The Last Image

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The Last Image

“He’s still there.”

“What? Who?”

Her husband’s footsteps come up behind her at the window, his steady hand lighting on her bare shoulder. The surface of her coffee ripples. She’s afraid she’ll drop it, and holds it tighter.

“Blue SUV, across the street.”

The derisive snort is one she’s come to expect.

“You think I’m crazy.”

The pause is another number in his repertoire, one that started irritating her about ten years ago. Friends told her this happened after decades of marriage, but she’d always thought it would happen to other people, not them. That they’d be the couple toasting their anniversaries with champagne and witty banter—the conversation, while not Algonquin Round Table scintillating, would at least be there, no long, awkward silences where they would start wondering if this was all life had to offer. Start looking over each other’s shoulders for something better. It had been a comforting thought, at first.

“No,” he says finally, his voice a degree of calm that makes her want to jab her elbow backward. “You’re not crazy. You just…maybe think too much. You think every blue SUV is someone out to get us. You think every man with sunglasses is his secret police gathering intel. Maybe you’re watching too much Netflix.”

“I think we should leave.”

“Okay. Now I think you’re crazy. Why would you want to leave because some random guy in a random SUV is parked in our neighborhood? Maybe…maybe he’s watching someone else. Maybe he’s stalking his ex. We have no idea.”

She sets her coffee down so hard it sloshes onto the brickface of the mantel. “I’m going to ask him.”

“Honey.”

It’s another tone she hates, but she sucks in a slow breath, lets it out slower, tells herself she is in command of her own reactions.

“It’s not against the law to ask, is it? Or is that something else he changed while everyone else was distracted?”

“Probably not, but it still could be dangerous.”

She turns toward him, her lips parting. “Why? Is there something you’re not telling me?”

In the silence, her life slow-pans across the screen of her mind. The last image, their beautiful boy.

“Just go upstairs.” His voice is soft, but deliberate, which makes the hairs on the backs of her arms stand up.

“I will not—”

But he already has his hand on the knob. He stops. His eyebrows dip, face contrite. It’s a look she’d seen on their son’s face when he’d been naughty. “I’m on his enemies list.”

“You…” Damn him. She knew it. He hadn’t stopped. She’d told him the first time he got arrested to stop writing those letters, stop posting in that group. Stop stirring up trouble. He’d promised.

“This has to end now,” she says. “You know what happens to those people, you know what he does, we saw with our own eyes…” The words turn into hard knots in her throat.

“Which is why I’m going to tell him to leave us alone. You’re right. It ends now. In the name of the Constitution and the First Amendment. It ends now.”

This is what he cares about most? Some useless bits of history, and not their lives? How could she have believed that he had stopped? The good wife in her head, the good wife putting that champagne on to chill, the good wife making his supper every night, wants to say something like “I’m coming with you” or “We’re in this together,” but she doesn’t want to be together with him in this folly anymore. He’s already cost them too much. The legal fees being the least of it.

She lifts her hands. She walks away. Up the stairs. To the empty bedroom at the end of the hall.

The front door slams. She curls up on the small, narrow bed with the Star Wars sheets and closes her eyes. Imagining the handcuffs. The Miranda rights. And then the blue SUV driving away.

When she comes downstairs again, all is quiet. She looks out the window at the empty street. Then hits the number she’d been instructed to call. When the calm voice answers, she says, “Help me get to Canada. Please.”

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Author: laurieboris

Writer, editor, proofreader, stand-up comedian in another life.

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