The obscene drunken screaming abruptly stopped. She held her breath. The familiar fear coursing through her body held in hiatus.
Did he fall off the mezzanine balcony?
She had just turned down the corridor that led to the guest bathroom. Hoping to reach that safe haven and lock the door before her husband caught her. The long hours she had spent cowering in that stark, cold white room haunted her and yet, at the same time she longed to be there.
Once in that room she didn’t have to reason with him, to beg or plead. She didn’t have to stare into his feverish eyes, hoping that her expression is one of love. One that will calm the beast.
The chill of the bathroom tiles soothes her bruises like a cold compress. The old and the new.
At least he’s never hit my face.
She still didn’t move.
With the yelling gone, other noises reached out to her. The low hum of the cistern, the distant television burble, the wind moaning through the eaves up above. Her own shallow breath.
Slowly, she retraced her steps round the corner onto the first-floor landing. The balcony railing faced her and, for that moment, it dominated her existence. Pulling her step by step.
She peered over the edge.
Her husband lay on his back, eyes closed and mouth ajar as if asleep. The shattered wine bottle sent merlot streaming across the grey marble flooring. An ever-widening pool of blood circled his head.
He might survive if I call for an ambulance now. Or, I could pretend I was asleep. That I didn’t know until the middle of the night … or the morning, just to be sure.
Mary took one last look.
“I hoped you would die this way.”
(c) Rachel Smith