The Only ThingMature

                He keys the engine, cranks the heat, pulls away without another word. I close my eyes.

                “What happened?”

                He’s back. Voice like gravel, tone robotic. The cigarette rises to his lips and I lean over to light it for him, but he catches my hand and crushes my wrist. He wants an answer, and I’m not planning on giving one.


                “I don’t know.”

                He slams the steering wheel with his palm, the growl sounding from his belly. With or without my saying, I know he already understands. Questions between us have become something of a formality. He and I could almost be the same person.

                “He’s dead, isn’t he?”

                “And so is the woman. What the hell were you thinking?”

                “I wasn’t.”

                “I could tell!” Ethan spits at me. “If you keep doing this I’ll—!”

                My mouth moves of its own accord, a knee-jerk reaction, “You’ll what? Kill me? Good.”

                The car comes to a screeching halt, horns blare at us from behind. Ethan yells a few choice curses out the window and pulls over. Without warning, he seizes me by the collar and my face is suddenly on fire. A bloom of red. My lip splits, and the pained cry sounds without me ever summoning it. He lets me go, he starts the car again. For the rest of the way to the apartment, I nurse my wound, stopping the blood with the edge of that scratchy scarf.

                I have to be wrenched from my seat and dragged to the elevator. Ethan stomps out his cigarette and follows me in just before the doors close. The burn of his attention makes me want to run. Needing something to do, I pull at my gloves, tuck them into my pocket. Still he looks nowhere else.

                This place is one of many. It’s at least a minute before he finds the right key. Sydney has left us a nice dinner, it’s saran-wrapped and sitting on the counter, waiting to be microwaved. Finding the small dining set, I plop myself down. All of the curtains have been drawn, but I doubt that there would be much of a view even if they were open.

                Ethan comes around with our plates. There’s a softer expression than usual, perhaps he’s in the talking mood this evening. It’s a rare occurrence to find any hint of emotion behind those spectacles, but there’s movement there tonight.

                Regret. I groan as my lip convulses against the heat, and my hand slaps up to the pain.

                “You deserved it.”

                “Screw you.”

                This time, I take a more careful bite. I’m glad that Sydney hadn’t decided on something like spaghetti. Overall, I don’t even taste it, and it all slides down into my belly without thought. Ethan’s not as rough with his dinner, and as always, he takes twice as long to clean his plate.

               When he finishes, he calmly places down his silverware, folds his hands, leans back, looks at me like he always does. It’s always the same, doesn’t matter if I’d complimented him or cursed at him, told him that I hated him or loved him. They were the same dead eyes as he observed the last thing that he cared for in this world.

The End

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