Too Bad

"i almost missed you."

The day after that incident, Marjorie had planned a study session in the form of a sleep over at her best friend’s house. This idea had arisen from searing embarrassment and a need to get away from Richard, as Marjorie had been unable to look him in the face since the night before. After work, she was to drive directly to Kyla’s house, and so she did. Except for during the commute, when Marjorie had reached into her bag to grab a Marlboro, she noticed a distinct lack of anything but clothes and her cigarette pack.

“Dammit,” she remembered cursing as she pulled a U-turn, driving back home to get her textbooks. She remembered pulling into the driveway too sharply, nearly side-swiping the shitty Toyota. She remembered twisting her key twice before it unlocked the door. She remembered the faint sound of the shower running. And Marjorie remembered the piercing scream that rang out before she had taken even two steps inside.

“Richard!” The shrill voice rattled in complete fear. Marjorie could only stare into the darkness, the entire house blacked out apart from the single shred of light shining into the living room from under the bedroom door. “Someone’s breaking in!”

“Breaking in?” She called out in reply, loud enough to be heard. Before she knew it, she was swinging open the bedroom door. “This is my fucking house,” Marjorie declared to the woman in her bed, clutching her bedsheets to cover their naked body.

She was gorgeous, much slimmer than Marjorie was. Her pin straight, black hair was so long it pooled over the pillows. She was frail, with huge doe eyes and protruding collarbones and shoulder blades. She looked exactly how Marjorie wished to – weak enough to need protection. Maybe then Richard would have safeguarded her from the world; from himself.

“And who the fuck are you?”

“That’s Dolores,” Richard gurgled back, toothbrush poking out of his mouth and towel around his waist as he emerged from the bathroom.

“And Dolores, meet the unremarkable Marj.” He gestured at Marjorie with a single hand. It was as if he had never been more comfortable in his life – completely at home, languidly brushing his teeth while awkwardly introducing some mutual friends. He bent over to the ground by the bedside and straightened back up with a handful of clothes. He tossed them onto Dolores’ lap who was staring at him in despair. He took the toothbrush out of his mouth and swallowed, exhaling delightfully. That was when Marjorie began to consider that maybe Richard wasn’t exactly right in the head. Sure, it was strange he had zero reaction to being caught in the act of infidelity – but who swallowed toothpaste?

“We’ll have to resume this some other time, sweetheart,” he told Dolores with a hand possessively on top of her head, ruffling her hair. But he didn’t look at her. Instead, his attention was on Marjorie who was seething in the doorway, fists cupped at her sides, seeming as if she would break out into a temper tantrum any second. He let his fingers linger down, affectionately thrumming over Dolores’ cheeks, her jaw, her neck. He was consoling her.

He lifted his chin at Marjorie, eyes narrowed, as if he was saying, “Oh, this? This is what you want? That’s too bad.”

And it really was just too damn bad, Marjorie agreed with herself as she sat at the kitchen table. She flicked ash into the seashell she used as an ashtray. Too bad Dolores walked out of the door that night, and not herself instead.

Sunlight was flickering through the blinds, but the house was mostly still dark. It was around seven in the morning. She hadn’t of gotten a wink of sleep, but had spent the night picking through their drawers, deciphering what was so important she wouldn’t leave it behind for a second. Now all those items sat in a suitcase at her feet. She wasn’t sure what she was waiting for – whether it be for Richard to come home and change her mind, or for her feet to carry her away all by themselves. She was fighting the conscious decision to do so.

Marjorie opened her cigarette pack and placed the last one between her lips. Chain-smoking was becoming her main squeeze.

“I’ll have to go buy more when I finish this,” she acknowledged aloud, potentially due to the delirium. “And I won’t come back here when I’m done at the store.” She simply nodded at that statement, feeling more secure in its truth. Possibly even trying to convince herself of it.

The smoke drifted around the house and she thought about how it would cease to smell as if she had been there in a few months. Her eyes watered but she reasoned with herself that the fumes were getting into them as her hand trembled, reluctantly hovering above the clamshell. She crushed her cigarette butt into it, twisting it around until it extinguished. With an inhale, Marjorie clutched at her suitcase handle, then stood with vigor. Her short legs took purposeful strides towards the front door. At 5’1, it was the first time in her life that she felt tall.

When she jerked it open, the sun flooded into the house and she prepared to be blinded by it, but a figure blocked it from her.

Richard, with one hand extended in pursuit of the door handle and the other holding a slice of half eaten pineapple pizza, blinked down at Marjorie. She had never seen him look surprised before - probably because she was awake before noon on a day off; but it was replaced in a millisecond by his usual smug composure. He swallowed a mouthful of food then spoke.

“I almost missed you.”

Literally and figuratively. Marjorie could have almost laughed.

How many times had he insulted her but played it off as banter? For how long had she been unaware of it? When had she learned to be okay with it?

It was as if, at some point, it didn’t matter if he was insulting her. Just as long as he was there…

Marjorie’s face was blank apart from the thin line her normally full lips were pressed into, trying weakly to form a smile. Richard didn’t know what that meant. He didn’t know how to react as she lifted onto her tiptoes and pressed a kiss to where his ear and jaw met, as that’s as far as she could reach on him. He took another bite of pizza. This was entertaining to him; he felt like he was watching a movie.

Her heels touched back down, and she watched him chew with a tenacious glint in her eye - one he hadn’t seen there since he had gone about smothering it.

“That’s too bad,” she said, but she didn’t look at him to check his demeanor as she would normally do. She gently nudged him to the side and walked off of the front stoop and towards her car.

Richard didn’t turn around immediately. He listened to her footsteps but eyed the inside of their home through the door she left opened. Some smoke wafted out into his face. It smelled so much like her. He listened as her car door opened, then shut. Their bedroom was visible from where he stood. He could see the dresser drawers were open. His clothes hung over the sides of them but not many of hers were in sight. He heard Marjorie’s car start up much smoother than his ever did, and the gravel crumbled under her tires as they spun. He saw the purple lingerie she had bought to wear for him left on the bed. Still, he thought it was an ugly color.

Richard faced the road as Marjorie pulled out from the driveway. Through the car windows, he could see she wasn’t even looking in the rearview mirror at him. Her eyes were pointed straight ahead as she drove off down the street – not too fast though, he noticed. She wasn’t in a rush to get away. Maybe she would come back.

He polished off the last bite of his pineapple pizza. For a few more seconds, he concentrated on the street. If he squinted hard enough, he might still see her car. But he couldn’t. Richard gave a callous shrug at the empty road then walked into the house. The front door shut behind him. He didn’t care to lose her. He didn’t care to make her stay.

Richard couldn’t have cared less either way.
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thank you guys for reading this hot mess. I'm happy to be writing again. This was an emotional trip to complete.