Yma’s Untitled Short Story Excerpt (847 words of 5,879)
Marlina knew she wasn’t beautiful anymore, and that made the infidelity even worse. Her rage, which had slipped just below homicidal in the hours leading up to the press conference, catapulted back to life with razor teeth as she watched her husband confront reporters with the practiced execution of a politician in a dead run ahead of scandal. Marlina had watched this footage in various iterations for two hours followed by commentary from political analysts, reporters, and pundits. The one truth she could distil from the brewing crisis was that nobody believed her husband.
She shut off the television, and silence flooded the empty house. It was a large house without pets or children, a vast space soaked in loneliness and regret. Marlina’s steps echoed in the marble hallway, and she paused before a massive gilt-edged mirror. The slack, bleached fabric of her face was tear-stained and rung through with grief. She hadn’t brushed her teeth or her hair in three days, and had to cancel her standing appointment at the salon when the scandal broke. The gray roots amplified her sense of sexless decrepitude and the aches of a woman much older than fifty-three. She continued stiffly down the hall towards her favorite room, The Great Room.
The dome-shaped skylight showered fall sunshine on Italian frescos. Gods and goddesses of antiquity burst forth naked from clouds, stars, ocean, and giving earth. A floor to ceiling glass window opened on a long view of the garden, its ornamental grasses, holly hocks, hibiscus, snap dragons, danced like blue children before distant orchards heavy with the rush of autumn. The Great Room was a tribute to classical aesthetics and resembled a museum more than a space in a private home. She had spent a sizable portion of her inheritance on reproductions of sculptures found in the ruins at Pompeii. The collection even included an original of a Roman woman wrought in marble, her tunic sliding off the shoulder to expose the barest edge of breast. But the paintings were her sanctuary, a narrow portal into a world of pale-skinned virgins recumbent in sumptuous landscapes.
She dreamed herself as the titian-haired beauty in Lord Frederick Leighton’s “Idyll,” white gown clinging to her skin, head at gentle rest on her friend’s soft chest. Marlina felt delicate fingers in her hair, and inhaled fragrances from a world saturated and stunned by the setting sun. The flute player with his handsome back entertained them, and sometimes at night, in the vast silence of The Great Room, Marlina could hear his music.
The Xanax soothed to soften, cradled in hallucinatory warmth. Her stiffness had finally receded, and she walked slowly towards the divan, then wrapped her body in a peach soft blanket. Languorous and wish-licked she slid into the “Waterfall.” The landscape was classic Maxfield Parrish, trees and violet mountains refracted through shadow and light. Marlina imagined herself as the young woman with auburn hair wearing a periwinkle frock and a smile next to her slender-hipped companion. She felt the rocky outcrop warm on her belly and the bottomless churn of the waterfall’s descent.
The reverie passed, and Marlina dropped back to earth in a moist daze of despair and tranquilizers. She tried to forget the fights masquerading as battles over whether or not they could afford in-state or out-of-state tuition. Tried to forget the fights over too much time in the office or whether or not to fly first class; their undeclared war dressed itself in imagined money shortages. It posed as arguments over vacations they didn’t dare take together because to spend an entire week alone together was to die a little bit at a time.
The truth was they could no longer be in each other’s presence more than a few hours without the burnished creep of something close to hate surfacing. The truth was that all of their fights were one fight, one sustained howl of existential horror, deceit, and disappointment. One fight comprised of many mistakes with crushing consequences. One long fight about six years of separate bedrooms, and two years of separate sides of the house, about the skin-peeling horror of a life built on ashes and a twenty-seven year marriage in free fall. All of which now culminated with Marlina drugged up, imprisoned in her home by reporters camped cannibal-style at the end of her driveway, and fervent prayers that Nick’s mistress would keep her mouth shut.
She thought that all tragedy was tied to the same rope, and to pull on one was to shake loose the furor of every anguish preceding it. Marlina recalled the softness of her dead mother’s hands, and how she used to stroke her hair at bedtime when she was little. How bald and small Mommy looked after the final, futile rounds of chemo. She remembered her sixteen-year old son’s face bleeding, cracked beyond recognition in the passenger seat of her new Mercedes. Too fast, too damn fast, she thought, and began to cry, until naked and wet from the storm of her sobs she rocked to a dead sleep.