Authors: Evans Light
Copyright © 2013 by Evans Light. All rights reserved.
Second Kindle Edition: 2013
This eBook is licensed for the personal enjoyment of the original purchaser only. This eBook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this eBook and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Amazon.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
To my wife, who makes me get it done, and my kids, who make me want to.
To Adam Light for always telling me it’s perfect, and to Doug Pryer for always telling me it’s not.
This book wouldn’t exist without your generous help and encouragement.
Thanks to my Dad and family for their love.
In memory of Ray Bradbury.
A tip of the hat to Joe R. Lansdale and Joe Hill.
Edited by Andrea Harding and Catherine Depasquale
with Adam Light and Douglas Pryer
homas! Are you even listening to me?”
The sharp tone of his wife’s voice burst the haze of his reverie like a bowling ball through a minefield.
Tom let out a long sigh, loud enough for Kelly to hear. The sound of it escaped his lips in a leisurely way, perfectly matching the pace of the steam as it floated up and out of his shower stall and into the cold farmhouse bathroom that lay beyond. He wished he and his hot water could be together forever and that she would just give up and go away.
!” she continued, irritation prickling along the edges of her voice.
He grunted and turned off the shower, watching sadly as the warm water swirled down the drain away from him, leaving him alone and naked, cold and wet. He missed the warmth of its embrace already.
“God damn it, Tom!”
He stepped from the shower, grabbing a towel from the rack to wipe the steam from the vanity mirror above the sink. As the moisture cleared, he caught sight of his wife’s stern reflection glaring at him from over his shoulder. It had been weeks - maybe months - since there had been genuine eye contact between them, he realized. The icy look he now saw in her eyes unsettled him.
“Well?” she said. “Is it going to be finished before I get back or not?”
Tom closed his eyes and took a deep breath. If she didn’t leave to visit her mother soon, he might like to finish
instead, he thought.
“Yes Kelly. It will be done before you get back,” he said calmly, though his teeth were clenched. “You have my word.” His words echoed in the quiet tension of the tiled room, making a sound that reminded him of marbles spilling onto a glass table.
“Good.” Kelly said coldly.
“So when are you leaving?” he asked in a lighter tone that he hoped would relieve the tension and hurry the process along.
She wasn’t so easily deterred.
“I’m serious, Tom. If I come home to find you passed out in bed in the middle of the afternoon again with nothing done,” her voice trailed off, the threat implied rather than spoken, as she glanced down at his naked body. The harshness of her expression let up for a second, replaced by a look of surprise.
Tom, seeing this, quickly covered himself with the towel and turned to face her.
“Look, I don’t want the floor to rot out from under our feet any more than you do. I already have all the materials - I swear I’ll spread all the lime under the house before you get back.”
Still seeing doubt on her face, he reinforced his statement. “If I don’t meet my deadline, I’ll move in under the house until it’s done. We’ve thrown so much money into this pit it would be stupid not to keep it up properly now.”
She relaxed visibly, but her eyes remained cool, calculating.
Tom tried to smile at her but failed.
“What?” he shrugged nonchalantly. “What more do you want me to say? Are you leaving today or not?” He feigned exasperation, hoping she would turn and leave in a huff.
She stood her ground, evaluating him.
Did she know?
How could she?
“I don’t want you to say anything,” Kelly said, after a long pause that spoke volumes of disappointment without a single word. “The only reason I’m still here is because I thought you might like to say goodbye to your daughter before we leave. You do remember that you
a daughter, don’t you? Six years old, four feet high, blond hair, first grade - sound familiar?
like to say goodbye to you - although for the life of me, I have no idea why.”
Tom turned his face away, embarrassed for her to see the flush of shame he knew was spreading across his face. She was right - about that one thing, anyway. In his eagerness to have his wife out of the house, he
forgotten about Emily. He pictured her sitting in the other room, a sad look on her face, waiting patiently to tell her worthless daddy good-bye.
Guilt slapped Tom like a hot rag across the back of his neck. It was an emotion he was not used to feeling.
“Give me one minute. I’ll be right there,” he muttered, grabbing his jeans from a hook on the wall by the bathtub and tugging them on.
Ten minutes later, the luggage had been loaded into the minivan and his daughter Emily had been kissed good-bye.
Tom was turning away from his still-angry wife to head back towards the house when Kelly grabbed his hand, stopping him.
She surprised him by putting her arms around him, holding him close to her for a moment.
Then she kissed him.
As she pressed her lips against his, he realized that it was the first time they had kissed in a very long time, maybe since he had lost his job. Had six months passed already? It was only a brief kiss, but still, it surprised him.
, he thought,
whether you’re having fun or not.
Kelly climbed into the minivan and drove away without saying a word. Tom shivered in the bitter cold of the Pennsylvania morning air and waved goodbye until the red tail lights disappeared into the distance.
The warmth of his wife’s lips still tingled on his own. He wondered what surprised him the most about that kiss: that it had happened in the first place, or that it had made him realize that he had no love left for her at all. Ten years of marriage, and love had left the building. Unlike his wife’s absence, however, he was pretty sure his feelings weren’t temporary.
It mattered little either way, Tom figured, and he brushed the thought of the unexpected kiss aside.
Cup of joe in hand, Tom strolled out onto the porch into the frosty morning, ready to hurry up and get the day’s work behind him.
The brisk sting of winter in his lungs felt almost as satisfying as seeing his wife’s rear-end disappear from view for an entire week, he thought as he took in a lustful breath of the cold morning air.
He sipped from his coffee, smiling as steam drifted from his lips. The first rays of the morning sun were streaming through a shroud of trees - an omen of better things to come, he hoped.
Finally life was good, he thought - even if he did have to spend the entire day crawling around on his belly in the muck underneath the house, spreading lime. It was a small price to pay for the week of freedom that lay before him; freedom from accusing looks and random nagging, freedom to allow joy to flood back into his life. Life was good and would get a whole lot better when Miranda showed up.
Just one more day and she would be in his arms again, the two of them alone in the house together. Tom’s heart quickened at the thought. He figured he’d gladly spread lime in crawlspaces for the rest of his life if Miranda were waiting for him at the end of the day.
Darkest before the dawn
, Tom thought to himself and smiled.
Miranda was more than the dawn to him. She was as hot as the sun itself, the light of his miserable life. She made him feel totally and completely alive, born again. With her, he had a second chance at happiness, a fresh opportunity to do everything right.
His reflection on the front window drew his attention. Tom sat his coffee down to check himself out, running his fingers through his dark, still thick hair.
“Not bad,” he said out loud, “you’ve still got it, Tommy-boy.” He shot a smile at himself, zipped up his wool-lined work jacket and shoved a pair of utility gloves into his pocket.
As he surveyed the frost-covered yard, he still felt satisfied with his decision to purchase this old farmhouse in the country. True, it was a journey to get anywhere; the nearest person that could reasonably be called a neighbor was the better part of a mile away.
Regardless, it felt good to know this land belonged to him - especially since his career had gone down the shitter. Even if he would never be able to fix the place up the way he had once dreamed, he was sure he could find a way to live without riding stables and a swimming pool.
Tom thought of his recent downfall less frequently now than he used to. But every now and then, his thoughts would drift back to the event, like an accident replayed in slow motion, over and over again, his mind trying to figure out what he could have done differently.
His career in the finance industry had been a lot like the final Space Shuttle Challenger mission: a straight-up trajectory that was all smiles and hope and promise, right up until the point where everything exploded into a million pieces. His wife was the survivor left behind, barely able to comprehend what had happened, still trying so hard to pretend everything was normal.