By Edle Winnie
She felt trapped. They sat at a beautiful table in an elegant dining room but she could feel the invisible bars around them. The supper was some fancy stuff but she could not taste it. Her boyfriend Morman the giraffe was a talkative animal and he and his mother kept the conversation light and constant. Oblivious. She sawed at everything with her table knife. Daddy scarface sat silent, smiling politely and staring at her. She glared back and sawed her potatoes into even smaller pebbles.
The rest of the evening was spent in banal conversation. As they were leaving Norman’s father managed to catch her alone, a strong hand on her thin arm.
“What are you going to do?” He hissed.
“What are you going to do?” She hissed back and twisted his grip away.
The car ride home was tense. She leaned her head against the window, felt every bump of the road. Morman observed that she had been unusually quiet. Tired, she justified. A headache coming on. A migraine actually. Even though she rubbed her temples she didn’t think he believed it, but didn’t know what else to do or say. He would not have believed her tale about his father.
Once home the knives came out again. They were comfortable. Old knowing friends. But what of her feelings? Was she to put her feelings away again? Did it have to be one or the other?
She wondered if she was in danger. Perhaps, she thought, she had changed his father. Taught him a lesson. Made him change his ways. But then she remembered his eyes, the horrible bursting eyeballs staring murderously at her over the polite dinner table. What you are going to do, he’d hissed. No change. An animal. What was he going to do?
She could imagine what would happen. The parents would pressure Morman to give up the strange girlfriend and find someone taller. Or maybe scar Daddy would stalk her and kill her. She whipped the eight inch bowie out and sliced the air. This time she’d gut him.
But things never work out the way you think, do they? She wore the knives. She practiced the quick draw. She looked over her shoulder. She continued to go out with Morman. But something had changed. She hadn’t realized it was her.
“You just seem different, somehow.” He said. “Distant.”
She nodded, not knowing how to respond. The knives failed her for she mostly needed words.
Norman didn’t say that the knife made him uncomfortable. He only knew about the big one. She’d said it was for protection. But why did she wear it when she was with him?
“Maybe we should spend some time apart.” He said.
She looked way up, towards his face. “If that’s what you want.”
When he dropped her off they both knew it was for the last time.
She sat in her apartment, at the table with the bowie and its little brother. Protectors? For a flash she was tempted to pick up the sharp big blade and carve something into the table top. But what would she carve? A heart? Morman’s name? So she did not move. I am a blade, she thought. Isolated. Waiting to be drawn and slashed.
She was surprised when she got the email from Morman the giraffe the next day. When she read it, she was angry. He wanted to give some of her belongings back that were at his apartment. Would she come and pick them up? Truly over then.
She spent a fitful night. Didn’t sleep. She made a mental list of his things to give back too. What really bothered her was that she was unhappy about it. Inconsolable. She had cared for him. She’d never thought that it would happen to her. But now her caring had nowhere to go, and it was burning her.
The next day was a pretend day- she pretended she was doing things, waiting for the exchange time to arrive. He texted her about two hours beforehand. He had gotten called in to work, but his dad was there- did she mind? She looked at the display on her phone in disbelief. Felt like throwing the phone but did not. Felt her heart rate speed up, the blood rush to her face. Was it a plot? Was his dad behind it all? Maybe Norman was in on it too.
She texted back that it was fine.
She left work early. She did not ask, she just left. No one could stop her, not today. The box she’d collected of Norman’s sweaters and gloves was in her car. She was already wearing her knives.
The day was overcast and the grey sky promised rain. She drove to a hiking trail near Norman’s apartment, parked the car and got out. Walked. She didn’t really know what she was doing, didn’t really have a plan. Had to deal with the energy. The knives felt comfortable with her, she thought. She liked being amongst the trees. It wasn’t a wild park, more golf coursey trail with cut lawns and flower beds. She would have rather met scarface here then at Norman’s. He would have the home advantage there. But also she had good memories of Morman’s apartment. Scarface didn’t belong there.
Really what would he do? Norman knew that his father was meeting her there. It would be easier for his father to just deny any accusation about the past anyway. Maybe he was going to offer her money. She could always use some money. She wasn’t sure if she would accept it from him though.
She returned to her car, drove the final few minutes’ drive to Norman’s place. She parked in her usual spot. But when she went to grab the box of his clothes she decided to leave the knives behind. It was a sudden impulse- they were a crutch, an impediment rather than protection. If she brought them in she’d never be rid of them. She’d never be able to feel comfortable without them. And she missed that already. She was sure scarface was going to pay her away. She didn’t fear him. She would snarl in his face. She secreted the knives, both of them, in the trunk under her reusable grocery bags. She would do this on her own. The trunk closed with a thump.
Her head was spinning as she took the elevator up to the sixth floor, adrenalin speeding through her veins. Her hands shook even though she was clutching the box of clothes. Fear, exhilaration. Terror. She was at the apartment door. She didn’t knock. She had a key. She opened the door and stepped in.
Scarface daddy stepped out of the bedroom at the sound of the lock. They faced off, just like they had done in the woods years before.
She threw the box of Mormans’s sweaters and stuff onto the floor. “This is your son’s stuff. Where’s mine?”
He looked at her with his big bad wolf eyes. “We need to talk.” He came slowly towards her, hands behind his back.
“We don’t need to talk.” She snarled. “Give me my stuff and then I’m leaving.” She heard herself and shuddered- she sounded shrill, like a child having a tantrum.
He was so close to her then. He could have reached out and touched her face, like he’d almost done in the woods. She refused to retreat even one step. His hands flashed into view then and his face contorted with animal rage- he had a knife in each hand and he began slashing at her. She blocked with her forearms and felt the knives cut but she didn’t feel the pain. She transformed her bloody block into a grab at his throat, and then she head butted his nose and he stabbed into her shoulders. They were down on the ground then, her hands around his throat, her feet pummelling at him. There was blood everywhere and she was still choking him. He seemed to weaken for a moment and she grabbed his left wrist with her right hand while her left fingers jammed into his eyes. His free hand was still stabbing into her shoulder, again and again. She twisted the knife from his left hand and welcomed it into her own. The blade was suddenly alive, free, almost singing and it dove deep into his chest, into his heart. His bulging eyes registered surprise, and then sadness and he tried to say something. She began choking him again, until she collapsed on top of him and lost consciousness.
White, all white, everything white when her eyes figured out they were open. She felt nauseous. It was a hospital room and slowly she looked around. She could feel her torso wrapped tightly in bandages, her arms strapped down. She had no strength to fight it.
He let her find him, sitting there beside her. It took a while before her eyes found their way through all the white and found Morman’s face. He was not smiling with his mouth but there was hope in his eyes.
When he was certain she was truly there he unbuttoned his shirt, to show her the big knife, her big bowie, under his left arm. She closed her eyes again and slept, knowing that she was finally safe.