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I wanted to dissolve quietly into the beer stained cushions of our tattered couch like a sleeping pill in the stomach of a new mother. I wanted to claw a reasonable sized hole in our smelly shag carpet and bury myself without a whisper. I just wanted to die. I could feel all of my shameful blood being pounded into my cheeks as they began to turn hot and sore. He just looked at me with the eyes of a mad man. His uncombed hair wildly teased his scalp and shoulders. His beard was still sprinkled with droplets of tequila and other fiery liquors. His top lip curled for a moment and I still just wanted to lose all of my being and just vanish.
“Well?” he demanded while pulling a cigarette from the Marlboro pack in the back pocket of his bleach splattered jeans and lighting it promptly. He was sitting comfortably in his prized arm chair across from me and next to the liquor cabinet. I already thought over every possible escape scenario I could think of at this point. All were deadly.
“Well what?” I cooed innocently at him, refusing to make eye contact.
“Don’t play dumb, Pam. It may have helped you out before but it sure as hell ain’t going to help you now. Why you got a suitcase all packed for? Where ya going, baby doll?” he asked as he let out a deep breath of nicotine swirled smoke into the air of our tiny living room. I began nervously picking off lint from the couch I was sitting on just before my husband caught me trying to run away from him for good. I finally managed to look that man in his unforgiving brown eyes and said, “Baby, you’re drunk. You don’t know what you’re talking about. How bout I fix you a cup of sweet tea and we can go back to bed? Sound good, honey?” He closed his eyes and laid his head back against the chair. For a moment I thought he had passed out which would have been the most beautiful blessing at this point. But then I heard him let out a deep sigh of frustration. Frustration in me.
“Pam, why are you running? Don’t you love me?” His eyes were still closed. I smiled, even though he couldn’t see me.
“Of course I do, honey. I love you so very much. I do so much for you. I’m not running. My mother, “I hesitated, “she’s in the hospital. Yeah, my sis just called me not too long ago. I was just planning on going back into town for a few days to be with her. She’s old, Jim. You know that. She probably doesn’t have much time left. And well, I need to see her. I was planning on writing you a note so I wouldn’t wake ya and the kids. I promise I wasn’t running, babe. Believe me?” I waited for his response for what seemed like days. He just stood up, stumbled into the kitchen, opened the fridge, and popped open another bottle of beer. I could hear the muscles in his throat working to move the toxic liquid into his every growing girth as he drank. He let out a satisfying “Ahhh,” and made it back to the arm chair with his jeweled beer clutched preciously in his right hand. His cigarette was in his left. He wasn’t the man I married. This man standing before me was a man holding my husband captive under his greasy exterior.
“You’re not going anywhere,” he said in a harsh whisper. I half expected this response, but I had to act like I was vastly disappointed. I put on a pout and sighed deeply. Life wasn’t always this depressing and empty. In fact, I lived a rather content and modest life up until Jim discovered his love of addiction and his love of excess. By these two I mean infidelity and drugs. When Jim and I married, we were only 18. We eloped to the Arizona deserts because we possessed a thirst for solitary. We needed to break free from the “Man” and become one single entity of love. We couldn’t get enough of each other and every kiss, every touch, and every acoustic serenade would make my soul tense and my pores sing love sick melodies. We decided to buy a little two bedroom house practically in the middle of nowhere. But at the time, that was perfectly fine. We didn’t need the city lights to shelter us and cradle us like infants. We just wanted to be alone and in love. About a year and a half after we tied the notch, I gave birth to a daughter we named Sabrina. That’s when life got scary. Being a new mom was terrifying, and having no family nearby made everyday a struggle to keep moving. Jim never wanted children. He made that clear to me from the start. Though, he fell hard for little Sabrina. The petite hazel-eyed wonder captured our hearts. I finally felt enough security in my new family. Things became easier for us each day. I became increasingly adjusted to my mommy role and Jim found a decent job as a mechanic. Sabrina was growing older by the minute and soon was able to care for herself. I can remember her bringing home various art projects from school and jumping into Jim’s lap to show off her glories and masterpieces. She knew Jim would fall head over heels with each creation. When Sabrina entered the first grade, I became pregnant with a son we later named Jules. He was our wild child. He could never sit still, not even in his sleep. He was always moving and running and climbing anything he could reach. To say Jim was displeased about a new addition to the family was an understatement. He was already pushing himself to the limit at work just to bring home enough groceries for us to live on for a few weeks. To add on to our woes, I was unemployed. Sabrina and I relied solely on Jim’s income, which was hardly enough to enjoy life’s pleasures. We could barely give any toys to occupy Sabrina with. Jules was a dreaded miracle and a bittersweet joy in my life. Though, he had to fight for the affection of Jim. Jim was extremely hard on Jules just because Jules was the one making Jim work extra hard to support us all. Being so young, Jules didn’t quite know what was so wrong with him just by merely existing, but he did know his treatment from Jim was unfair. Because of the added stress put on Jim at home and work, Jim found new ways to “escape” from his miseries. He would take frequent trips to the bar and come home crashing into the house and passing out on the bathroom floor. This wasn’t the worst of it. The worst came when Jim found harmony in drugs and other hallucinatory substances. That’s when our life began to crumble. That’s when my mind began to turn on itself.
Years later, I attempted to run away back to my hometown and back to my roots. However, I always stopped at the front door and remembered that my children needed me. How could I ever dream of leaving them with Jim? Though my latest running endeavor was justified by the fact that Sabrina was 18 and Jules was 11. Sabrina could take care of Jules until I could come back for them and start a new life for us all with the exception of Jim. He caught me as I was opening the front door and ready to greet the possibility of newfound freedom. That’s when I wanted to lose all of my being and just vanish. After Jim had fallen asleep in his arm chair later, I decided to take a walk around the desert to clear my head. Our house had no neighbors, no noise, and no place to run to when an emergency would bring itself upon us. The desert was my only place to think. It was the perfect place to feel vulnerable and powerful all at once. I began wandering for a good hour just dragging my feet and feeling sorry for myself and my children.
“You can always just kill him, ya know.”
I froze. I wasn’t alone. The voice was of a woman’s. It came from my left and sent a slow tremble throughout my neck and shoulders. It was smooth and assuring with no possession of fear or woe. It sounded safe. I wasn’t afraid. I turned cautiously toward the direction of the shadowy and seductive voice. Though, everywhere around me was as dark and mysterious as a bloodhound’s eyes. The desert was no longer under the sun’s spell. It was no longer held captive by its burning flames that violently kiss the dusty ground each day. The desert was awakening from hell’s slumber. The animals and insects and birds were prowling now. I could hear frantic scurrying between rocks and intimidating growls in the distance. There were no street lights to expose these beasts. Plagued with human eyes, I was left in darkness. Not even the moon could protect me. It had taken refuge behind a cover of invisible night clouds. Though, the blackness was an amazing escape from Jim. However, my newfound company was an unexpected thrill and terror. I suddenly saw the spark of a flame, revealing the white of a cigarette and a beautiful face. The woman had enormous almond shaped eyes. They appeared to be a lighter shade of green from my standpoint. Her nose was straight and narrow. Her pouty lips carefully hugged the cigarette she supported with her slender fingers. Her hair looked like a strawberry blonde and cut into a perfect bob. The glow of her still lighted match showed just how brilliant her tan complexion was. First, I was in awe of just how pretty she was. My feminine instincts had to fight back the envy I was feeling. This woman was perfect if perfection was truly tangible. She took a long drag of her cigarette and expelled a cloud of gray, which temporarily hid her face and broke the spell I was under.
“Wait. What? Are you talking to me?” I asked defensively. The moon was suddenly shining again as some clouds cleared, showing both of us clearly. The woman smiled and walked closer.
“I didn’t stutter. Kill him.”
“Your b*****d of a husband. I hear you two arguing all the time when I’m out here. He’s a threat to you and your kids. If you ask me,” she took another drag and exhaled the smoke deeply, “he deserves to die.”
I was angered now. Who the hell did she think she was? She didn’t know me or my family.
“Thanks for the concern, but I won’t be committing murder anytime soon. Now, uh, who are you?”
She smiled again as she said, “I’m Gloria. I live a few miles down the highway. I like to take walks here in the desert and, well, I can’t help but hear all your crazy fits with your husband when I walk by. At first, I told myself it was none of my business.”
“It isn’t,” I interrupted bitterly. Her smile faded.
“But then I started to really listen to the fights,” she continued. “I know more about you than you may think.”
At this point, I was sufficiently freaked out. I had no idea as to what to say next. She kept inching closer and closer to me.
“I don’t mean to startle you or creep you out. It’s just that I’ve been in a similar situation and I took care of it. Now, I’m free and I feel fan-freakin’-tastic. You can’t even imagine it. I see myself in your spirit and it breaks my heart. There are solutions to every problem. No one has to know if he’s gone. I can help you.”
I was actually taking in what she was saying. I pondered a life without Jim and the thought sent blissful little goose bumps down my arms. Did that make me a horrible person? I thought it did. But I didn’t even know this woman. She was obviously insane to be talking about murder with a complete stranger. Or was I the insane one for actually being swayed by her tender words?
“So how can you help me?” I finally asked her. She let out a shrill of laughs and I was intrigued.
Gloria and I soon started seeing much more of each other. We became fast friends in the weeks that followed. I would go into town with her while the kids were at school and Jim was out at work or some bar. We’d sit and have lunch and talk about movies or cheesy romance novels we were fans of. It was just nice to have someone to talk to. I never had a real girl friend since high school. Gloria was my savior. She kept promising me that she would help me find a way out of my misery and away from Jim once and for all. Though, she never detailed exactly how she would do it. She would just say, “You’ll see,” with a clever smirk. That was just Gloria. She was constantly shrouded in mystery and she liked it that way. She never had time to meet the infamous Jim or my kids though. She would always have some mysterious thing that needed to be done. I never questioned her. But alas, I probably should have. I probably should have questioned myself as well. I was too caught up in my selfishness of having a true friend to look outside of myself to see the light of disaster only a few short weeks ahead.
You’re free now.
I awoke to find the blood-stained note on top of Jim’s cold body next to me in bed one morning. I examined the surrounding bed and bolted out of it in a single breath. My once white cotton sheets were now red and crusted with hours old blood. I stood there staring at my dead husband for a long while before the screams came out. From there, I slipped into a period of hyperventilation. My kids were the ones to find me in the bedroom corner whispering silent prayers to myself. Their screams were just a silent hum inside my head. I saw Sabrina tenderly pick up Gloria’s note with shaking hands. Jules was on the phone with the police.
“I think my mom just killed my dad,” he repeated over and over to the operator with sobs in between. I looked up from the ground of the corner I was seeking sanctuary in to meet eyes with my frightened children.
“I didn’t kill him. Gloria did. Children, Gloria murdered Jim. Not me,” I muttered. They looked absolutely dumbfounded.
“Mom!” Sabrina shrieked. “This note is in your handwriting! Gloria isn’t even real!”
“Yes she is,” I snapped back. “She did this. Don’t blame me!”
Sabrina kneeled down to my level and placed both hands on my shoulders. She looked me in the eyes and I saw my reflection in her large pupils. I looked positively mad. I looked like Gloria. Sabrina then held me close and Jules was next to follow her example. They cradled me like I was their infant and we sobbed together as the sirens in the distance grew closer.
“Gloria’s not real,” Sabrina repeated softly. “She’s not real”
I believed her.