Stef

Stars swam in her eyes within a field of red, a wash of glittering burn that left her dazed. “What?” she said aloud, looking around, bewildered. Stef Branford stared down at her tennis shoes, and then looked up toward where her husband been a moment ago, and then over to her shoulder, that he had been gripping, then down at her feet. She stood in an ever-widening pool of blood; it was deep enough to begin to soak into the fabric of her slippers (Fancy ouch shoes, is what her mother had called them) and it was hot enough to be uncomfortable, and confusing.

“Marc?” she said aloud, but her voice didn’t sound like her own. It was whistly, reedy, odd and shaking. “Marc?” she said aloud again, looking for her husband, and when she took a step, her soaked (fancy couch) slipper caught on something, and down she went in a heap. Her hands hit the floor, splashing in the blood, and drops of it hit her face. They felt like summer rain, and smelled like pennies.

She stood up and drew her hands up against herself, as though they were wounded, and then held them out and away, once she realized it was blood, and her voice came out again, shaky and almost whistling from her throat. “Marc?” she warbled. God, she sounded like her mother, in her last days, when fancy couch slipper turned into fucking cunt snapper and every morning was punctuated with the grey-faced matron straining a turd into her bedsheets just after the night nurse left.

“Marc, honey?”

She realized, after a moment, that what her fancy couch shoe had caught on was the curled fingers of her husband, who was laying on the floor. Her eyes traveled up, from the fingers that had left bruises on her shoulder, past the gnarled knuckles and the hairy wrist that disappeared into a shirt sleeve that ended in a ragged snarl of frayed plaid soaked and shining with blood.

She kept following the line of the arm, and it ended where Marc sat, propped up against the wall, his face staring forward, the back of his head grotesquely flattened outward, a pumpkin dropped from a great height, smashed into the concrete of the basement wall by some huge unseen hand. The same hand that must have torn off his arm and left it lying where she could trip over it.

Marc stared forward, unseeing, his eyes wide and watching nothing, and that’s when Stef felt the warmth running over her thighs. She looked down at the spreading patch of her own piss darkening her jeans, and said aloud, “Just as bad as Mama. Turnt my fancy couch shoes n denims to trash.”

When she heard her mother’s voice come out of Marc’s ruined lips, saying “Mama’s gon getchoo now, Steffie. Mama’s gon getchoo good,” she backed away, and tripped over Marc’s arm again. When she fell, her head smacked the floor like an egg on its way to an omelette, and she found blissful unconsciousness so she didn’t have to see her dead husband get up and peel the back of his head off the basement wall.

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