backhand stories the creative writing blog

I wake in the middle of the night to find my wife missing from our bed. I slide out from the sheets. Step into my slippers. Walk softly down the stairs. We live alone. The sound of Ruth talking makes the back of my neck tingle.

I prod the living room door ajar. There she is. Sitting in her usual armchair. Her back to the door. Chattering away. I wonder who she’s talking to and push the door open wide. Ruth is alone.

I walk slowly into the room. Across her field of view. Sink into the sofa and look at Ruth. Deep in conversation with someone only she can see.

“Ruth,” I say, calmly. “Ruth, it’s me. What are you doing?” I wave my arms. She stares straight ahead as though I’m not here. The chatter never falters.

She’s talking about her childhood. Her happy childhood. Her family. Friends. Teachers. Her job in a florists. And her love of flowers.

I stand. Walk towards her. Bend down until my face is close to hers. She looks right through me. Still talking. I sit back on the sofa and do the only thing I can do. I listen.

She talks about her first boyfriend. A handsome man. A postman. And a rapist.

I’d thought she was a virgin when we married. I whisper, “Ruth. Please.”

I don’t know how to stop her.

She talks of when we met and courted. Our engagement. Our wedding. Her love for me. Her desire for children. And our childless marriage.

She blames herself. The rape. The abortion.

I don’t know why. She says she loved me, but my love grew cold. I worked hard. A kind husband. Except, she says, I never bought her flowers.

I weep silently and ask her to stop.

She speaks of loneliness. Temptation. Lovers. And lies.

I don’t know what to do.

Ruth stops talking. Her lips tremble. She stands. Makes her way upstairs. Climbs back into bed.

The next morning, Ruth wakes as usual. I go out after breakfast and bring home flowers. The florist’s choice: beautiful large-headed Roses mixed with cheerful Germini, with looped Bear Grass and Aspidistra leaves, hand tied. Vibrant pinks and reds and yellows.

All day, Ruth’s face shines. I wake in the middle of the night to find Ruth missing from our bed. I walk slowly down the stairs. The silence makes the back of my neck tingle. I discover her body in the armchair, the flowers on the table in front of her. She is smiling.