Adoration or abhorrence. They’re interchangeable.

Laura Lofgren

Editor’s note: This is a fiction piece.

“Where are you going?” he said in a voice colder than an arctic breeze.

“Like you care,” she quoted so many girlfriends before.

He set his bourbon on the side table, the ice cubes gently colliding against the inside of the glass, causing mini-waves up its sides. He had just poured his third drink when she came down the stairs dressed in that… that despicable outfit, as he would later call it.

Mid-thigh to just above the cleavage, the brunette wore black. A dress handpicked from some mall store in the middle of the city. Tried on in front of a store mirror and approved by girlfriends. He had given her the money to “buy something nice.” She looked good and he knew it as she stood in front of him, blocking his view of the late night news that she always called “bullshit.”

“I’m going out with friends, if you must know,” she told him in a cool, calmer tone of voice.

“What friends?” He picked up the drink again and put it to his lips. His brow had started sweating from the heat that now entered the room with the young woman. It crept slowly up his chest, and he loosened his gray business tie just a little, enough for the wiry, dark hair to peak out.

The girl stared as he did this and adjusted the top of her dress. It didn’t fit perfectly, but it would do for the evening, she had told herself up in the bedroom moments before.

“My friends,” she retorted, a slight snarl curled her upper lip and he noticed some red on her tooth.

She saw that look and pulled out her compact. She knew that look.

“Thanks for saying something,” she pulled the mirror away from her face long enough to spit at him.

“What are you talking about?”

There goes the imaginary bell. Two fighters circling each other, waiting for the other to make the first move, even though they both knew it had already been made the moment they said, “I do.”

“Thanks for telling me I had lipstick on my teeth. You always make that stupid face when something is off on me. And by the way, thanks for saying I look nice or even acknowledging my appearance.”

Her voice raised a half octave with each syllable that came out of her round, red mouth.

“Maybe if you were around long enough for me to enjoy your presence, I’d say something.” He took a gulp of his drink, emptying it.

“I am here every god-damned day, cleaning up after you, cooking dinner for you! Maybe if you showed some sort of interested emotion I would hang around!” She was in his face now and he could feel her hot, Listerine breath on his face.

“I work every god-damned day so you can buy your dresses and shop all day and do whatever the fuck you want! You don’t understand what it’s like to work! You never have, you spoiled bitch!” He jumped up from his recliner and knocked her back, causing her to stumble on her mall heels.

Regaining herself, she smoothed out her dress and fluffed her hair. He was heaving his chest, sweat bursting from his receding hairline. He always got so worked up for no reason, he thought. He blamed work and the lack of sex in his life. He stared at her slim body, quivering in front of him like a small, helpless innocent thing. He couldn’t remember the last time he touched her.

“Screw you,” came a whisper. Her brown hair gently touched her eyelashes as it was swept to the side by long “Eggplant Frost-ed” nails. Her face remained dry, but she dabbed under her eyeliner-lined lids to check for tears anyway.

She turned from her husband and walked to the door deliberately, steadying herself with the doorknob. She heard his heavy, exhausted body slam itself back down into the chair. The clinking of ice made it apparent he was making another drink.

“I’ll be back late. Don’t wait up for me.” Her voice halted the sound of alcohol being poured.

“Don’t worry, I won’t. Long day. Going to bed early,” he huffed back, then continued to pour the bottle.

“Baby?” There was so much hesitation in her voice he made up for it by interrupting her as she got to the second syllable.

“Yes?” Shivers ran up his sweaty spine, and he stirred the drink with his forefinger, hoping for some cooling effect.

Again, hesitation. “Good night.” She opened the wooden door that led to the evening. Before a response came from him, she was gone with the sip of a drink.

He fixated his gaze to the door. For a moment, he remembered the first time they opened it. A happy day so far long ago, he strained his mind to recall the details. The day they first moved in. A new home. A new life. Everything they both wanted — at the time.

Wiping the memory away with his hand, he turned back to the television, which was reporting on a local man who had murdered his wife. They had gotten into an argument and he shot her.

“How ironic,” he said aloud to nobody, to himself, to his glass, to his wife.