Friday, July 2, 2010
Today's muse: One Minute Writer
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It was a frantic whisper as the glass of milk tipped and a white lake spread across the table. If he sees this, there will be hell to pay.
Sheila grabbed a cloth from the kitchen counter and sopped up the mess, lunging back and forth from the table to the sink to wring out the drenched rag.
“Jesus, what the hell was I thinking?” she muttered.
Her hands trembled and she prayed he didn’t walk in and catch her cleaning up. She knew that would be worse. Like the time she had replaced the broken vase. She had nudged it while dusting and it had exploded into a million pieces. It was days before he found a tiny shard that had slid to a far corner under the sofa. She had walked with a limp for quite a while after that.
The milk crept towards the edge of the table. She squeezed the cloth into the sink, wrung it violently, imagined it was his neck, and turned back to the table to damn the lactose waterfall.
This was how he found her. He stood in the doorway watching her. As she whipped around from the sink, shaking out the twisted cloth, she looked up and met his gaze. The terror in her eyes was unmistakeable. Her body twitched as she hesitated. He could see her mind spinning, searching for an escape, weighing all the options.
“Sheila.” He said her name quietly, afraid to startle her. “It’s me.”
His heart plummeted as he watched her crumble.
“I’m sorry!” she pleaded, holding her hands up in defence. “It was an accident.”
“I know,” he said, and started to walk towards her. She backed away, her eyes darting about, calculating the safest route to freedom.
“I can clean it up. It’ll only take a moment. I didn’t mean it. It was an accident.” Her words tripped over each other as she rushed to explain before he could mete out retribution.
“I know you didn’t mean it,” he said, his voice gentle and calm. He inched closer. “It was an accident. I know that.”
He stood next to her and studied the top of her head as she studied the floor. He was careful not to touch her, knew she’d shatter like fine crystal.
“Look at me.” It wasn’t an order, not even a suggestion. He was begging her because it tore him up inside to see her like this, to see her cower in fear. He couldn’t understand why anyone would destroy such a delicate flower.
“Please, Sheila.” He was embarrassed that his voice faltered, knew he was about to cry. “Please look at me.”
Before he could stop himself, he reached out and touched her arm. She cringed, but he only held her arm tighter. He wasn’t going to let her run away. Not this time.
“Look at me.” His voice was sharp now. This has to stop, he thought, and it’s going to stop now.
Recognizing the anger in his voice, Sheila lifted her head and met his gaze. Her eyes flared with challenge and there was no doubt she planned to win this time. He was surprised by that, and more than a little pleased. A smile played on his lips and he gave an approving nod.
“There’s my girl,” he said, and the smile broke into a grin.
She was surprised to see him. Just moments ago, she was back with the monster, living a nightmare. She could feel her heart pounding, but she looked around and took in her surroundings, realized where she was.
Home. With Allen. Not the monster.
He caught her as she collapsed against him. He held her tight until her trembling stopped.
“It’s ok,” he murmured into her hair. “I got you. He won’t hurt you. He can’t. Not anymore.”