Dead To Me - A (very) Short Story

I hear the front door close, the clang of your keys as you drop them into your pocket. My peaceful afternoon is about to end, just as soon as you’ve taken off your shoes, checked the mail, poked your head into the sitting room, slammed the kettle with your dismay and laid your disbelief upon the naked kitchen table. I can almost hear you tally your point score as you climb the stairs to my studio—THE attic, as you call it—and I should brace for your arrival, but I don’t give a damn.

That creaky top stair denies you your stealthy approach, yet I act as if you will still catch me unawares. The square of blue above my head holds my attention, patchy and ragged as if the skylight were a giant phone and the sky a wash painted by a clumsy finger.

“I bet you do that all day.”

I fake a start, as usual, and spin my chair so my back is fully to you. If you could manage as much as a civil ‘hi’, I’d respond in kind. But the kindness has all gone. We are embittered, estranged echoes of our past.

“Actually,” I say but find I no longer feel any requirement to justify my actions to you. No, I don’t sit staring at the sky all day. Not even five minutes of it. You have no idea that those few seconds I do spend, just before you come home, keep you alive.

You’re in my every story. I’ve plotted a thousand conclusions to us. Once upon a time, we held hands and danced through fields of buttercups. Twice upon a time, we overcame adversity, married, had kids. Nine hundred and ninety-seven times…I killed you. Poison, falling pianos, out-of-control articulated lorries, serial killers, cases of mistaken identity, guns fired or misfired, terrible diseases, some as yet unknown to medical science…

I’ve covered my tracks or I’ve served my time, or it wasn’t my fault. Sometimes I’ve grieved; sometimes I’ve tried to save you. Inevitably, I failed.

Still, you stand there waiting for an answer of some kind.

“Coffee?” I suggest, rising from my chair and passing you by.

“Sure,” you agree, adding, as I precede you down the stairs, “You know, I could push you, and everyone would think you’d fallen.”

“Original.” I pause at the bottom, let you precede me down the next flight.

“Or you could push me,” you say.

I smile at your back. Not today, my sweet. Today, your demise resides in a deliciously undetectable dash of arsenic in the coffee I will make for you because I’m only an author and you’ve been out at work all day.

Fear not. I have no intention of killing you off-page. Why would I kill my muse when your many deaths have paid for my studio, the skylight, this house and every stick of furniture it contains? An unwitting and, in all senses of the word, ignorant messiah, you must die so we might live until The End.

Story ©2023 Debbie McGowan
Image by Free Fun Art from Pixabay


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