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~Ozy~
March 14th, 2006, 06:05 PM
Testimony


The day she got married was the happiest day of her life. People had told her horror stories about weddings, stories where everything went wrong, the cake was late, or someone spilled wine on the dress, whatever. Too bad for those brides. Her wedding was perfect, everything came off without a hitch. Her lover, her soon to be husband waited at the end of the aisle, looking as perfect as ever. He was all smiles, beaming at everyone around him. Then, there was that special smile, the one he reserved just for her, slow, sweet, seductive. Thinking back, she realized that she’d fallen for him the first time she saw that smile.

Their married life was a happy one. He had a nice apartment downtown. Very art-deco. It was a beautiful place, all crystal, glass, black and white. The couple enjoyed an active sex life, enjoying each other practically every night (except when work kept him late). At the beginning, he was home at 5:30 almost daily. Time dragged on, though. By the time they had been two years married and were expecting their first child, he was late almost every night.

Shortly after their first child turned one, the couple moved to the suburbs, bought a nice split-level house. They had two cars, a wonderful son, a leather armchair. Everything was turning out perfect, conventional. When their daughter, Anne arrived (their son was three), they were the Smith family. Conventional.

The wife, Tabitha, had a habit of waiting up for her husband. Work often kept him rather late. She’d always thought that bedding down without Nate beside her felt odd. He often found her sitting in the armchair in the den, reading something. Usually a news magazine, sometimes a murder mystery.

Life continued in this steady, 50’s America pattern for years. Anne was thirteen now, her brother, Eric, 16. He’d just got his license. Anne was fast asleep, Eric out with his girlfriend, a charming young lady they’d met at church. Tabitha was in her customary spot in the armchair, waiting for Nathan to come home. Her nose was buried in Time. She’d read it three times by now. It was midwinter and the embers of a fire lay cooling in the fireplace. The grandfather clock, an inheritance from her mother began to chime. It was a beautiful thing, all carved of oak with brass inlay.

The clock made a deep bass sound, one that reverberated throughout the house. it was 11:30. Never before had her husband been so late. Not good. The usual thoughts began running through her head, had he been in an accident, was there a gang fight, did something go wrong in his office building. She began to fret. She dropped the magazine promptly, standing as she did so. She paced a circle around the oriental rug, drywashing her hand and constantly wondering what she should do. This wasn’t good, no, not at all. Her stomach felt like it was about to fall out. Taken by impulse, she dashed to the kitchen and flicked on the mini TV. The news was on. If there was something wrong, they’d say. They had to. But nothing came. Midnight came and went, still no Nate. She returned to her armchair, thinking Maybe he just has some extra work. He just got that promotion and all...

When Nate got home, around 1:30, he found his wife sound asleep in the chair. Taking the utmost care, as if she were a doll, he shook her awake. When Tabby’s eyes fluttered open, they found him standing over her, smiling that one smile he had just for her. He was older now, and wings of gray touched his hair, but it seemed just the way it had before, the way it always had. Pecking her on the cheek, he whispered “Sorry.” She nodded, sill half-asleep and let him carry her up to their bedroom.

This pattern kept repeating itself. Nate was often out until 1 AM, sometimes later. He’d come home to find his wife in the chair, fast asleep. They’d go through their small little routine of apology and forgiveness, both knowing that neither was necessary.

Then, one night, Nate didn’t come home. Tabby awoke the next morning in the armchair. She rushed upstairs to look for her husband. Nothing. No note, no message, nothing. It was like he’d vanished. She was frantic all that day, wondering what had happened to him.

He came home at 5:30 that evening. He never came home at 5:30 anymore. She didn’t talk to him about it, though. They sat down together and ate dinner (ribs, tonight) like every other nice, normal, well-adjusted family on the block. They gave Anne the Talk that night.

Nate continued these odd habits, sometimes saying when pressed by the kids that he was staying at a hotel because he didn’t want to disturb anyone by coming home. Oftentimes he didn’t return home four nights a week. Tabby never confronted him, though. That would have shattered the normalcy of their life. Years passed like this. Eric moved away to college and Anne (as so many teens do) victimized herself, fell into the drug culture. Tabby never said anything, though. She wanted to hold onto her illusion. Nate’s hair was solid gray now. His face had the worn look of a man overworked. Sometimes Tabby went a week or two without seeing her husband.

It really started at a company picnic, over the summer. Eric was home from school, a clean-cut young man slowly working towards an MBA. He looked and acted much like his father, always impeccably dressed, always with a smile for everyone. He’d long ago broken up with his first girlfriend. By this point, he was dating an intelligent young woman, majoring in English.

Tabby was talking with some other corporate wives, joking, laughing, eating that nasty grocery store cake. Eventually, the working habits of their husbands entered the conversation. with one of the small, false laughs she’d long ago perfected, Tabby said “Well, Nate, he works like a dog. Always chasing after another raise, he is. Why, he hasn’t been home for five days now, working so much overtime.” The other women gave her an expression of undeniable pity, masked behind sympathy. One of them reached out and patted her on the arm, saying “My dear, no one there works overtime. It’s against company policy. You have leftover work, you bring it home.” Tabby felt the illusion shatter right then and there. Those words destroyed what she’d worked for twenty-five years to build. Still, when she returned home with Nate, she said nothing. What would the neighbors think? What about the children? Still, the question burned in her mind. She almost began stalking her husband. Almost. Anne, though, couldn’t be left alone. She saw that now, too. She’d dropped out of high school and was rumored to be working the streets.

It was 3:17 AM one night. Anne had just gotten home. Tabby had taken to peeling potatoes out of nervous habit. Passing her mother, Anne said “Hi.” That was it, nothing more. Tabby made a noncommittal noise. Anne reached over and shoved her mother, saying “What about those manners you taught me about, huh?” Tabby turned, quite calmly, and stabbed her daughter in the chest with her knife. Neither reacted, excepting Anne’s fall to the floor. The door slowly slid open. Tabby rushed to the living room to wait for her husband. She was standing by the grandfather clock when he entered, looking absolutely beat. He muttered “Mornin’.” She toppled the clock on him. He died, just as had her daughter.

“911 Emergency.”

“Hello. Police?”

“How may I help you?

“I just killed my husband and daughter. Could you send a squad car around to pick me up?”

“Ma’am?”

“Didn’t you hear me?”

“Yes, but...”

“Well, I'm supposed to get caught, right? I killed someone, I should be in jail.”

The autopsy reports were brutal. Anne had gone into shock, actually, instead of dying on the spot. The pronounced her dead several hours later. The animal carvings on the clock were Nate’s undoing. An antler from an elk had broken off and driven itself into his brain, killing him all but instantly. Fortunate, that. He would have lived the rest of his life as an invalid. Tabby was sentenced to life in prison. They didn’t let her attend the funerals. Few people came anyway. Anne’s coworkers (if they could be called such), a few fellow company employees for Nate. A man no one had seen also attended Nate’s service, he was the only one who seemed adversely affected. He stood by the graveside for hours, intermittently crying. Eric didn’t attend either funeral. He was too busy with his own career, he was already running a successful small business. Besides, their deaths were not normal. That was the one thing he’d learned from his mother. Normal was good.

No one ever found a motive for the killings. The prison psychologist said that it was a stress disorder blown out of proportion. Tabby served her term as a model prisoner, never acting up, never doing anything out of the expected. Indeed, she seemed to move through the few years left in her life in a haze, responding to the slightest suggestion from the guards without hesitation or reluctance. She seemed lost without something to tend to. She died in her sleep and was promptly forgotten.

R.I.P. Nathan Alexander Robertson
1952-2004
“My love, my life, you never took the straight path. Goodbye.”

Amy-chan
March 14th, 2006, 09:40 PM
Most interesting, Aniki. That was quite the unexpected twist... *shivers* It's amazing, the way one can take something so normal-sounding and spiral it off into something completely different if they just aim to...something to think about, ne?