It was noon when he returned. A stream of light came through the tiny gap in the curtains that hadn’t been there when he left. Empty wrappers were on the floor and on the bed around her. With stale chips crackling under their weight, he promised he’d take care of her.
“I can’t do it again.” she whimpered.
“I know,” he said, thinking she meant the petrol smell of the truck that had made her gag, and the lolling sway of the leather seats that had been sprayed with vomit.
“We’ll get a place, rent something nice.”
A State over from his mother’s small house, they found a cute blue home with windows on either side of the front door and small porch. Above, fitted into triangular space, their son’s bedroom window peeked out at the quiet street like a third eye. They were married in a registry office. He bought her a white summer dress, and wore new jeans and a shirt.
Anderson let Lucia take care of the contracts and bank accounts. She settled the new town, while he continued to drive. But the long roads no longer brought comfort. He was haunted by the need of her skin. Finally after a few months, he found a job driving for the local mill and was able to witness his wife growing big with their child. With saw dust sticking to his skin, he’d come home to her lying curled up on the bed. “Lucia?” he’d whisper and would receive the shallow breathing of sleep from a woman with her eyes wide open. The night she leaned over him, her eyes glaring in the dark and her breath warm with pain, and told him, “the baby’s coming,” he was as startled by her voice as much as the idea of the child.
Their son arrived after ten hours of silent labor. Pacing the hospital floors Anderson had longed for Lucia’s scream. “You have a beautiful healthy baby boy.” The nurse told him, and he wanted to ask about his wife but was too scared. After three days Anderson brought his wife and son home. In the evening, he liked to sit with a beer and listen to the wood in their bedroom surrendering to Lucia’s weight.
The groaning stair under her feet, third from the bottom, told him told him she was close-by. Light footsteps brought her to him. He remained slouched over the kitchen table. The floor was grey linoleum, dirty looking, no matter how much she cleaned it. He didn’t look up when she sat at the table. The fading light reached her joined hands. In the silence she started twisting her wedding ring. It was a nervous habit she had taken up as soon as they were married. He sipped his beer and listened for sounds from his son.
He knew then that many quiet evenings lay ahead. There would be a daughter and then another son, and before the second child was born Anderson would forget that he had tried to leave Lucia once. He’d abandoned her in a shady motel with a bag of junk food and a hundred dollars. He’d hoped she could be locked away in the same place as his mother’s long fingers and thin mouth so he could drive through the country alone. But traces of Lucia had gone with him. Her scent was on his fingertips, and her silence on his tongue
Lorna Brown has been published in Contemporary Literary Review, Congruent Spaces, The Manila Envelope, and others. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College.