Sarah Clayville

Photo Credit: Sarah-Rose/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

She hides herself in small pieces around the flat, bracing for the worst. The day where she will not be around to tell her story. When a new person lives there, wiping down the granite countertops and spilling blackberry tea by the sink, they will find her in enigmatic bits. The I love you note jotted down on a napkin with lipstick staining the edges. A bent yellow barrette he gave her from their trip to Clifden. The broken china figurine, a mermaid with no head. Whoever finds these pieces will be clever, like she is. They will lay them out on a linen and reconstruct her as if she were a dinosaur reduced to dusty bones.

“Rosemary, I cancelled my weekend plans,” he calls from the shower. The steam seeps into their bedroom as if the morning mist has broken through the walls.

She remains in bed, sore from the night before. Her shoulder pulses when she moves it right or left or down.

“I told my sis I’d spend Saturday with her, if that’s alright?” Rosemary answers.

She retreats deeper into the warm blankets and shuts her eyes. Something hot presses against her neck. She can’t decipher if it’s the steam or his breath. Then he speaks, and the monster has burrowed its way inside her nest.

“It’s not alright when I’ve upended my schedule to make you happy.” His voice is a terrible ringing in her ears. She stays still. In her head the familiar pendulum swings back and forth between the right thing to say and the painful thing to say. But courage is a rotten drug, dragging her kicking and screaming to the wrong side.

“I’ll be happy if I see my sister.”

Rosemary’s voice is the lighthouse beacon drawing his rage.

“Then I’ll go away alone, and you’ll be pleased?”

He gently kisses the arch of her neck the way he did on their wedding night as he nudges her over onto her stomach.

“Tell me when you’re happy enough,” he whispers.

This is where she silently counts the hidden objects in the flat, as he forces her face into the pillow. Her body begs to thrash. No fighting, she tells herself because he will not stop until she is limp. A few kicks of protest and then she must be frozen as the air leaves her lungs. His hand is iron on the back of her head. All she can do is think of those hidden pieces he’ll never touch. In the back of the kitchen cabinet. Behind the toilet in the guest bedroom.

“Rosemary?” he asks in a different voice, like he’s changed his suit.

She parts her lips, pressed against the bed. He frantically checks her pulse. Flips her over carelessly. Places his lips against hers and forces air. Once she stirs, he drops back to his side of the bed, moaning.

“Visit your sister during the week when I’m preoccupied.”

He rushes to slip on his jacket.

“I’m late for work. Decide where you want to go. Anywhere within a day’s drive. You deserve a holiday for all you put up with.”

Once he’s left, she reaches into the nightstand drawer and pulls out a fractured charm bracelet missing two links. He loves taking her away because there is never violence until they return. He blames it, like a curse, on their home. In Aberdeen, London, or Hebrides, he is a proper man. Rosemary can say and do as she likes, but he records the moments. Stocking them up for the storm season when they return.

Rosemary pulls out the travel guide. A bed and breakfast along the coast catches her eye. They bring you fruit crisp in bed, and at night nothing can be heard over the howling of the waves. When she phones to request a reservation, only one with a small twin bed remains vacant.

“It’s more of a closet than a room, to be honest,” the concierge on the other end chuckles. “But it’s got the best view of the town and a castle nearby. Real hidden gem.”

“Yes, please.” The urgency in her voice startles them both. “How long is it available?”

“For the foreseeable future,” he tells her.

Rosemary used to believe in signs. She fell in love with her husband because she discovered him reading her favorite novel on a sunny day in the park. And their flat appeared as if by magic the morning they got engaged on a want ad tacked to a post by the chapel. But slowly he cured her of the silliness, tearing down those signs, word by word.

Except now, the man on the phone tells her that she can hide herself away like the broken artifacts.

“Please hold it. Until this afternoon.” Rosemary’s voice trembles. She jams her suitcase full, simultaneously texting her sister and work to let them know she’s leaving.

When he returns home that night, he is furious that the door’s been left open. How irresponsible. How unsafe. How perfect. Then he realizes she is gone, and the tornado hunts for its target. But as he howls like the waves, all he discovers are the pieces of her that he broke over the past two years, while she sleeps by an ocean lulling her to sleep with its roar.


Sarah Clayville’s work has appeared both online and in print in several dozen journals, including Toasted Cheese Literary Journal. Email: sarah.clayville[at]gmail.com

Print Friendly, PDF & Email