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Beating Heart

A photograph that lay upon an aluminum desk featured a man and a woman, celebrating a friendship of the innocent kind. He was attractive, with an athletic frame and a choppy haircut that appeared to be almost too flattering. She was a stout, her narrow eyes and off-colored teeth doing nothing to support her lacking figure. One could suggest they had known one another for some time, perhaps the next generation of families who spent Christmas Eve and summer cruises with each other. But whatever the situation was, layer-upon-layer of loathing began to bubble within the Margaret’s spouse, Benjamin.
Anger crept upon his wiry shoulder and released an impatient rage from its’ steely cage. Fury that had previously dissolved into rationality did not anymore. It was ready to attack. His dilated hazel eyes furiously looked around the room for an opportunity to crush or hurt.
As the adrenaline proceeded to rush into his veins, Margaret entered the room, returning from secretarial work. The house keys clicked onto the Formica and she hummed a tune from the radio. The nerve of her-to act as if nothing was wrong-was offensive. All rational feelings disappeared and morphed into an illogical jealousy. His arms broke from the chains that had been restraining them and a scowl worked its way to his face while fear cloaked hers’.
With a quick glance around the room, she decided that it would not be wise for her to react until necessary, but then discovered the photograph clutched within his hand, tattered and wrinkled. She cautiously worked her way toward him, aware of the consequences she would face if she could not tame his emotions. True, there were periods of time where his temperament was gentle and she could tread around the emotions that ignited aggression, but in tonight’s case, this was irrelevant.
“Oh, dear, he’s just an old friend! Remember, I mentioned it after running errands-“.
It did not matter, for more absurdities satiated Benjamin’s mind and he began to shout.
“He would never love you, you know. Not like you think you love him. You love me. You belong with me. Why don’t you know that?”
“I do love you. We’re fine, I promise. We are perfectly fine.”
She looked up towards his face and met his eyes. They appeared pained and distraught, in which she allowed a moment of pity for his struggles and reached her hand toward his jaw. Her pity turned just as suddenly to fear as she saw his doubts concentrate into steely determination. He seized her hand and struck it away with such a force that she fell back onto the battered couch, an exposed spring digging into her arm. As she tried to stand up and inspect the wound, he advanced toward her and pinned her body down.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” Margaret shrieked, as she flailed in self-defense.
“Why would you forget about me? Why did you forget about me?”
With each knock and strike, the squeals became increasingly shrill. Sharp pains consumed her entire body and her head throbbed after tumbling from the furniture to the laminate of the floor. As she became weaker and weaker, her fight was less passionate and the young woman felt herself surrender. The final face she saw before blackness enveloped her was the man who had promised her the world in exchange for hers.
The adrenaline had faded into a violent memory and he whispered softly into her ear, “I do hope you understand… I just… I only want to protect you.”
When Margaret awoke from a thick sleep, her husband of a mere three months was nowhere to be found, but a blanket had been clumsily placed around her body. It was a typical occurrence for Benjamin to withdraw from the scene of his crime. And this was acceptable to her, for it gifted her with time to cleanse her wounds and tidy whichever room in their small house had been damaged. While surveying the damage, she saw that a photograph of an eagle was lopsided atop the yellowed, curling wallpaper. She sighed, repositioning the frame so that it balanced equally on either nails.
As was routine after that sort of incident, Margaret ambled about the house until her bare, callused feet had almost forwent the front door. Through the gaps of the screen, she peered out into a world that did not seem to be her own and for some reason, she realized, this surprised her. Before there was a moment to rethink, the creak of the hinges sounded and the heated concrete that was the sidewalk seared the pads of her feet. She thought about how the monotony late morning suited a Saturday like this.
Although scarlet fatalities of the preceding night remained, the clouds continued to lather into a spring day. Her mind brought her to a nearby park, and for the first time, she faced a sad fact: she was not like the eagle in her living room, preened to perfection and elegant. She was a pigeon, with her dirty, clipped wings that no one quite cared for.
The contrast of newly mowed grass and the black of her bruised under-eye appeared almost audacious to the outsiders that idled around her. Children ambled about a playground that was dedicated to a particularly steadfast deceased principal and the mothers of said children watched on, chattering animatedly to each other. Pedestrians still believed that a speeding vehicle would stop for them and, although they honked in warning, would nonetheless become bewildered at the discourtesy of such citizens. Gaggles of teenagers who believed they were untouchable explored new heights in places their parents would never learn about. But the symptoms of a concussion began to bother her head and unfortunately for Margaret, she was neither young nor devoted nor maternal nor naïve nor invincible.




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