The wife clamped the cell phone shut and launched it across the room. It clattered against the wall and made a sick little cry as it died. She lay sprawled across the bed, her nightgown a soiled and crumpled pool about her, brazen in broad daylight. She stared above at the slow revolving slice of the ceiling fan, imagined her throat bared to its blades, felt the caress of an artificial breeze. Outside a wind chime jangled, a melancholy sound like gently breaking glass. A vein trembled in her limp wrist.
Eight days. Eight days since the hordes of flowers had sickened the air with a sweet stench, since the shriek of the telephone had become a daily chant rather than a daily disturbance. Eight days since her husband had promptly dressed himself for work and then, equally promptly, whipped out his father’s antique pistol and shot himself through the mouth. She had returned home in the evening to find a bowl of soggy cornflakes stained pink and a ragged red streak on the wall. He lay stiff and hollow on the linoleum like a pinstriped mannequin.
The air in the bedroom was rich. It settled in her lungs and numbed her whole form like an anesthetic. She liked the feel of indifference. She imagined this was how her husband had often felt, melting into his reclining leather chair, falling asleep before his head hit the pillow. Hearing the hollow click of the trigger a split-second before his eyes filmed in black.
But the feeling did not last; she felt compelled to rifle through his drawers. She told herself it was a merely practical task, but it was personal. Her hands sifted through the folds of his faded linen shirts, the ones that glued to his skin on scalding summer days. He loved wearing those shirts; she hated washing them. Now she wished she could wash them one final time. Pressing his boxers to her nose, she smelled detergent and the faint musk of urine. She found a yellowing envelope stuffed with cash, a rusted teardrop locket--memento of his long-dead mother. A brief smile split her lips. A man’s drawers were his secret place.
Then she found it. Buried beneath all else was a photo, made limp and whitened from constant cherishing. In the photo was a man she had never seen, broad-chested, towheaded, white t-shirt straining against his torso. He seemed caught unawares by the photographer, big teeth jutting out in a blocky grin.
Suddenly she remembered the pale Sunday morning months ago when she had found a foreign hair in their bed, blonde and tightly coiled. She chose to ignore it then. She could not now.
Her husband had a lover. It raised more questions than it answered. But it explained why...