Malice – Chapter 1

 MALICE

By T.A. Saunders

1

“She loved this song.”

Yesterday? Didn’t she kill herself to this song?”

“Yeah. I…”

“No Patrick. You are not going to blame yourself for this again. She chose death, not you.”

I wonder how many times Sam and I are going to have this same conversation? I can never stop blaming myself and he thinks I should move on. Except, I can’t move on. I’m trapped by Mara’s memory. Whenever I get in this cage of remembering Mara, I choose the escape route down a bottle of Jim Bean. By the time I wake up from the stupor, I have a hangover to worry about instead of her. It works most of the time.

“Look, how long has it been since you’ve dated? Five years? You’re a freakin’ mess.”

“Social interaction is highly overrated.”

“Maybe, but social isolation usually drives people insane, buddy. Growing a beard next?”

“It’s easier to cope.”

“Bullshit. You’re just being a coward. You’re afraid to face your pain.”

He was right. I was a coward, but I don’t care. Being a coward means I can carry the guilt I was meant to carry. I’m the jerk who cheated on Mara the night before our second wedding anniversary. She didn’t see it, or catch me in the act. Sam’s wife, Elanor told her. Sam knew, but didn’t talk about it. Well, didn’t talk about it with anybody but Elanor anyway. I don’t even remember the name of the girl I was screwing behind Mara’s back. Threw away everything. I deserve this punishment.

“I am. There. I admitted it. Can I go get drunk now?”

“No. This shit ends today. C’mon. Dump the bottle out. You’re going to get cleaned up.”

“I’ll just buy another.”

“If you do, I’m going to break it over your head!”

“You have a funny way of cheering me up, asshole.”

“I have a funny way of giving a damn too. You’re going out.”

“Out?”

There were probably animals about to be hit by cars that looked less horrified than I did. I didn’t want to even consider the implication of even trying to interact socially. Five years is a long time to be left in the shadows of a world that refuses to wait for you to deal with your troubles. In those shadows, I see her corpse slowly turn on the noose she hung herself by. When you’re in that personal dark for so long, it’s hard to step into the light of other people’s lives again. I didn’t want to go.

“Yes, out. I’m having a BBQ at my place tonight, remember?”

“No, I don’t. I was…uh. I was going to watch movies tonight anyway.”

“Patrick, it’s time to rejoin the human race. Mara would want that.”

No, Mara hadn’t wanted that otherwise she wouldn’t have left this world with our song playing on repeat so I’d hear it when I found her. I made her that mix CD when we were dating and she had kept it. Whenever we drove anywhere, she’d insist on playing it and sang all the songs. She left that song as a brand, a mark on my soul. She wanted me to remember.

“Alright, if it’ll shut you up, I’ll go.”

“Great! Go get cleaned up. Elle’s expecting us.”

“You mean, she’s expecting you.”

“Whatever. She’ll be fine with you showing up.”

I gave Sam a doubtful look. He was a strong, confident sort of guy and went through live largely oblivious to the subtle things women convey with looks and facial expressions. Elanor could give him the feminine ‘look of death’ that most men steer clear of. Not Sam. He just makes a joke and soldiers right on. I wonder how well he’s going to soldier when he brings the ‘Man Who Killed my Cousin with his Infidelity’ home? I turn off the radio on my way to my bedroom to find clothes to wear. Maybe it was the song, or the conversation, but the sense of dread now sitting on my shoulders was implacable.

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