The last time he’d told her she looked like a shapeless lump in cast-offs even charity shops wouldn’t take in, she’d felt the familiar twist of shame and sorrow fill her sagged body. She’d even folded her arms over her stomach and tried to hold in whatever it was that threatened to burst out, avoiding the look on his face which would merely underline what he’d just told her and which she already thought of herself anyway.
She’d stopped checking her reflection in mirrors a long time ago; when the apron of flesh that hung around her middle had refused to budge or firm up no matter which diet she tried or which exercise routine she attempted. The skin had clung on determinedly like the tumour she now saw it as. Of course once upon a time she’d laughed them off – these cutting comments from Carl, but nowadays, nowayears, they’d become so routine, so utterly part of the fabric of their life that sometimes she didn’t even notice them. It was only if there’d been silence before his remarks that she really heard them. At all other times, amidst the hum of daily life and the drone of the world around her, she could make believe his words were just another noise in the background; nothing that could harm or hurt – especially if she hadn’t really heard. And she’d become so good at filtering out his voice just in case they contained any of these caustic words, that she’d almost begun to believe they didn’t exist anymore.
But now he’d described her again as a shapeless lump in charity cast-offs and her first thought had been to consider reminding him he’d used this insult before; that perhaps he should think about changing his scriptwriter. And straightaway having this thought had released something hidden inside her mind or her soul – she wasn’t sure which or where – a spark of a thing she vaguely remembered having possessed a long time ago. So before this flicker of a thing had the chance to fly off and disappear, she’d reached out and grabbed it, pulled it back to her and held it firm so it couldn’t escape. And, once contained, it began to warm her; pulsing out tiny branches of energy and fire she hadn’t felt in ages. It pricked her skin, seeped through like ever-increasing tributaries let from some vast, fathomless ocean until it had knitted itself inside and around her body; the softest, strongest suit of armour.
And then she’d laughed. At this, his latest emotional beating. It didn’t hurt anymore. The welts had scabbed over; the bruising had left a darker hue and there was nothing more he could say. He’d clearly reached the end of his little book of abuse anyway and her derision at this idea felt like another indication that what she was about to do was utterly the right thing.
When he’d realised she was laughing, his face had been a picture. His eyes had lost their nasty narrowness and had morphed from confusion to disgust and then to anger at her laughter. He wasn’t prepared for this. She wasn’t prepared for this. But she was going to do it anyway.
She’d forced a smile, held out a hand and let her fingers hover in the silent air close to his chest. He looked down at it and scowled but hadn’t remarked; hadn’t known what to say. And then she imagined he must have found a spark of recollection as he’d turned his anger into a kind of knowing. He’d taken her hand and allowed her to lead him from the house, through the garden and to the garage. She’d known perfectly well what he was thinking. They used to come out here years ago when they’d first been married; catching whatever time they could when the twins had been otherwise occupied – enjoying the excitement of being in their own space, being somewhere they might easily be discovered – their special fantasy. Today though, it was her fantasy alone.
They’d always used Carl’s workbench before, but that was when she’d been slight enough to ease herself up and onto its rough surface, ignoring the threat of splinters and damage in the heat of those moments. She knew she couldn’t lift herself up onto it now, but she didn’t think Carl would care. She watched his face as it began to twist, not – she was gratified to note – with the usual revulsion at the nearness or sight of her, but with a kind of hunger she hadn’t seen him exhibit in years. Arrogantly, he pushed her against the workbench and she let him, ignoring the sharp wooden edges and not caring that her skin might be cut and sore afterwards. As he fumbled earnestly at the top of his trousers, her own satisfaction swelled to a crescendo as she curled her hand around to grip the waiting lump-hammer.
Written as a result of the Creative Writing Ink photo prompt 13th OCtober 2016