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Manuscript

She had left a burner on but tea had been poured hours ago..."are you trying to kill us?" he always yelled, she cries and tries to kiss him. He acquiesces, but always that bitter taste of lies.

He can barely keep her happy. Eight years together, it has come to this. She is sitting in the bathtub screaming, I am helping her into a robe, giving up before the task is begun, a bath today is unthinkable, it is too much. In the mirror in the bedroom as we pass we see: the terrycloth robe and lean legs, a sixteen year old boy with long hair. But there is more than a reflection: there is a protection he will never give her, He, He, He the Husband, He smokes and works and eats the meals I cook under the name of Magdelin.

"Magdelin!" I jump every time. "Magdelin, sweetheart, I'm trying to watch the news." THere are no sweet hearts in this damn house. Nothing is sweet, especially not the cake Magdelin bakes tonight, but I tell her it is delicious anyways.

Magdelin is a smiling presence in every room today, cleaning and whistling. "What're you writing, Doc?" She's called me nothing else since the doctorate came. I'm not even a medical doctor and she doesn't care.

"This one's a romance," I tell her, and it is.

One evening He is drunk and so are His friends and Magdelin cries upstairs in the closet. I coax her out. She is skin and she is bones. "He loved me," she sobs, and I hear it all night. I tell her that Maybe He still does, but again the bitter taste on my tongue and she can taste it too.

I send off the manuscript, He and I lick the stamps together. I can't sleep so I am downstairs when Magdelin appears. She puts a butter knife in my hand.

"To keep you safe." It is a reward for finishing.

I keep it in my coat pocket but maybe she should have kept it because it could have stopped Him from strangling her with the cord from the bedside lamp.





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