Unsteady

The noise was too much, as they moved inside, so intense. The sensation of movement, of heat was foreign after so many years. There were two of them, the beings, moving about in the heart of me. As they moved, they made sounds. There was a part of me that knew, from a lifetime away, the sounds. But the knowledge of their meaning was lost.

“Damn it, Chris, come get all your weight junk!”

“I’ve got my weights in the basement already, Babe!”

“I know, I mean all these bottles of powder! Oh damn, Chris I just spilled this shit all over the place!”

One of them felt light, steady, and hot. So hot that I worried I would catch fire. The other one felt heavier and yet unsteady.

I waited for them to go. Most things didn’t’ stay. But these two, these tiresomely hot and unsteady things, did.

Ashley felt the cramping in her abdomen first, early in the day. She tried to brush it off. It was probably just a pulled muscle from moving boxes.

Then, late in the afternoon, she felt the wetness. She went into the bathroom of their new house.

Her underwear was stained with blood, as were the inside of her jeans. The blood had soaked through, clearly visible on the outside.

They were ruined, and had Chris noticed? No, of course he hadn’t, being self obsesses as usual.

Ashley threw her ruined cloths in the trash, and got into the shower.

Chris was in the kitchen putting dishes away when she went downstairs, still towel drying her hair. He was wearing a shirt from that shitty gym he belonged to. She remembered, when they’d first met, how his amateur UFC fighting had amused her. His rock hard body hadn’t hurt. Now, after a year of married life, it was just a huge pain in her ass. The weights in the basement, the protein powder all over her kitchen. The nights he spent at the gym, not to mention the membership costs. She’d hoped with the bigger house it wouldn’t bother her so much anymore. Maybe she could even stand when his idiot friends came over.

He smiled at her, like everything was fine, and it just made her want to scream. “Hey, Babe. You okay?” he asked.

She went to the nearest box, and grabbed a pair of scissors to slice the lid open. When she didn’t respond to him, he said, “Babe?”

She slammed the scissors down. “No, I’m not okay, okay? Don’t you ever pay attention?”

“I’m sorry,” Chris said, “What’s wrong?”

“My period started!” she screamed. She picked up the scissors, and threw them at him. He ducked, just barely avoiding them. “Maybe if you didn’t spend all your time at the gym, we’d have a baby like everyone else! But no. You’ve got to go lift weights, and put all of that shit into your body. No wonder you can’t get me pregnant.”

“Ash, I’m sorry,” Chris said again, holding his hands up. “Look, we’ve got that appointment with the fertility doctor in a few days, right? We’ll figure something out.”

She couldn’t stand looking at him, couldn’t stand being in the same room with him. She stormed out.

Chris was gone the next day before Ashley got up. He was probably avoiding her, she thought, after last night.

She got dressed, and set to work unpacking boxes.

As the day went on, she found that she was having trouble forgetting the look on Chris’s face when she’d thrown those scissors at him. He’d looked so scared. She told herself not to dwell on it. He was the big fighter wannabe, after all. Where did he get off, being scared of a little woman?

Still, she couldn’t shake the feeling of guilt. Finally, she decided to go to the store for something special for dinner.

Six in the evening came. Dinner was sizzling in the oven, a giant rack of ribs with a peach cobbler. Ashley was dressed nicely, her hair and make up done. She set the table, and waited.

Six thirty rolled around, and Chris still wasn’t home. She waited. What could be keeping him? Was he angry about the night before? How dare he be mad! She’d been the one with the right to be mad, but she’d still worked all day to unpack the house by herself. Now, he was staying out late, probably with his gym buddies, worrying her on purpose!

It was after eight when he finally came home. She’d already changed into her pajamas, and put the left overs from dinner in the fridge.

“Hey, Babe,” Chris said. He came into the kitchen where she was setting up her coffee for the morning, and put his arms around her waist.

She pulled away from him, and gave him a shove for good measure. “Don’t you touch me,” she hissed.

“What’s wrong?” Chris asked.

“What’s wrong? What’s wrong!” she cried. “You’re hours late, you wasted all my hard work on dinner and you’re gonna ask me what’s wrong? Where the hell have you been?”

“I was at the gym!” Chris cried. “I told you yesterday I was going to go.”

Had he? She couldn’t remember him saying anything about it. “You’re such a fucking liar!” she screamed.

“No, I’m sure I told you,” Chris said. He laughed, but he sounded nervous. “Babe you probably just forgot. Maybe we should get one of those fridge calendars.”

“So now you’re calling me stupid?” she cried. “I worked all day unpacking, then I make you a nice dinner, and this is what I get for it?”

She slapped him across the face, hard enough that it stung her palm. When he took a step away from her, she hit him again.

Suddenly the house started to shake. A pile of dishes stacked on the counter fell, crashing on the ground.

Ashley screamed. Chris pulled her into the door frame, and held her against his chest until the shaking stopped.

When he let her go, she looked around the room in fear. Would the shaking come again?

“Since when do we have earthquakes in Pennsylvania?” Chris cried.

The sounds were too much. Always now, it was so loud. How could I help but shake? When I did, the hot one got colder, and the unsteady one felt more solid. But it

The unsteady one would leave sometimes, and that was some relief. But the hot one never left. I was sure I would burn from the inside out.

Finally, they were gone at the same time. I thought I would finally have peace again.

But the unsteady one came back. Even worse, now there was another one.

“Man, I haven’t seen you in the gym in weeks. Don’t play and tell me you got that bruise practicing.”

“Don’t worry about it, Pauley. You said you wanted to look at the weight set.”

“Yeah. You sure you want to get rid of it? It’s a sweet set up, and you’ve got so much more room than at the old place.”

“We’re getting ready to have a baby. I’m picking up more hours at work, and I don’t have time for all this shit anymore, you know? It’s time for me to man up, and start taking care of my family.”

The unsteady one shook inside. I shook too.

“What was that?”

“I dunno. It’s been doing that every few days, though. Maybe there’s a train track nearby.”

“That doesn’t feel like a train.”

“Well, maybe we shouldn’t go downstairs right now.”

Ashley pulled up to the house, surprised to see another car parked there. Judging by the junker aura it gave off, and the shitty gym sticker on the back, she guessed it must be one of Chris’s UFC buddies.

She couldn’t handle that, not with the news the doctor had just given her. She was baron, would never be able to have children. The last thing she wanted was to play hostess to some meat headed freak. She took a deep breath, and went inside.

Chris and his friend were sitting in the living room. Ashley almost cried. The guy was sitting on her brand new couch, wearing greasy cut offs!

Both men stood when she came in. “Hey, Babe,” Chris said, “How did the doctor appointment go?”

How could he think it was a good idea to bring that up in front of his dirty friend? “Can we talk about it later?” she asked, doing her best not to scream.

“I’ll get out of your hair,” the other man said. He gave Chris a one armed hug, and left.

As the junker pulled out of the driveway, Chris said, “What’s happened at the doctors? Did he say why we haven’t been able to have kids?”

“Yeah,” Ashley said, going into the kitchen. “He said everything looks fine with me. I kept telling you it was you who couldn’t have kids. Now do you understand why I asked you to stop with all this fighting shit?”

She looked at the stove, and gasped. There was a pot of red sauce boiling. Large drops were flying out, staining the stove and counter tops.

“What the hell is this?” she cried.

“I wanted to make dinner for you,” Chris said. “You’ve been so tired, with the move and all.”

“So now my cooking isn’t good enough,” Ashley said. “Or are you just punishing me for not being home to make dinner for you and your loser friends?”

“Ashley, I was just trying to do something nice for you,” Chris said.

“No, you’re just trying to fuck my kitchen up! Well, lesson learned. I sure won’t be home late again!”

She grabbed the pan from the stove, and threw it at him. The pan missed him, but the hot sauce spilled over his legs and feet. He yelled in pain, reaching for a towel to get the sauce off of himself.

The house was shaking again. “And what is this?” Ashley screamed. “What the fuck, Chris? Exactly how much research did you do into this fucking house before you invested all of our money into it?”

“I think I need to go to the hospital!” Chris cried, looking at his legs. There were blisters where the sauce had hit him.

“Oh, man up for once,” Ashley said.

So much heat! So much shaking! I couldn’t stand these beings anymore. I was sure that they would rip me apart if they stayed inside of me.

The next day, Ashley was home, still trying to make some semblance of order among the boxes, when the phone rang. She dodged boxes and bags to answer. “Hello?”

“Ashley,” Chris’s mother said. “How are you feeling?”

“Good, thanks,” Ashley said. Of course Chris would have told his mother that she’d gone to the doctor. “Chris isn’t home yet, I can have him give you a call back.”

“Oh, actually, I called to talk to you,” she said. “I came by this morning before you were up, to take Chris to the hospital. That was one hell of a nasty burn on his leg.”

“He didn’t tell me he wanted to go to the hospital for that,” Ashley said.

Chris’s mother was quiet for a minute. “How did that burn happen, Ashley?”

“Oh, he was making sauce, and dropped the pot off the stove,” she said. “I didn’t think it was that serious.”

“It was, and I don’t think that he dropped that pot himself,” Chris’s mom replied. Her voice sounded like ice. “I think you lost your temper, and you threw it at him.”

“Why would you think that?” Ashley asked. Had Chris really gone crying to his mommy?

“I think it because I’m not an idiot,” the older woman replied. “I think you’ve been losing your temper with my son a lot. And I think that you had better stop it. Chris is patient, and he gets that from his father, not me. Do you understand?”

Ashley hit the release button, and threw the phone against the wall. How dare he involve that old bitch in their business?

So much heat!

It was raining when Ashley heard Chris pull into the driveway. It was almost exactly six.

He came into the living room, where she was sitting in the dark. “How’s your leg?” she asked.

“It hurts still,” Chris said. “I had my mom come take me to the hospital this morning.” He pulled up his pant leg to show her the bandage.

“Really, your mom?” Ashley asked. “Have a nice talk with her?”

He gave her a strange look. “It was alright,” he said finally.

“Because, she seemed to think there was something wrong,” Ashley said, getting to her feet. The baseball bat was still in her hand. “She seems to think I’m not treating you right.”

“Ash, let’s be fair for a minute,” Chris said, pointing a finger at her. “I had to go to the hospital because you lost your temper and threw a pot at me. I didn’t say anything to Mom, but maybe I should have. This has got to stop. I don’t know, maybe we need to see a counselor or something.”

Ashley laughed. “What’s a counselor going to do? I don’t need someone else to tell me what a worthless piece of shit you are.”

She was close enough to him, she took a swing. She hit him on the arm, and he winced and pulled away. She swung again. “You don’t do anything around this house, you bring your buddies into our clean home without warning me, then you go crying to your mommy when I stand up for myself!”

With every accusation, she hit him again, and again. Finally, the bat landed on his head. It split his forehead open, and blood spilled over his face. He turned, and ran for the front door.

The house was shaking again, but Ashley barely noticed. She stood in the center of the living room, listening to Chris run for the front door, and out into the rain.

So much heat!

The floor under Ashley’s feet started to split, as books and figurines fell on the floor. She looked down, scared now. She tried to run, but it was far, far too late. The floor split open, and she fell into the basement. Landing on the cold cement floor, her head snapped back. She felt it split, and was still conscious when the warm blood soaked into her shoulders.

The heat, the unsteadiness, is gone. There is some warmth in the heart of me, but it will be gone soon, too. Finally, there is steadiness and coolness again. Finally, there is peace.

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