Cheryl resembled an alabaster goddess, her satin robe clinging desperately to her arms and hovering alluringly over her breasts by virtue of the hidden ties she’d carefully fastened out of habit. She’d drawn an early bath. Impossibly the ladies at church had taken pity on her and invited Darren to a weekend devotional for the children. Cheryl eagerly agreed on her son’s behalf, packed him up and shuttled him off. He was still protesting even as she waved goodbye, her car receding into the distance. Particularly after discovering the…thing…in her husband’s home office, Cheryl found precious little to love in her life. That included both John and their son. They seemed of one mind – a mind which was hell bent on ruining her domestic ideal of a blessed family life.
“Remember that he’s like my brother because Dad made him,” the little boy told her.
Her eyelids fluttered. She had difficulty breathing; her troubles and the drugs were a boulder pressing down on her chest. Turning her head reflexively, she vomited into the wastebasket to her right and slumped down against her arm, no longer a deity but now a mere sprawling mess of a mortal. Memories of bygone days with John commingled with errant recollections and impressions, forming a hazy dream.
Cheryl watched John as his face broke into a startled, honest smile in response to something she’s said and long forgotten. He seemed so charming then, a reasonably handsome and straight-laced young man with a bright and successful future ahead of him. He was, in short, the perfect candidate for the breadwinner of her quixotic life goals. He stayed out of trouble, was calm and collected, and though moderately interested in sex he didn’t spare it excessive thought so there was little to worry on account of his faithfulness.
She’d harbored her utopian ideals to such an extent that she glossed over anything contradictory in favor of maintaining the gauzy illusion of grandeur and perfection to which she aspired. This was not entirely her fault: it was the work of middling parents who conditioned her to become all that they were not so that they might live vicariously through her successes where they had floundered. As to John, he’d been pleased to find a partner willing to tolerate his disposition and maintain his life for him so that he might fully apply himself to his work. Cheryl was a pretty thing and while she deluded herself with great frequency on all fronts, she was remarkably intelligent and capable of comprehending his research in those moments when he felt inclined to discuss it with her.
Her spectral self dragged her partner onto the dance floor, showing the rather reluctant and analytical John how to waltz. It was tradition for newlyweds to have the first dance, and Cheryl would sooner be buried alive than fail to meet expectations. Champagne glasses clinked; cheers were heartily called from all corners. The celebration faded and was replaced by snatches of flighty sensations: her fear when they discovered that she was pregnant; her joy when Darren was born; quiet moments before the baby demanded so much care that John locked himself away to work: the only method of escape from the drudgery of parenting. It was like he’d washed his hands of the entire concept of being a father or husband. As though he’d washed his hands of her. Icy fingers wrapped themselves about Cheryl and dragged her down into unconsciousness, swirling eddies of angst frozen and fading into the blackness.
She lay there for hours, dizzy and lightheaded any time she stirred. She couldn’t formulate cohesive thoughts. Her consciousness came in fits - intervals riddled with holes. At length Cheryl was self-aware enough to shuffle to the bathroom and wash her mouth and face, pooling water in her hand and drinking. She changed the bag in the wastebasket, slowly cleaned up the explosion of pills and placed the bottle carefully back into the medicine cabinet. No one would know about her overdose. No one ever noticed. Even had John been home, he wouldn’t have wondered after her well-being – he’d have likely remained in his office: sleepless, tireless, and ghostly. Life for him and Darren marched on and she felt, meanwhile, like a snake in the grass underfoot.
Don’t tread on me.
Don’t tread on me.