A short story

Fred sat on the ground and looked at her. She looked awful and he was disgusted but not enough to look away. It was eerily captivating to look at her as she was sitting leaned up against the steering wheel. So much blood. She should be dead and at first Fred thought she was and an odd feeling took hold of him. But a croak from her told him otherwise. He should have known, she wasn’t easily silenced.

She looked up and tried to figure out what had happened. Her face was contorted with pain but her eyes found Fred and she fixed them on him with the contemptuous look he had come to know and loathe over the years. As if the accident somehow was his fault. He hadn’t started this fight. There had been so many fights the last few years that he’d learned not to interrupt her when she was screaming her anger out in his face, and then she’d stop and ignore him for a couple of days. He’d learned to like that last part. He was, according to her, at fault for everything wrong in this world. In the beginning he protested. After all he didn’t feel he was to blame for the store not having the produce she wanted. Or that the price of gas had gone up again. He gladly admitted that he perhaps wasn’t as active when it came to cleaning the house but.. according to her he couldn’t do it good enough anyway so he’d learned to let her do it. But that was wrong too. It seemed to him that no matter what he did, it was wrong. He’d learned that if he protested it would make her spiral completely out of control and the rage would take a lot longer. So he stayed silent.

“Help me! Why don’t you help me?! Don’t just sit there.. useless as always..!” Her voice was raspy but dripping with venom. He looked at her but didn’t move. The fight had started in the car after grocery shopping. She had, as always, told him to handle the shopping cart while she found the things they needed. So she was in front, shopping list in hand, going through the store like a icebreaker in the arctic sea, making people move out of her way as she went. She completely ignored the annoyance and indignation she caused. Fred just followed her around. He was embarrased but what could he do. He had learned a long time ago that if he followed her silently and had the cart ready when she wanted it everything would go a lot easier. She didn’t shy away from making a scene in a store if she felt like it and that was the last thing Fred wanted.

Well out of the store and to Fred’s relief only a few verbal incidents later they were heading home. She was driving. Fred didn’t mind, he worked as driver so he got more than enough of that during the week. That reminded him of a buddy at work who had asked him to help him move the week after. He would have to ask her if it was ok. “Are you deaf?!” her shrill voice cut into his mind and ended whatever thought he had. “What?” he said. “I said.. what did you and that woman talk about behind my back?!” Fred looked at her, completely confused for a moment and then he knew what she referred to. “Oh.. well, she just asked if I knew where the canned tomatoes were. She couldn’t find them.” That’s all it took and the fight was a reality.

Fred began to think if it was possible to harness all that anger and turn it into energy. It could be a great way to get power to the house for free. The thought was kind of funny but he was careful not to show any emotions. She was still talking when it happened. “Watch out!” Fred shouted, but too late. The deer had come out of nowhere. She swerved and barely avoided hitting it, but slamming the brakes at the same time made her loose control over the car. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion from that moment but Fred saw everything. The way she looked at him as if to blame him just before the car spun around once, twice, skid off the road and rammed into a huge tree. She was thrown forwards against the steering wheel. Of course she had refused to buckle up as usual and the car was too old for airbags. Fred felt the jerk of the seat belt across his chest as it held him in place. The last thing he saw was the enormous tree coming towards him. Then the world went black.

The only thing Fred registered for a moment when he regained consciousness was his own breath. He opened his eyes and was confused. He unfastened the seat belt, opened the door and scrambled out of the car. His legs didn’t want to carry his weight and he fell to his knees. His hole body was trembling and he tried to see if he had any injuries. Apart from some pain across the chest where the seat belt had held him in a vice like grip, it seemed like he was ok. He finally got up and made his way around the car to the other side. The whole front of the car was completely smashed. It wasn’t going anywhere ever again. Her door was closed. This wasn’t good.

Fred opened her door with some difficulty and saw her. She had clearly hit her head, it was resting on the steering wheel that was bent out of shape. So much blood and mess everywhere. Fred couldn’t handle it. His legs gave in and he ended up on the ground again. She looked at him but she didn’t move. She coughed and blood trickled down her chin. “Help me!” she demanded. Fred just sat there. His thoughts wandered off.

She had been the most beautiful woman he had ever seen when they dated, resourceful and had a laugh that made him smile like a goofy schoolboy. She was even more beautiful when they got married and was the one that made sure they always had money till the end of the month. Her cookies were out of this world and she was the perfect hostess. She could do anything. He was so proud of her. Then came the miscarriage and she didn’t want to talk about it. She turned away from him. He couldn’t reach her. “You don’t understand” she said. She stopped laughing, refused to get help. Another miscarriage sent her even further away. “You can’t help me”, she said. Something broke inside her. That’s how he saw it. Something broke and made her change and shut him out. They didn’t share anything anymore. He wanted to help but he couldn’t. He stopped trying.

Her voice dragged him back to reality. He looked at her. Then slowly shook his head. “What?!” she croaked. He shook his head. “I can’t help you” he said. Not in an unkind way but he had just realised something very important. He began to get up. Her eyes tried to follow him but it was hard, they didn’t seem to work properly. She tried to turn her head but that wouldn’t work either. She struggled to breathe. Something was broken allright. “Are.. are you.. just.. gonna leave me here?!” she moaned. Fred shook his head slowly. “I can’t help you” he said and saw the ramifications dawn in her eyes. She fell silent. He turned around and walked away. A odd but welcome feeling took hold of him.

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