry hysterically. “I’m so fucking sorry.”

“You’re sorry? You’re sorry?”

I zone out after that. Words… they’re just words. He doesn’t mean it. I’ve done this to him. This is my fault. If I would have stayed calm, it would have been fine. Maybe if I was a better cook, he wouldn’t flip out over everything. He leans toward me to shout in my ear, as if maybe I will hear him better when he’s spitting at my ear drum.

I want to scream back at him—tell him to stop—but think better of it, stiffly doing what I know I have to do—bow down and take it. I have to calm the fuck down and get through this, one episode at a time.

I take a deep breath and smear my tears with the sleeve of my shirt. I listen to the seconds tick by, the oversized clock on the wall reminding me that this will all be over soon enough. He starts shouting again, but I can handle it now. This anger will pass, like it always does. He can’t keep this up for much longer. The volcano will erupt and soon the sweet, emotional rush will flow again.

I know what Finlay’s working toward—make-up sex—but it won’t be until I’m a trembling, tear-faced wreck, browbeat into submission. I snap free from that safe place in my mind and tremble from the cold rush of tears on my cheeks. I place the wasted food into a plastic bag Finlay throws at me, together with the broken glass and dirty napkins I used to pick up the saucy mess. A chunk of the broken dish slices across my thumb as it drops into the bag, and I cry out in surprise. Blood instantly pools on the surface of the long cut, and I stare at it, wondering whether it’s deep enough to make a bloody mess. It takes a second for Finlay to realize something is wrong.

My eyes fly across the room. Finlay’s suddenly watching me with a disgraceful look in his eyes. He notices the drops of blood on the floor and takes a step toward me. I flinch, raising my arm to hide my face, afraid he’s finally going to raise a hand on me.

“Please,” I beg, not knowing what I beg for anymore. The shouting to stop. The name-calling to end. The rotten feeling inside my soul to subside. Just hit me and get it over with.

His hand comes gently down onto my shoulder. “You winced. Why did you wince?” He pauses as the words sink in and make me shudder. “Do you not love me anymore?” He sighs, tears coming to his eyes as I lower my guard. “What a monster I’ve become.” He pours his face into his hands. “Oh, God. What have I done?”

Every second is torture, but this is no show. He means it and I can’t escape him. The other Finlay is back, and I can never leave him. I drop the bag to the floor, tuck my thumb into the palm of my hand and curl into his crumbling form. The tips of my fingers slide over his wet cheek and drag through his hair. “You know that’s not true,” I whisper, burying my face into his neck and clutching my injured hand to my chest. “Our love isn’t finished yet.”

He kisses my wound, tasting my blood before pulling me to the sink. He rinses my hand under a stream of cool water, watching the pink swirling down the drain until the water runs clear. Finlay hands me a paper towel, and I press it against the laceration while he searches the cabinet for peroxide and a bandage. He cleans the fresh wound, dries my hand and covers the sliced skin, kissing the spot now concealed. His eyes remain downturned. Does he feel bad for the way he’s treated me? Will he remember this feeling tomorrow? His thumb smooths back and forth over my hand.

“Can you ever forgive me?” he asks, his eyes pleading with the rush of a thousand oceans.

To be continued…

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