"Pooled Anger" by MM Plude
Damn she hated him. Sally shivered under her blanket as a cool autumn breeze tousled her hair and made the fallen leaves dance across the still water of his perfectly tiled pool. She lifted her wine glass up into the moonlight and slowly swirled the dark liquid around so it skimmed the rim. Vintage wine from his cellar; a satisfied smile crept across her face.
She stopped her daily showers today. Just stopped them. She'd had it. Scrubbing, washing and conditioning her hair, washing her face, blow drying. It's just tedious. She just cut it out. She's on strike from tediousness. She was going to stop eating too. Not completely. She can do it once in a while if she wants to, but every day having to cook and clean up after just her; it's just tedious. It's just too much. Too much. On strike, that's what she is.
She pulled the cork out of the bottle and drained the last of its beautiful contents into her crystal stemmed glass. Then holding the glass to her chest, she tossed the cork into the pool, watching as the moonlight captured the slight ripples across the silky surface.
The pool itself was really a work of art. They'd found some tiles on their travels in Portugal and had them sent home. He laid them himself. It took an entire summer. She stayed away from it because she couldn't swim, but he'd spend every waking hour in it; first creating it, than later working on his fancy dive. He'd line his stupid toes right up to the edge in this one particular spot; like he was training for the Olympics or something.
She should just freaking do it. She gently set her glass down on the patio and stood up. She walked over to the shed and pulled out the biggest hammer she could find. She would take out the pool. She was sick of the damn thing. She hadn't cleaned it for a couple of weeks and the obnoxious thing still glittered in the sun. Taunting her with its beauty. Reminding her of him and the way he would lovingly lavish it with his time and attention, which was more than he did for her.
Clutching a sledgehammer, she imagined his toes in a line as she took her first whack at the tiles. They didn't budge. She swung harder this time, imagining his face when he saw his masterpiece ruined. Outside the cathartic crack, there was very little sign of destruction. She worked at it for twenty minutes, only to have loosened a couple. And damn if they didn't come off in full pieces, not shattered like she had hoped. She should invite the bastard over now to do his fancy little dive. Maybe he'd slip and crack his head open. Knock some sense into him. Or kill him.
Ahh, yes, his death. Would that sadden her? What would she wear to the funeral? Not red, although that would be her first inclination. Oh, that dark burgundy suit she saw on-line. Plus, she's always wanted to wear one of those hats with the elegant netting shielding the eyes. Do they still make those? She'd walk stoically up to the casket, gently dabbing at her face with that linen handkerchief her Aunt Bessie gave her years ago. Everyone would compliment her on how well she was holding up and how foolish he had been this past year. And if he were dead, imagine the freedom of not having to know your biggest rejection was walking around with his young girlfriend.
She laid the tiles back in place, too tired to continue, and plopped down on a chaise lounge. She'd do a little bit each day. In a year, she might be done. Then she'd fill it in, buy the biggest, foulest dog she could find and let him take craps back there. She pulled a wrap around her shoulders tightly. It was a cool fall evening, there was a full moon and she sipped more of his wine as she watched the leaves from the big oak fall from the branches and float down into the pool. The wine she was sipping wasn't just any wine, it was a 1980 cabernet and she was midway through the 1980 reds. She poured the remains of the bottle into her glass, watching the deep red liquid swish around.
"What the hell are you drinking?"
She looked up, startled by her estranged husband's angry voice.
"What are you doing here?" Shoot, she should've taken care of the bottle. He's going to get mad. Damn you Sally, you're mad at him!
"I said what the hell are you drinking?" He repeated the question.
"Some wine." She tried to sound as casual as possible.
"From the cellar?"
"Perhaps." She leaned back, pretending to be calm, pushing her hands into her lap to hide their shaking. He stomped over to her and grabbed the empty bottle from the ground.
"My 1980 Cabernet? What else have you gotten into since I left?" He set the bottle down on the table, shaking his head with derision.
"You care more about these old bottles of wine than you do me." She huffed out indignantly. "Wasn't I your wife for twenty years?"
"The wine retains its value." He said slyly.
"And apparently all you value is youth, which is at odds with your wine collecting, don't you think dear?" Sally said, happy to find the flaw in his argument.
"Some things get better with age." He looked at her squarely. "And some things don't."
She looked down, the empty wine bottle just sit there on the table next to her. If she could get up behind him, she could smash his skull in with it. "What the hell are you doing here anyway? If I have so little value, what the hell are you doing here?"
"I'm on my way to the airport. I was just hoping you'd give me some peace of mind before I left and sign the no-contest divorce papers."
"Can't help you there."
"Because I contest. I'm not going to roll over and just let your walk away from a promised lifelong commitment unscathed." Sally snarled. "Ditch your wife of twenty years as though you're cleansing your palette between courses."
He looked at her harshly and then looked around, focusing on the leaf covered pool. "Why haven't you drained the pool?"
She shrugged her shoulders, not really having an answer. Not even sure how to drain a pool. Is there a plug in the bottom like a bathtub? And to what end? To have to refill it again come summer?
"Hey, why don't you do one of your fancy little dives?" She said mischievously.
"Look at this place." He ignored her. "How are we supposed to sell it if you don't maintain it?"
"I don't want to sell it."
"You can't afford it on your own."
"Good thing we didn't have kids, that way we could afford such niceties, wasn't that what you said?"
"Let's not get into it." He continued to look around, surveying the yard.
She hoped he didn't look in the garbage. He'd find empty bottles of his beloved 1980 merlots.
They were the first casualties...well, maybe not the first.
"Look at the garden. How long has it been since you weeded it?"
"What's the point?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, what's the point in weeding? They just grow back. It's an exercise in futility."
"I suppose combing your hair is an exercise in futility, too." Noting her disheveled appearance.
She shrugged her shoulders. "You dyed your hair." She smiled smugly. "All that's missing is the red sports car; or is that in the driveway?"
She had loved his gray streaks, but she had to admit, he looked younger without them. He had also lost a little weight. He had never been heavy, but after years of her gourmet cooking, he had accumulated a bit of a belly. Now he looked 20 years younger; like he did when they fell in love. It looked like he was working out, too; his arms were nice and tight. Her eyes followed his arm all the way down, noting he had removed his wedding ring. She looked away, embarrassed that she still had hers on.
"I took a cab here."
"Meaning the cliché sports car is elsewhere? What a schmuck."
"Yeah, it's hard to believe I left you. Look at you. If this is how you handle tough times then it's a good thing we didn't have kids."
Sally's brow furrowed. How is someone supposed to react to their life being turned upside down? Six months ago, Sally knew where her life was; she knew who she was and where everything went. She knew she'd wake up in the morning to make his eggs before he left for work, gently folding fresh vegetables into his perfectly seasoned omelet. Iron his shirts on Wednesdays, farmer's market on Thursdays, and plan for all their meals. Now what? She had quit her career on his behest, "so she could concentrate on their relationship" he had so persuasively said so many years ago.
"Bullshit." She spit back at him. It's all she could formulate into a sentence.
"I think it's a valid point. Take a look in the mirror, you're falling apart."
"You said you didn't want kids." She jumped up from the lounge chair, careful not to spill the wine. "Now you're leaving me to have them with that bimbo."
"You could have at least pulled the cover over the pool." He turned toward the shed, opening the door to pull out the cover.
"That's it, isn't it? You're going to start a family with her, right?"
"Sally, don't make this harder than it already is."
"Harder for whom? You?"
"Why should I make it easy?"
"Because it isn't going to change anything."
"But you said you didn't want kids."
"I changed my mind," as he pulled the cover over the pool.
"We could still have some." Did she just say that? She scanned the fences bordering her yard for a neighbor's head that may have heard her groveling like a looser. She wasn't a looser, she just knew something wasn't right in her life and she wanted it right again. Heck, she didn't even know if she loved him anymore. Her life was just nuts right now, nuts, chaotic, crazy, empty, pointless, monotonous. She just wanted it to make sense again.
"Are you forgetting about your hysterectomy?"
"We could adopt." She said, in a lower voice. She didn't need the world to know she was so pathetic. It was bad enough he knew.
"I hadn't thought of that." He turned and looked at her. "I suppose we could adopt. Would you be willing to do that?" He looked at her, searching her eyes.
"Of course. I'd love to adopt some kids. I'll get this place back into order. I'll clean the pool or drain it or whatever." Geez that sounded pathetic, even to her. Sally watched his eyes closely for a reaction that would tell her he felt the same.
"Please, Sally, I was kidding." He laughed cruelly.
"Yes." A sharp pain pierced her chest. She turned her face from him, not wanting him to see that she had been stupid enough to let him hurt her again. Geez what a pathetic fool she is. She turned away. She hadn't thought she could feel any worse. He had tricked her again, but really who's the fool? Is she so desperate?
"I'm not coming back. I don't want to adopt. I want children of my own."
"So did I and you said ‘no way, no how'."
"Like I said, I changed my mind. Now can you help me with this?" He said, tugging at the cover.
"But I begged you for them, all those years ago. And now you're leaving me because I can't have them. That is incredibly unfair." She stood back; making no attempt to help him with the pool cover.
"Life isn't fair."
"It's not life that's being unfair, it's you. Don't dismiss this as a cruel fate beyond anyone's control."
"Fine, you sit here and act like a victim. Let the home and yourself deteriorate. It's not going to get me to come back and it's not going to stop me from selling the house and kicking your sorry, bitter ass out onto the street."
"Like I said, sit there and be a victim."
"The only thing I wanted was a family and I gave that up to have a life with you."
"Like I also said, life isn't fair." As he tugged at the pool cover. "Look Sally, let me put it to you this way." He stopped what he was doing, turned and looked her dead in the eye. "Maybe I just didn't want kids with you." He turned his back to her, coldly and without mercy. Went back to what he was doing without even paying mind to the wound he had caused.
She sat down and watched his tall, lithe body work, remembering a more playful time, when she'd pushed him in the pool after that stuffy work dinner. The pool cover seemed to be stuck on something and he gave it a good tug. Stepping onto the loosened tiles as he pulled, they came out from underneath him and he fell into the pool. Sally laughed out loud. An angry laugh. Not a fancy-free laugh. It was more of a release than enjoyment, like a steamship blowing off steam. He was splashing around caught in the pool cover. This was great. She can't imagine anything better. She stepped to the edge of the pool for better viewing.
"Help me." He screamed at her. She looked at him, smirking, loving the fact that he had fallen in.
"Don't be a victim." She snarled at him.
"Please Sally." He gasped, wrestling with the cover.
"Life isn't always fair."
"I can't..." He flailed, gasping. "I'm caught. The cover! Help!"
"You think I'm going to fall for one of your tricks again?" Is he really caught? Should she help him? Look at him. He really seems to be struggling.
"Sally. Please!" He screamed, sounding more frantic.
He's a great swimmer, how could he be struggling? For crying out loud, the pool isn't that deep right there. He could stand up if he wanted to. It's probably one of his cruel jokes. He's probably toying with her again. Like her being kind is a power trip for him. Well, she wasn't going to fall for it this time.
"Sally!" He gasped desperately. He was underwater, splashing around like a madman. She didn't know he was such a good actor. He is acting, right?
What if he isn't? He's gone from her anyhow. Should she save him so he can continue to torment her with this nightmare? Is it better to live without him alive then live with him dead?
Does that even make sense?
He managed one last word, then his flailing slowed and his body wrapped in the pool cover bobbed in the water.
Sally just stood there, trying to comprehend what had just happened. She couldn't have saved him anyhow. She can't swim. He would've just pulled her down with him. Then she'd be dead too. She thought she wanted him dead, but she couldn't bear the thought of not seeing him again. But then that little bimbo doesn't get him either, and they're still married so she should inherit everything. And there's life insurance too. Should she even be thinking about that now? Shouldn't she call an ambulance?
She couldn't move. She was stuck there, staring at the lump in the pool cover. They'll think she murdered him on purpose. But how? She didn't make him drown.
But she loosened the tiles. She didn't know he was coming over. That's right, she didn't know he was coming over...
She didn't exactly stop him when he stepped close to the loosened tiles. But nobody knows that. His car isn't here and he's scheduled to be gone for a week on some backwoods adventure. She needs to think about this. Crack open a bottle of wine and think about the options. She retrieved another bottle, sat down and looked out onto the pool.
It still glittered, but now looking over the beautiful hand-painted, hand-laid tiles, there seemed almost a sadness to it. Sure it still glittered, but there was just something a little sad; as though the pool itself understood that he'd left her too when he left Sally. And now it had extracted the ultimate revenge.
Besides the lump in the pool cover, the water had calmed and the full moon reflected on its serene surface. She sipped the wine. For the first time in months, she felt at peace.