by Joni Haws
She felt the mist roll in, sticky and seeping, the cold finding her deepest places. Thumb and ring finger rubbed the skin of her eyelids and she popped the tasteless pill the color of her midnight tulips. She gulped it down without water.
I know he loves me. It was a plain truth, but the mist sparred and rejected it, her chest just swampy and dark.
How long had that baby been crying? Leaden bare feet trudged across the gummy linoleum. The gray air in the house hunched her back with its weight. The stairs loomed, daunting.
She noticed her hand on the railing and stopped. The chipped red paint on her toenails stared up and mocked her. The mist was thick this time.
He’ll call soon. But what time was it? She must have sat down. She fingered a thread trailing from the sleeve of her night gown. Tearing at a hangnail, she felt the sting, saw the blood, and did not fight the compulsion to pull it further. Like ripping paper. The tender skin was rich with pain. She could feel this.
Had the baby stopped crying? No. The angry screams barely reached her. What did he need? She could not remember.
It’ll be okay, he’ll say after the muck has drained a bit. And I’ll produce another smile, and keep my lips closed so he won’t see the shadow inside.