Hello and welcome. I have added one more story to my new anthology a work-in-progress. This is the last one I’ll share here until the book is released. Thank you for joining me.
The Comfort of Silence
From my upcoming anthology
Ellie sat out on the back deck and breathed in the comfort of silence.
Grant, her husband of ten-years had finally fallen into drunken unconsciousness around an hour earlier, and she’d left him laying on the floor in the pool of vomit that the last bourbon had created.
The days were long gone when she’d struggled and strained to drag his limp carcass into the bedroom. She’d even stopped placing a sofa cushion under his head and leaving a bucket beside him.
It was winter now and starkly beautiful sitting under that diamond strewn canopy. She shivered a little and snuggled down deeper into her quilted jacket. She smiled even as she trembled, knowing how cold his inert form would get laying there on the tiled living room floor. She’d turned off the air-conditioned warmth everywhere in the house but her own bedroom. A woman has gotta conserve electricity when she can. That thought caused her to laugh out loud in the solitude, she enjoyed that rare sensation and laughed again.
Her coffee had grown cold and Ellie craved another, she stood and stretched languidly before heading inside to the kitchen.
She cast a brief glance at Grant’s now snoring body. He’d curled into the fetal position to ward off the cold. She shrugged and flicked on the recessed lighting above the kitchen island, then busied herself making another pot of coffee.
She craved warmth now and placed the coffee and some Oreos onto a tray and stepped over her husband on the way into the welcoming warmth of her bedroom.
There had been a time as recently as three years back when she’d deadlocked that door and placed barricades against it to keep the violent monster she’d married at bay.
It had taken her the intervening three years of hard soul searching to reach her decision.
Putting it into action was now delivering her a measure of peace.
The few friends she’d managed to keep isolated from the stench of her home life had commented on the change in her. When asked for the reason behind it she’d laughed it off as ‘just taking some me time.’
And she had.
She’d begun meditating and working out a few times every day, to assist in keeping her new resolve on track. She was reaping the benefits tenfold three years in.
It had taken Grant coming at her again with his filthy accusatory mouth and raised fists to at last fuel and light her new ignition switch. Her swift retaliation stunned him into shock and the kick to his abdomen felled him. She savored the sweet vindictive taste of revenge as he lay on the floor in a whining sniveling heap. Another savage kick to his gut stopped the sniveling. That was the sweet start of the solitude.
From a woman who had insisted on cooking any meal he asked for, at any time of the day or night, she’d become his keeper and fed him once in the morning. He’d help his drunken self to the rest if he could make it as far as the kitchen.
Ellie had carefully rearranged all the furnishings to create barriers between every room that a drunk would find difficult if not impossible to navigate.
She had no one but the delivery guy from the local bottle-shop knocking on this door. Nobody to raise an eyebrow at her new version of ‘home beautiful’. It had been another defining moment to be noted and reread in her diary at night for visual confirmation of her latest achievement.
Ellie reached for her coffee, munched on a few Oreos and switched off the lamp.
She calculated around five hours of downtime before the man outside her sanctuary would begin to awaken.
Ellie had at last begun looking forward to her days.
The sound of his whining voice awakened her. There was a tentative tap on the door. “Ellie, you in there?”
“What do you want?”
“I just wanted to be sure you’re here.”
“Well, I am. I’ll be there to fix you some food shortly.”
“Shortly? What the fu …”
“What did you say?
Silence greeted her question, she repeated it. “Well?”
“I’ll, uh, I’ll see you, um, shortly.”
Ellie didn’t bother to comment further. She showered in her en-suite and took her time dressing. The stench in the living room made her head across and throw the windows wide, ignoring the cold wind that swept in.
She filled a bucket with disinfectant, grabbed the mop and placed both down in front of the man. He was sitting hunched over, still wearing the soiled clothing he’d passed out in.
“I’m not preparing food in this stench. I’ll feed both of us after you clean up your own disgusting mess.”
“I’m sorry, Ellie.”
“Yes, I believe you actually are. What else are you sorry for, Grant?”
The blank look that question created on his face didn’t serve to elevate Ellie’s mood.
“You ask me that every day. And every day I tell you I don’t know. Why the fuck do you keep asking?”
“I’ll keep asking that question until I hear the right answer.”
“No, that isn’t it.”
Ellie sniffed at the air and gave him a pointed glare.
“Okay. I got this.”
“Don’t take too long. I’m craving my morning coffee.”
It had taken an hour for the room to begin to smell like the towering pines outside again.
“Ah, that’s much better. Grant, you need to shower and change those filthy clothes. Place them in the washing machine on the longest cycle.”
“The sooner you act the sooner you eat. Simple isn’t it?”
He muttered something she didn’t catch and went to do as she’d said.
Ellie closed the windows and ramped the heat up to a comfortable temperature.
She was seated on the large sofa drinking her coffee when he re-entered the room. She looked up at his freshly washed and shaved face and for one bitter-sweet moment, she caught a shimmer of the man she’d been so utterly in love with for as long as it took for the fear to kill it.
“Can we eat now?”
“I don’t break my promises. What do you feel like?”
“Can we have pancakes?”
“Yes, that’s doable. Sweet or savory?”
“A stack with maple syrup?”
“It’ll be ready soon.”
“Did my delivery arrive yesterday?”
Ellie called “Yes.” from the kitchen.
She heard him shuffle across to the bar, a tinkle of ice and his grunt of satisfaction told her he’d just started on his binge for today. She checked her watch. 7 a.m was early even for him.
The pancake stack she placed in front of him sat cold and uneaten as the booze took back control.
Her diary was added to with the date and time he began and finally stopped drinking for any given day. She flicked back through several years worth and shuddered. His last 90-day rehab had only been three and a half years earlier.
It was just another 3-month break in the cycle. She craved for and enjoyed those breaks. They’d managed to help her hold on to her sanity for a little longer. He’d lasted exactly twelve days at home and every promise made during those sweet twelve-days was shattered as he beat her again night after night.
Ellie had begun planning today from that last night. The paramedics had managed to get her to the hospital in time to save herself, but their unborn child had died at 20 weeks with no chance to begin his tiny life.
If their little boy had lived he’d be three-years-old today.
She watched Grant slump further down into the sofa. His unsmoked cigarette still burning away in the ashtray.
Ellie checked the hour, well satisfied. It was only lunch-time and he was already nodding off to sleep. She knew well that he’d stay that way for two or so hours then he’d wake up and finish his first bottle of bourbon of the day.
It was time.
Ellie pulled the suitcases from under her bed, checked the contents again and carried them out through the mudroom and into the garage. Her other belongings had been loaded into the trunk and the back seat of her new SUV over a period of days. The suitcases fit perfectly on the top layer.
The refrigerator was emptied and switched off and she carried everything out front for the trash collectors to collect later this afternoon.
Ellie began calling to confirm again the arrangements she’d made.
The power would be disconnected at 5.00pm.
All internet services had been permanently closed.
She’d already packed his cell-phone. There was no longer a landline. He had no available contact with the world outside the stupor he lived in.
Their nearest neighbor was a ten-mile walk through rugged walkways to get to, without the car she now owned and would have in her possession.
Grant had been so acquiescent to her requests to place his drunken signature on any documents she’d handed him. Ellie had paced them carefully. The house had been signed over giving her sole ownership months ago now. The real-estate agent she’d hired would be placing the ‘For Sale’ sign up early this evening. She’d given her broker signed consent to have Grant evicted if he was still in residence when the property sold.
Grant had made her a signatory on his only bank account. The balance had made her smile. One hundred-thousand-dollars had been withdrawn slowly and she’d carefully spread it over several offshore accounts.
She placed another call to Grant’s alcohol supplier and canceled all further deliveries.
The sound of Grant belching into wakefulness had her return to the living room.
She watched him suck in the alcohol and surprised him when she held out a glass filled with ice. “I’ll join you.”
“Whoa, really? You! Have a drink? What are we celebrating?”
“Anyone I know.”
“You robbed yourself of the right to know him.” Ellie threw the drink back and stood looking down at him. “What are you sorry for, Grant? Last chance to answer?”
His expression registered nothing.
Ellie headed outside without a backward glance. She made one stop on her way out of town.
Every diary she’d ever owned had been copied. Her solicitor had been instructed to hand her written statement and all the proof of abuse over to the police in the event anything should happen to her.
She pointed the SUV east, hit the button on the playlist and sang her happy heart out on the journey towards a new tomorrow.