She stood outside the square paned window of their back door puffing on her cigarette and steadied herself to go in. Her hair was knotted in a bun on the top of her head still from work. She let it down and unbuttoned the three ivory clasps on her jacket. She felt like she was facing an angry client about a postponed deadline, or a nine-year-old standing outside of the principal’s tall oak door awaiting reprimand. It didn’t feel like she was about to face her husband. Daria dropped her cigarette on the gray concrete, then stepped on its cherry before going in the house.
The smell of leftover fish wiped the burnt nicotine scent from her nostrils. She huffed out a breath and crinkled her nose in disgust. No amount of lemons in the disposal could wipe out the seared bass smell. No, they would be stuck with it a while. She almost ducked behind the bar when she heard the heel of his wingtip derby shoes crossing the wood in the living room. Daria wasn’t ready to face him. She just wanted to go to sleep and wake up three days ago before she made an ass of herself. If not that, maybe three months into the future when he’d by then surely be done moping and asking questions.
“How was he in bed? Did he cum in you? Why did you do it in the first place?”
Daria hated how he was taking things. “Why don’t you just fucking leave, Ben?”she thought. It would have been so much better than whining, begging, losing his masculine appeal. He wanted to stay even after the fact, he needed let them move on. Daria knew he wouldn’t though – she knew he was coming in to dump all the questions his mind churned up in the two hours since they last spoke.
“Hey,” she threw back. She hadn’t ducked behind the bar.
“Can we talk?”
“I just walked in Ben.”
“I know, but I just,” he stopped with the forceful sigh she pushed out of her pursed lips. “How can you be so impatient with me? You’re the one who did this to us. I’m still here with you. The least you can do is help me feel better about it.”
“All the blame on me,” she thought. “None of it attributed to your porn storage, your flirtatious nature, your lack of passion for my vagina. You flirt with all the pretty things in pencil skirts at your office, get yourself worked up to images of other females and videos of them enjoying themselves, then flop on me, your on-call cumbag, until you finish and sleep. How does that make me want to exclusively fuck you?” She said none of it though. She stood straight-faced with her fingers laced together in front of her.
“I love you Ben. This has been going none stop since it started. Can’t we just take a night off, enjoy one another?” He turned and left the kitchen. She started after him then stopped. She decided to let him sulk and enjoy the peace while it lasted.
* * *
When Daria finally left the safety of the kitchen, Ben’s dog, Ratchet, was seated at the end of the hall with his back straight and his head high, almost like he was playing defense. She was safe to assume Ben was in the bedroom.
Ratchet had been Ben’s dog from day one. She had been the initiator, finding the golden retriever puppy add online, begging Ben to go see them. “Just to look,” she had said, hoping with all her might they would end up leaving with one. They did. He had fallen in love with a male golden puppy just as she had hoped. Unfortunately, Ratchet developed an immediate liking for Ben before they even swiped their credit card.
“Move,” she said kicking the dog in the butt as she passed. He showed his teeth then lowered his lip back down and followed her down the hall. Daria felt a weight on her back, his shadow creeping steadily along behind her. “Go away Ratchet.” She opened the door and pressed his chest back with her shoe, only he pressed by and ran to Ben once the opening was large enough.
“Why do you dislike him so much?” he always asked her. It wasn’t just that she didn’t like Ratchet – Ratchet didn’t like her. He always slept in her spot when he’d jump on the bed, on more than one occasion he’d hiked his leg on hers, he growls, barks, snaps at her almost daily – Daria felt safe to say Ratchet just didn’t like her.
“Daria, I don’t mean to drive you crazy. It’s just that I don’t understand why you would do it.”
“I don’t understand it either Ben. If I had a real reason why, I would tell you and end it.”
“End it?” he said and looked at her with wide eyes. He was so unattractive to her the way he was acting.
“Your suffering, so you can stop wondering.”
The bathroom light was on. A high pitched but quiet hum rang in her right ear. She’d had that problem for several years now, hearing more electrical hums than she cared to admit to herself, but the bathroom light in particular was a loud fucker. She walked to turn it off.
“I’m not finished in there,” he said as her hand touched the switch.
“I was just turning it off for now.” She flipped the switch down.
“I’d rather you didn’t.” Daria turned the light switch back on with a force that felt like it might pop a breaker if it had been possible. She started for the bedroom door. She thought to go spend time reading in her chair. Ben left her alone when she read. She wished to God that she could have just come home to a normal house with her normal man waiting for her inside. She wished to God that he would just let it go. “Do you wish you hadn’t done it?”
“Of course I do,” she said on her way out of the room. “I more wish I had locked my fucking phone,” she thought. As she neared the end of the hall, she heard Ratchet’s nails jump onto the hardwood from the bed, then click along behind her in the hall. “Why do you insist on trailing me around the house when you don’t like me,” she said to the dog. “I just want to be alone.”
No such thing happened. As soon as she sat in her chair, Ratchet sat in front of her, back straight and head erect, him telling her that he intended to watch her read. Ben came in with more questions later when she started dinner. Her mother called wanting a recipe, one Daria didn’t have and her mother spent thirty minutes insisting she did. Ben followed her in to talk while she soaked in the bath. The dog AND Ben watched her filing her nails and brushing her hair. When she finally crawled into bed and laid her head on the pillow, Ben wrapped his big arm around her and started snoring in her ear. She pushed the lunk off of her, confident in his ability to sleep though anything, and went to the back patio to smoke.
There she found herself in the same stance she had been in after work: right arm tucked under her left, left arm propped up in the air, a white, cherried stick erect between her first two fingers, only now she was in a tee shirt and barefoot, still dreading going inside. If she slept on the couch, he would wake and have something new to whine about. If she crawled in bed, she was likely to shove a sock in his mouth. She sat in her reading chair instead.
Peace, she had finally found it. The house was sleeping – the lights were all off, televisions too; no washer running, no dishes in the sink. Daria lit a couple of candles, tucked an overstuffed pillow behind her back, and kicked her feet over the arm of her chair. As she cracked her book open a grin slid on her face. That grin melted quickly when she heard thick keratin nails clicking on the hardwood down the hall. “I hate that fucking dog.”
“I’ll have you know, I hate you too you slinky bitch,” she imagined him sniping in a north-eastern accent back at her. She looked at him with a scowl as he entered the living room.
“Go away Ratchet,” she whispered as loud as she could still in a whisper. “Go to BED.” He didn’t. He clicked all the way across the living room and sat in front of her chair again. She pushed at him with her bare toe. His body bent back, then returned when she dropped her foot. “Go AWAY,” she said again, this time slightly louder, this time accompanied by a strong push with the ball of her foot to his chest. Still no movement.
Daria was more agitated now than she had been all day. She felt tension in her gut, energy building in her arms. She felt like she needed to move, needed to go for a jog – she also felt like she needed to wail her fists at something. She considered throwing her balled hands at the couch a few times to see if that blew off steam. She had seen people throw one solid punch at a wall when they are irritated or angry. She didn’t want to bruise up her knuckles, but she assumed the reciprocated pain was as much a therapy as throwing a fist was. She did neither, only turned her head to her book and tried to block out the dog in her peripheral. She was successful in her task physically, but her gut continued to tie in knots with the internal anxiety building. Daria conceited to her defeat, closed her book, and stood to smoke.
“Neither of you can get to me at work tomorrow,” she said. Ratchet bared his teeth at her, then she growled back at him as she took a step towards the back patio. As she turned, a hot pain sunk into her Achilles tendon like someone wrenched it in a vice.
Daria covered her mouth as she let out a muffled scream on her way to the floor. Both her knees knocked the wood hard enough to distract her from the heat in her ankle, but only for a few seconds before it came back in a larger wave. On all fours, she looked over her shoulder to see a proud dog, swear to God, grinning at her with blood on his teeth. Unbelieving, she looked at her ankle, punctured and bleeding on the floor.
“Yooo-uuu son of a bitch,” she said, pushing her weight onto her good ankle, then hopping into a lop-sided stance. The dog was still showing her his blood stained teeth. She hopped closer. He lowered his head and took a stride back, then let a guttural growl roll out of his throat. Propping herself up with the arm of the chair, she glared at him, unsure what move to make next. “If I had the stomach to chop you into Chinese food, I would.” The next step she took, he lunged at her.
Daria yanked her good leg out of his path just before his teeth connected with her skin. She had little strength in her injured ankle though, and tumbled to floor with the dog. She pushed his barrel-shaped body with her open hands as hard as she could, then reached for the overstuffed pillow to use it as a shield. Ratchet slid back on the hardwood, then ran at her again. She pushed him to the side then threw her body on top of his in an attempt to overpower him.
The flailing dog sank to the floor and worked to get his paws underneath him. He pushed and bucked. She hooked her right arm under his throat, put the pillow over his head, then laid her full weight on top. His head snapped side to side, reaching for skin to catch with his teeth, but she gave him no such chance. She pushed the pillow over his nose and his jaw into the floor as hard as she could.
At first the bucking from below was the same. When he realized he couldn’t breathe though, his thrashing intensified. She dug her bare feet into the floor and stiffened her knees to better her leverage. “Fuck you,” she said to the dog. “You and your fucking favorite.” She pushed her weight harder down on the pillow. Keratin clawed desperately at the wood. The more he fought, the more she pushed back, the tighter her arm cinched around his neck. She quivered all over with tension and rage. He almost shook her off with one powerful push, but she kicked at the ground, and with the momentum they both went down again. His paws slowed, then rested, then all movement stopped. She was panting, drooling, crying hot tears on the pillow. Daria came back to herself and took a deep breath in, then sat back on her heels. She stared at the dog under the pillow on the floor.
“Holy shit.” She listened for movement. She watched the dark doorway of the hall. Ben had to of heard that. She was sure he’d be out in seconds. Silence. She looked herself over – blood still dripping from her ankle and smeared in splotches on both of her bare legs. It was all over the living room floor too. She shoved her face into her palms, wiped it, then looked to the floor again. “Holy shit, I killed the dog.” Now what was she supposed to do? She considered waking Ben, telling him everything, but she knew he would flip, cry, blame her. Then she wondered if he might call the cops on her, try to get her in trouble. It was self-defense, but had she gone too far. She felt bile churn in her stomach. She hopped to the kitchen just in time to vomit in the sink, then she hung her head for several minutes. When she went back to the living room, it was with bleach and a bucket in her hands.
First things first, she moved the pillow from the dogs face. He would be getting stiff soon and she had to get him into a position that looked more like sleeping dog, less like a strangled one. She poked his tongue in his mouth, washed the blood off his face, then rested his head on his crossed paws. Daria then doused her ankle in alcohol, cursing the bastard through all of it, wrapped it as best she could, and bleached practically the entire living room. Finally, she limped with a stiff Ratchet in her arms to the bedroom.
As the door creaked open, she hid behind the door frame, peaking only her head in to see if lunk was still sleeping; he was. She held her breath and stepped in. Only twenty steps to get the dog on his bed, then she would make her exit just a silent. This was the scariest part of the whole ordeal. What could she possibly say if he woke now, caught her with her pants down in the middle of covering up her mess. She suddenly missed the days when she would run around getting in trouble with her college girlfriend, Susan, and how they would cover for one another no matter the situation. She was only steps from the dog’s pillow. Her injured ankle was now aching halfway up her leg. She held her breath again, cursed the bastard, kneeled, and sat him down. It was then she heard the lunk roll over in bed.
Still not breathing, she scooted her own body all the way back to hide below the foot of the bed. Daria felt her eyes flood with tears. She had made a mistake. A random encounter with an old friend, a simple lunch, a hot sex session in his office. She hadn’t intended to keep up an affair, she hadn’t even intended to keep a communication line open. But she had given him her number; he texted her at the most inconvenient time possible. Now she was hiding from her mourning husband, sweaty from killing their dog, praying he didn’t get out of bed and catch her. He didn’t. Ben shortly after started to snore again. Daria wiped her face and crawled out of the room. She sulked all the way back to the couch, pulled the folded blanket from over the back, and buried her face in the pillow that smothered Ratchet. She sobbed, for a solid twenty minutes, she let it all out.
* * *
Trying to practice her response to the announcement of the dead dog was hard. She spent the remaining hours trying to sleep, but only successfully for moments at a time. She kept jumping and jerking herself awake, then falling back into a crazy thought spiral. It had been easier explaining who Henry was when she came in the house to see Ben going through her phone. She had been in the car scouring for her lost pearl drop earring, and apparently Henry decided at that same moment that he was craving more of her. But how was she to fake surprise and sorrow when neither was there. She dozed again, then woke one last time to lunk walking heavy down the hall.
The whole thing had been a disaster. He came in asking why she slept on the couch, why she looked so pale, then paused his inquisition to brush his teeth, finally returning with tears streaming from his face. She thankfully had time to slip on a pair of tall socks, forgetting to hide her bandaged ankle before crawling under the blanket. He insisted on having an autopsy, wanted to go after the breeder who promised a clean bill of health. She insisted on saving the money and burying him. He accused her of being insensitive, she accused him of being too sentimental. As he started for the door with his dead dog in his hands, she threw her arms around his neck and begged him not to go.
“Ben, please, let’s just bury him in the backyard. I don’t want to go through anything else right now… I don’t want to drag this out. Come, let’s call off from work. We’ll take care of poor Ratchet, then I want to talk to you.” She had worked up full-fledged tears by now. Ben looked at her wet face pressed into his shoulder with a deep crease in his forehead. “I want to tell you everything. I want to tell you why I did what I did. I thought a lot last night Ben. I’m tired of feeling this gaping hole between us.” She thought to go on but decided to stop there. If she got too dramatic he might catch on to the fact she was putting on a show.
His body went stiff. Hugging his unresponsive torso felt like carrying Ratchet down the hall after he’d sat a couple hours through her cleaning session. Then thank the fucking gods his muscles went lax, his brow softened, and he placed the towel wrapped dog gently on the floor. “I’m so tired of it too Daria.” He gave her the hardest hug he had in years, and though she felt a slight remorse start to crawl up her throat, she wanted to get the next few hours over with. She’d be expected to shed tears over the dog’s grave. She’d be expected to shed tears during her confessional. She’d be expected to give him the best make up sex of his life. She performed for two of the three, but when they crawled in bed, Ben insinuated she should take her socks off, and she replied with a frowned face saying it was her time of the month.
“It’s okay love muffin. I’ll get you in a few days, remind you who’s pussy that is between your legs.” She responded by biting her lip and taking off her top. In her head, she rolled her eyes and wanted to go read.
When they crawled in bed together, he threw his lunk arm over her as he had the night before. He put his head half on the pillow, half on her shoulder, and when he was finally out of it, his mouth fell open, and the snoring commenced in full effect.
“Just fucking great,” she thought. Realizing she had put herself in a submissive position. She would have to keep this “love me” act up for a while and live in socks in the middle of summer until her ankle healed. He’d be on her heels like a scorned puppy too, wanting attention and validity. The thought alone made her stomach hurt. She had a deep loathing, found herself angry at the situation she had gotten herself into. All of it started with the talented Mr. Henry.
“At least Ben didn’t ask me to give him head,” she thought as she felt herself falling into that place before sleep.
Copyright WB Welch – All Rights Reserved
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.