It was meat day, Thursday. Lenore avoided the windows. It’s unheard of, she muttered to herself, this incessant wind, trees bending in unnatural ways, unnatural for New England. She imagined the branches groping, trees crushing. Not now. Not when there was so much to lose. How much wind can one person endure? Trees uprooted, tipped on sides, everywhere, like a massacre.
The house was empty. Soon, she thought, soon she’d prepare for the market to pick up her meat. It was Thursday, meat day. Not now. Not yet. First, drink the coffee—mocha spice. She promised him she’d try it. He brought it home for her. It was new. But, the wind and that window, she knew she couldn’t close it herself, and, still, he left it open. How could she get in there now?
Most days, she remained in one room—one room at a time. To visit another room, like the den with the bookshelves, all those dark wood shelves, was painful…and all those books. She imagined them burying her—an entombment. Don’t you like to read anymore? Someone had asked her. The voice echoed in her ears like a cymbal. No, not much, not too much. Before, when she was able to walk into the room, she liked to pick a stray book up and fan the pages. But the black words became gnats, offensive, made her cringe.
And anyway since little Mattie, sweet little Mattie, she had no time to read. She was gone only half the day. Half-day program is best, Adam told her. She agreed. Any good mother agreed to it—her little Mattie—only three years old.
But the reading, yes, she had considered maybe those couple of hours, sitting down to read, but it was all too much, to sit and absorb so many words, line after line. Just last week, or was it the week before, she developed a migraine. The next time, the wind was so fierce each sentence stuck in her brain. The words made no sense, they swam like tadpoles, undulating, and then there was the wind, even with the windows closed, the scraping of branches, boughs bending, all of it was an assault, unbearable.
Soon, she’d walk into the living room, sit on the couch and drink her coffee. But how could she with that window open? She started towards it, paused in the hallway, thought about the market, Don the butcher, his white smock smeared with blood, the ruin of defenseless animals. I hate meat. It was last night at the dinner table when she said it. Is that so, he said, setting his wine glass down, moving his tongue to the side of his mouth to get at the remaining bits of food. I don’t like meat anymore. I don’t, she confessed. We eat as a family. Lenore, he argued. I’m not going to have that going on here. No separate meals. She glanced across the table at Mattie, cheeks flushed, sucking the ketchup off four fingers and then dipping them back in, meat untouched. Look at Mattie, she said, she doesn’t eat meat either. His brow furrowed, he picked up his wine glass, brought it to his mouth; the glass swallowed him.
Who was she to complain…everyone had a cross to bear. And just this morning, she tried his new coffee. She cut up melon for Mattie’s snack, zipped up her jacket, adjusted her ponytail. She felt a sense of completion. Maybe I could shut the windows. No wind. Not now. It was only an hour or so since they both left. She had loved him, a lustful kind of love, infatuation, and at times like this morning, how he looked in his new green and yellow tie, she felt an itch. He loved ties. She ordered it for him, online. Please, he had said, fix it. I can’t be late. How did it happen? How did it get so wrinkled? She ironed it. But his words crawled inside her and gnawed at her. Get out of me, she’d think. And when she was more normal, she’d get away from his words, go into the bathroom, turn on the shower. Lenore, really, what’s wrong this time? Come on now, Lenore. You have got to snap out of it, Lenore. Snap out of it. How do I do it? She often wondered. Snap out of it. She wished it was so easy. She knew—it was getting worse. She wasn’t normal. Even the sound of the rattling branches made her quiver. She avoided all windows for the time being. It was too risky. The sounds took her breath away, made her want to flee. But there was nowhere to run, and, besides, the coffee smells in the morning, and little Mattie, soon, she needed to pick her up, and Don the butcher, too, was waiting for her at the market, clad in his bloody smock, waiting for her to pick up her meat, and, really, he was always so kind and she never wanted to offend anyone.
She cradled her mug now, stood in the hallway connecting the kitchen to the living room, listened for wind. Soon, she’d have to go; she already dressed before she left the bedroom, so she didn’t have to try to get back upstairs. But still, there was the door. She imagined reaching for the handle, turning it. And then there was the window. He’d open the window lately just to make her feel worse. She was sure of it. Even after she gave him sex, when he was more malleable, and she asked him to remember the windows. He had looked at her strangely, as if she were an aberrant. He agreed. But now here was the window, open wide, and the wind picking up, yes. Now, she heard it for certain. The trees that wanted to drag her down to their roots, to the stygian depths, they shook and shuddered, shouting Lenore!—all the time now, Lenore!
This is a reprint of work originally published in The Milo Review.
Elizabeth Brown is a native of Connecticut. Her short fiction appears or is forthcoming in Bartleby Snopes, Sleet, Pithead Chapel, and elsewhere. She has recently completed a New Adult psychological romance thriller. You can find her blogging fiction updates at http://elizabethbrownfiction.wordpress.com.