A short story.
I remember the first night I made love. It was in the back of my brother’s 1953 baby blue Holden, with Ellie Phillips. When she moved to our town, I was twelve years old. Two years later I finally gathered the courage to speak to her. She was sitting on the front stairs of her house, her head resting heavily in her hands.
The night I made love I was seventeen. We were only meant to go to the pictures. Dr. Strangelove was playing again, and even though we had seen it at least ten times, Ellie demanded that we go. When I picked her up that night, she lunged into the passenger seat frantically demanding me to take her away. Between her knees, she struggled to close an overflowing suitcase. I caught a glance of her mother in the rear view mirror, waving me down, as my brother’s car sped off down the road. I accelerated through the dust, tearing out of the street, Ellie screaming at me to go faster.
At the edge of the town I stopped, questioning her in confusion. She leaned over and kissed me, silencing my thoughts, her salty tears brushing my lips. There, overlooking the entire world, we intimately gave ourselves to each other. It was the best night of our lives.
We couldn’t go back, she wouldn’t let me take her back. Not with the mess we’d left behind. We moved to the city, with every intention of making a new life for ourselves. By the spring of 1965, just three months after we had left our home town, I had found myself a job in a steel factory, a far cry from the lawyer I had wanted to be. The wage was hardly enough to pay for the wedding Ellie insisted we have.
“I want yards of lace, Walter, yards and yards of lace!” Ellie exclaimed. I laughed as she danced around the bedroom, wrapping the bed sheet around her like the dress of her dreams. I wanted to join her, but the reality of our situation held me back. I could not promise her what I could not give. The defeat must have shown in my eyes, because she swirled to a halt, the smile falling from her face.
“We will have lace, won’t we Walter?” she questioned, studying me suspiciously. Her demeanor had changed, had darkened, as if a black cloud had descended on the room.
I managed to stutter the words she wanted to hear. She slowly unwrapped the sheet from her body, and walked gloomily out of the room. My words had not affected her. It didn’t strike me as odd until her next episode, just four months into our marriage.
I had arrived home later than usual from work one evening. As I walked through the front door I noticed a trail of discarded string and torn packages, littering the hall. Cautiously, I ventured into the kitchen, where I could hear my wife talking quietly.
“Ellie?” I asked loudly, confused at the mess. I heard the muffled sound of a crash through the door, and pushing it open I walked in on her stuffing a large package into the pantry. “Who were you talking to?” I quizzed. Seeing no one in the room, I pressed further. “What’s that?” I dared to ask.
“No.. nothing, no one… what?” she stammered. My look of disbelief had the desired effect. “It’s a gift,” she confessed. “For the baby.” Carefully, she pulled a perfect porcelain unicorn from the box, and placed it on the counter. Just by observing it’s elegance, I could guess the expense of this gift. A fury rapidly rose within me, as I realised that my constant hard work at the factory had paid for this useless trinket.
“We don’t even have a bassinet!” I yelled. “Look at what you have bought!” In haste, I smashed through the receipts that littered the floor and the counter. Everything we had saved for the baby was gone.
“You’re seven months pregnant!” I screamed. All Ellie could do was cry. “You’re taking it all back!” I told her angrily, before storming out of the room. I threw open the bathroom door, slamming it behind me, and I leaned against it shaking. The knock on the door was quiet, and at first I wanted to ignore it, but it was the change in her voice to something sweet, that helped my hand to open the door.
It was in that same bathroom one week later, when my fears were envisaged. Ever since I had known Ellie, she was different from everyone else. It was almost as if one moment we could be euphorically happy together, then something would change in her. She wouldn’t shower for a week, she would refuse to eat and then suddenly the next weekend she would be back, setting the table for a three course Sunday dinner. It was the extremes in her behaviour that made me love her, but then again, it could tear me apart. She would scream that she hated me while making love, then deny she ever said it. My God though, she could be romantic.
When I walked into that bathroom, she was slumped against the vanity, her long brown hair hiding her face. I felt the blood drain from my head as I spotted the long barber’s razor clutched in her right hand.
“What are you doing Ellie!” I shrieked, lunging towards her. My attempts to disarm her however, were useless. She incoherently mumbled as she wrestled out of my arms. I tried for the razor, but with a force I did not know she had, I was shoved from the room and fell sick into the wall. The door slammed with force, and I heard the dreaded sound of the click. She had locked me out.
Pummeling my fists on the door I begged Ellie to let me in, to stop what she was doing. I think I was there for hours, before I couldn’t hear her crying anymore. I put my ear to the door to listen, but I could hear nothing but the slow dripping of the tap.
Eloise Crane, my wife was buried on the twenty-first of April, 1966. I couldn’t bear to face her mother. I didn’t want to face anyone else. To be ignorant of truth, to give in to love, to sacrifice my heart, I was a fool and it was clear. I was blind, deaf and dumb in love. With a woman who did not love me enough to open that damned bathroom door.