The keys jingled in the front lock. Once, twice, three times before they hit their mark and the door unlocked. John was home.
He walked down the hall, each step getting louder as he headed in her direction. She took a deep breath. Plastered a smile on her face and turned to greet him, a steaming roast held between two mittened pot holders. He smelled like a two dollar whore, smoke and booze wafting off his skin from his latest trip to the local bar. It took everything Sarah had to choke back the disgust she felt as she gave him a quick kiss when he entered and centered the roast on the island table. Everything else was already set out and waiting as usual. It was the same routine every night, just like it had been for the last twelve years. She took his coat and hung the keys, her facade never wavering. All the duties of a devoted housewife.
“How was your day, sweety?” she chirped, her voice an octave higher than she’d meant. The chair scraped the floor as he slid it out, the sound nearly grating her last nerve. It was getting harder to hold it all in, to keep everything inside. But she knew what would happen if John got mad. She’d experienced his wrath enough to know that one slip could mean a world of hurt. So she held her tongue. Kept quiet. She just had to bide her time until she could work up the nerve to do what needed to be done. Then it would all be over.
“Where’s my beer?” he ignored her question when he noticed the missing drink. She met his gaze, his eyes blacker than usual, ice cold and already itching for a fight. She stepped to the fridge and pulled a longneck out of the side, popping the top with a bottle opener before setting it in front of him. Hoping to change the subject before it turned into something worse, she brought up her trip to the beauty salon. She’d had her hair cut and styled in a vain attempt at adding some normalcy to her life.
“Do you notice anything different about me?” she asked, turning her head from left to right. His only response was to narrow his eyes and stare at her.
Even she couldn’t keep her smile from fading then. They’d been married for over a decade and he probably couldn’t even tell you what color her eyes were. She was there to cook and clean and satisfy his every whim. That was all. And according to Big John, a nickname he had proudly given himself, she should be happy that she had someone to take care of her. That if it weren’t for him, she’d still be living in that trailer park in Houston, turning tricks for a living. He reminded her of it almost every day.
When she turned around to grab a plate for his dinner his arm snaked out and grabbed her wrist. “What are you doing?”
“I’m fixing you a plate,” her voice hitched.
“No, I mean what are you doing?” Something had flipped his switch. “Why did you get your hair done?”
His grip on her tightened and she felt a sharp twinge run up her arm. “I just wanted a change.”
She knew she’d said the wrong thing when his eyes flashed, piercing her soul. “For you,” she backtracked. “I wanted to look pretty for you.”
Her stomach flipped as he stood up and backed her against the counter. “Liar,” he accused. “You didn’t do it for me. You did it for someone else. Who are you trying to impress, Sarah?”
“No one.” It came out a whisper.
“DON’T LIE TO ME!” he screamed, the veins in his forehead bulging. He punched her then. Hard and fast, his fist slamming into her nose. She heard bone crack. It echoed in the otherwise stark quiet, but she barely noticed. She reached behind her and grabbed the first thing to make its way to her hand. She reciprocated his punch. She hit him just as hard. And just as fast. With the meat tenderizer.
Guess she didn’t have to bide her time as long as she thought.
This was written for the week twenty six of Thain In Vain’s 52 week Flash Fiction Challenge. The prompt was “Do you notice something different about me?” 500 words or less. (But I’m coming in over the limit again at 700+ words)