Her voice was shrill, like a banshee, and it echoed through the house. I turned the water off and left the pot soaking in the sink as I left the kitchen and walked down the long hall to our bedroom.
In the forty years I had spent with Lanna, the last five had been the worse. But that’s not how I wanted to think of my wife – as some bossy, loud-mouthed, inconsiderate, devil of a bitch. So, like the loving husband I have always tried to be for her, I answered her call every time. After all, she couldn’t help it; it wasn’t her fault that she was in this condition, so, if she was going to hate the world for it, I would rather her take it out on me instead of anyone else.
I reached the bedroom and found her on the floor between the bed and her wheelchair. Once again, she had tried to get out of bed unassisted – a nasty habit that I knew she would never break.
“Didn’t you hear me on the floor? What the hell’s wrong with you?”
“Sorry, honey, I should have been listening better,” I helped her into the chair, with no assistance from her, of course. She had been getting heavier, it seemed. Or was I just getting older? Ever since her double amputation four years ago, she had become nothing more than dead weight. And with us both now into our seventies, there just wasn’t too much more I could do physically for her. But I couldn’t bring myself to let her down in any way. I loved her.
“You never listen, Gerald!” She reminded me, as usual, as I tucked her blanket under her thighs. She slapped my hands away. “Leave it, dammit. Change the bed sheets. You took so damned long, I pissed the bed again. Jeezus Christ!”
She wheeled herself into the bathroom as I gathered the sheets and prepared to swap them for clean ones.
In the next forty minutes, I had her bathed, out of the tub and ready for her weekly trip to town.
My back was killing me as I helped her into the car, put her wheelchair in the trunk and drove to her favorite café for lunch.
As I drove, I thought about how it seemed as though Lanna was beginning to lose her mind. Just over a year ago is when it started. At 2:30 in the morning, I sat straight up in the bed and found she was gone! I was scared to death that I had lost her. I actually had to take the car and search for her. When I finally found her, she had made it to the parking lot of our church – in her wheelchair – almost two miles from the house. She yelled at me the entire ride home; gibberish about keeping her prisoner. It was beginning to become a pretty frequent occurrence. And every time I found her, she got more and more belligerent with me. I felt there were even times she didn’t remember who I was.
We pulled up to the café and, as I unloaded her wheel chair, helped her out of the car and wheeled her chair along the sidewalk to the café door, I was greeted with the uneasy stares and half-smiles of several people walking by.
I understood why, of course. After all, it was a small town and most of our neighbors knew how she had taken to treating me over the last year. To them, she was probably just a mean old lady to her husband. And ever since that first night I found her at 2:30 in the morning, the stares came more often; especially when we came to town.
On Sunday mornings, at church, nobody really acted any different towards us; they all minded their own business. But, of course, they all knew us better than the other townsfolk did.
We sat in the café and I had my usual: scrambled eggs, 2 slices of bacon, biscuits and gravy and black coffee. I ordered Lanna her favorite: the turkey club with the crust of the bread removed.
Jenny, our pastor’s twenty year old daughter, waited on us.
“Mr. Willis, when are you ever gonna order somethin’ new? Them taste buds of yours ain’t gettin’ any younger,” she giggled.
I laughed and chewed on a piece of bacon.
Lanna stared me down with a look that could have set my face on fire. “Eat your food, you dirty, old bastard. She’s only flirting with you for the damned tip.”
“She wasn’t flirting, dear. She… she was just making a little joke.”
“It wasn’t funny. You just keep your wandering eyes on your plate, Mr. Willis.” Her voice was stern and harsh and, once again, I was getting stares from a few tables.
“Yes, honey. Please don’t make a scene.”
“Then hurry and stuff your damned face so we can go.”
Lanna hadn’t touched her food, as usual. The sandwich just sat in front of her.
After a few minutes, Jenny returned with the bill.
“Could we get a to-go box for Lanna’s lunch, please?”
Jenny left and returned shortly with a small Styrofoam container. She smiled a little uneasily in Lanna’s direction before leaving the table. Lanna didn’t even acknowledge the young beauty.
After a short visit to Lee’s Hardware, we headed home.
I worked on the leaky kitchen faucet, along with a few other chores on my list, while Lanna watched her TV shows in bed.
After sundown, I cooked dinner and brought it to her.
Before I knew, it was bed time. I kissed her goodnight and went to my room; Lanna wouldn’t allow me to share the bed with her. She said I kept her up at night with my snoring. I sorely missed sleeping with her, though. Feeling her next to me. Snuggling with her. Hearing her breathe in the dark. Holding her hand when a bad dream caused her to toss and turn. Waking up to see her when the sun came up. When we were young – so young – she used to tell me I was the other half of her heart. She could call me every name in the book, yell at me all night and throw anything she wanted at me when she got upset… I didn’t care; I knew that wasn’t the real Lanna. She would definitely always be my love, no matter what anyone thought of her behavior, lately.
I fell asleep with sweet memories of her on my mind.
I was awakened, suddenly! That noise! A sound in the dark pulled me from my sleep, once again. It was loud. A pounding, maybe? I couldn’t place what it had been, but my heart sank when the first thing I thought of was Lanna on the floor again.
I got up and rushed to her room and flooded it with light as I flipped the switch.
She was gone! Dammit!!!
I quickly got dressed and grabbed my keys. I knew exactly where she was going and I had to get to her before something happened and I lost her. I couldn’t bare that.
I drove quickly, running several stop signs. There was nobody on the street at 2:30 in the morning, so, nobody was in danger. Nobody but my Lanna.
I reached the church, but, nowhere along the way did I pass her. I stopped the car in the parking lot and got out.
“Lanna!” I roamed the lot and the street in front of the church, searching for her. Hoping that I beat her to the church and she would come rolling up any minute in her chair.
“LANNA!” I could feel myself beginning to get nervous. Fear was setting in – fear that I had lost her.
The tears welled up in my eyes. “Lanna! Please come back!” My voice began to break, “I’m sorry! Whatever it is I’ve done, I’ll do better!”
I walked to the front door of the church and sat on the steps and whimpered, “Just come home.”
I tried to think about where she could have gone. But deep in my heart I knew. I knew and it hurt. I didn’t want to think about it.
I got up and walked around to the back of the church. I followed the sidewalk between the parsonage, where the pastor and his family lived, and the children’s church annex. Across the rear parking lot and through the gate of the fence beyond.
The grass here had been freshly mowed the afternoon before; I could smell it. I walked along, slowly and with a heavy heart, until I reached her wheelchair.
It was exactly where I knew it would be; where I was afraid it would be.
By the light of the moon, I stared down at her beautiful, marble grave marker: “Svetlanna Lynn Willis, Beloved Wife. My Best Friend. January 1944- June 2014”.
I sat, heartbroken, in her empty wheelchair at the foot of her grave and cried.
It had been a year since I lost her the first time. I missed her terribly and I understood that the source of her anger towards me was a result of my unwillingness to let her go. Now, it seems that she finally managed to leave me for a second time and, somehow, I knew she would be much happier without me.
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Deadman’s Tome Book of Horrors Anthology
Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes short stories and flash fiction whether it’s ghost stories, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, slasher sprees, bizarre fiction, classic horror literature, lovecraftian literature, or erotica. The darker the tale the better. If you enjoyed the story, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the authors.