‘Mark?’ Patty’s shrill voice rang from upstairs. The muscles in his neck tensed as he gripped the side of the couch and braced himself for what was to come. He’d got used to this by now. He only half listened for her coming down, feet stomping on the carpeted stairs. His eyes focused on the TV and the cars speeding by at a dizzying pace. Final lap. He really wanted to watch this.
‘Mark? I was at Tesco’s today and my card was declined. I had to leave all the shopping behind. It was so embarrassing. They were all watching. Even that woman from across the street, you know, the one who always watches when we put the bin out. Mark? Are you even listening?’
He wasn’t. He’d heard it all before. Could even predict what she was gong to say next. The cars were still speeding as he reached over the armrest for another beer. He popped open the can and took a big gulp. There were several empty cans already on the coffee table.
‘Mark? Did you pay the bills like I told you?’
He didn’t answer. What was the point even? This was becoming a daily thing now, and nothing was going to change.
‘You didn’t, did you?’ His wife’s voice shook, on the verge of tears. He cringed, but still didn’t answer. She moved in front of the screen, blocking his view.
‘You’re a lazy bastard, Mark, for putting this all on me. You sit there all day long, watching telly. How am I supposed to live like this? And why won’t you even look at me?’
He glanced up briefly and regretted it almost instantly. Patty wore her customary sweatpants. She always said they made her feel comfortable, and why dress up if there was no need? He’d even brought them to the hospital after the accident. He glanced at the stack of newspapers next to the couch. The one on top was dated 13 December. Had it been a year already since the accident?
He closed his eyes and imagined sweet sleep. Suddenly his interest in the race had gone. All he wanted was oblivion. The TV clicked off and a deafening silence should have followed, if it hadn’t been for Patty’s quiet sobs. She’d moved to the other side of the room now and sat down at the dinner table.
‘I think you neglect me on purpose, don’t you, Mark?’ She sounded dangerously calm now. ‘If you don’t love me anymore, why don’t you just come out with it? Why do you insist on torturing me like this?’
He dragged himself up from the couch and sauntered up the stairs. The sobs faded to a distant whimper as he neared the bedroom. Blissful silence. Part of him relished the quiet, another part knew it wouldn’t last. Soon enough, her footsteps sounded coming up the stairs. With a sudden burst of energy, he yanked open the door. She was there, of course.
‘Mark? Please, talk to me. We used to talk, remember? You were my buddy. Now look at us…’
He pushed past her and ran down, taking two stairs at a time before grabbing his coat off the rack. In seconds he was outside. The evening cold hit him in the face, but he didn’t mind as long as he didn’t have to hear his own name repeated over and over again. This had been going on for months and months now, and he was at his wits end.
His thoughts stalled as his feet took him further away from the house and away from Patty.
When he finally became aware of his surroundings again, he knew exactly where he was. His subconscious had taken him straight back to her. She stood there, silently watching him, arms folded across her chest.
All he managed to do was let out a whimper. ‘Patty, please, you know I love you,’ he whispered through cracked lips. ‘But it’s been a year now. You have to move on.’
He sank to his knees on the cemetery’s frozen ground and touched the icy gravestone.
Here lies Patricia Watkins, beloved wife
G.B.Kattz writes paranormal thrillers with a dash of crime and romance. She also writes non-fiction and runs a developmental editing service for authors. Although relatively late to the author business, G.B.Kattz has been writing fiction all her life. While some claim she’s actually entirely fictional and doesn’t exist outside of her own head, G.B.Kattz is still convinced she lives in the Netherlands with her biker-husband and spoiled-rotten cats.