Clean Break. Short Story.

Charles stopped digging, his hands were sore, in places blisters were starting to form. He wiped the sweat from his brown, covering his forehead in muck. He leaned against the shovel, panting heavily. He didn’t know how long he had been out here, but his back was killing him. He had started during the morning and already it seemed like it was late afternoon. After his breathing was somewhat back to normal he started to dig again. He didn’t want to stop for too long, if he stopped he would start to think and that was the last thing he wanted to do. He wanted to just forget the whole thing and move on with his life. He had done enough thinking earlier, when everything was panicky and white hot, when his stomach was fighting to be let out of his body, when he was sweating and shaking and barely able to breathe. He had come to a decision then and he knew it was the right one. No one would believe what happened. No one would listen if he told them about how she attacked him, how he had pushed her away and she tripped. They’d think he was just some woman beating murderer who deserved everything he got and worse.

Beth had been angry, going off on another jealous rant, telling him that he should have been home faster, demanding to know who the slut was. She wouldn’t listen to him as he tried to explain that the traffic had been bad, that someone had an accident. She just kept shrieking and shrieking. It had happened before, hundreds of times, probably thousands. She’d scream herself out, then he would apologise, maybe buy her something and they’d go out to dinner, or order in and act like everything was fine, because it was fine. Really, it was his fault, after all he should have rang and told her the traffic was bad, that he would be late. He shouldn’t have made her worry like that. But this time was different, this time she didn’t start winding down, there was no sobbing, no crying, only screaming loud and louder as she moved closer, getting right into his face. He didn’t expect it, her hand lashed out so quickly, she hit him in the side of the head with an ashtray. It was cheap and plastic, but it still hurt. He stumbled sideways, stunned. Then she laughed at him, invited the room to look at what a man he was, almost taken out by a woman. She had gone for him again, lunging forward, arm swinging. He reached out to stop her, grabbed her arm and she struggled, shrieking for him to let go, screaming at him to go on and hit her if it made him feel like a man. He had seen her then, all wide eye’d and mouth frothing fury and he felt nothing but disgust. He pushed her away, he needed to get out of the house, he needed to think, he needed time away, anywhere that wasn’t here. She stumbled backwards and tripped over the hoover, she was always leaving it out.

Then the world slowed, he watched her eyes widen in surprise as her body betrayed her, she fell arms pin wheeling, trying to regain her balance, her head smacked the table with a meaty thud and she was on the ground. Eyes closed, chest still. Then everything became a bit of a blur, he checked her pulse, there was nothing, there was blood from the wound, not as much as he would have expected, not enough to kill her. Then he had tentatively probed her scalp, the area around where she had hit gave in with frightening ease, like gently prodding at a bruised peach and he knew. There was no coming back from a wound like that, nothing could be done. He had panicked and he didn’t know what to do, by the time he thought to call 911 it was already too late, they’d want to know why he didn’t call sooner. They’d say he was trying to get rid of evidence. There was no way they’d believe him. So he did the only thing he could think of.

Beth didn’t have too many friends, in fact, she had none at all. The closest thing she had were acquaintances, a steadily rotating group of women, none of whom seemed to stick around very long. He knew no one would miss her and if they did, well, she just ran off, like she had threatened to do every week since they had first started dating. He didn’t know where she went, probably off with some man she was having an affair with. Those who were acquaintances with her knew that she would just drop them without a word. There would be no questions there. He packed up a suitcase with as much as her clothes as would fit, throwing the jewellery in on top. It would look like she ran off, grabbed her clothes and went. Yeah. He’d get rid of the table, say she destroyed some things before she left. Say that she left a note telling him she’d run off with some man and that he had torn it up. People would believe it. They weren’t close to anyone, she had driven everyone away one by one and he didn’t see it until it was too late. He used to have friends, real friends, and family. But she had started too many fights, caused so many rifts that he hadn’t spoken to most of them in years.

Charles stood in the shower, he was too tired and sore to wash properly, instead he let the water just run over him. He stood like that for almost half an hour, his mind was quiet.

He stepped out of the shower and dried himself carefully, then fell into bed. As he fell asleep he decided, in the morning he’d make a few phone calls, arrange a boys night, apologise to his friends, celebrate his new found freedom, after all Beth had left him and he knew that she was never going to come back.

About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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