by Jason Hart
Part 3 of 6
Nate, lost in the complicated cavern of his mind, hardly noticed the pile of cigarette butts huddled at his feet. As his thoughts carried him step by step into the darkness, it was as if the ground behind him plummeted into a bottomless pit, forcing him to continue his trek inward. Where have you been!? It haunted him like a recurring childhood nightmare. A nagging question from a nagging wife. Where have you been!? He'd heard it dozens of time, and he could hear it now. Playing over and over again like a mouse stuck on a wheel. Where have you been!? He gritted his teeth, his breathing was quicker now, and his heart was pounding. There weren't enough cigarettes in the world to drown out the pain. Where have you been!? Such a controlling question, asked with all the doubt she could muster. And every time Lara asked that same stupid question, he wanted to slap the disrespect right out of her.
Nate paused the train wreck of anger in his mind and let his mind wander back to the beginning. Their marriage had been happy, once. But now, "happy" was just a word. Like a lame punchline at the end of a long joke. The train started rolling again. Where have you been?! He could remember it all. He saw her standing in the kitchen, with her hands on her hips. He could hear her tone of voice. He could see Trey ducking into his room. He could feel the massive weight on his chest, the pain of being hated by his own wife. Where have you been!?
Suddenly, the "Caw! Caw!" of a crow startled Nate as it took flight from a nearby tree. Nate breathed in sharply, his hands trembling, beads of sweat rolling down his forehead. He wiped the sweat from his brow, I'll tell you where I've been. he thought to himself, I'm sitting next to this pile of brick and wood that we used to call home. I'm out here, because you don't want me in there. He broke from his thoughts long enough to light another cigarette, and glance towards Lara's bedroom window. Her light was still on. Nate snorted and shrugged his shoulders, Probably reading her Bible. He leaned back and closed his eyes, "I can wait, I've got all the time in the world." he muttered aloud.
-Sometime in the Past-
As for Paul, the fish gods continued to shine on him and his boat. As for Abby, she was never shy about showing off her better-late-than-never ring. A little shyness however might have done her some good, because the ring began catching the wrong type of attention. One day, while taking an afternoon stroll through the town, a man mugged Abby and physically took the ring from off her finger. Abby should have known to just leave it alone, but instead, she let out a scream so violent that any bird within a quarter mile took flight. Her assailant silenced her with a brutal blow to the face, then, in a fit of rage, began hitting Abby over and over as she struggled helplessly on the ground.
Paul was out to sea that day, and when he came home long after the sun had set, his house was empty. After making a few phone calls, and creating quite the ruckus at more than one house, Paul was able to finally find someone who had heard about what happened to Abby. Paul rushed to the hospital, but hadn't adequately prepared himself for seeing Abby battered and bruised, lying motionless on the bed. "She's suffered extensive injuries." the doctor remarked, fully lacking any quota of bedside manner, "She'll live, but she's got a long road ahead of her."
Paul was furious. He cursed his wife's attacker, that gaudy ring, his "lucky" boat, his money, and himself.
And all the townspeople declared, "Paul, this is bad."
...to be continued.