It was always the same. She could count on it. She had come to expect it. People at work had stopped asking about the visible signs. How many times could one explain a black eye or a cut lip as a silly accident?
Cary's latest mishap was not as obvious to others, because she'd managed to cover her swollen ear with her hair, but boy, did it throb!
It had given her a headache that the paracetamol had done nothing to appease, and now, here she was in the supermarket perusing the magic pills section and considering some ibuprofen. The throbbing pain was not helping her to think straight, and she really needed to think straight!
She grabbed some chicken and other assorted items for her special dish and headed home. HOME…the word usually painted a warm, comforting picture in people's minds - but not in hers!
She had been out with other boys after high school, but when Rodney came along, she found his strong personality and decisive manner exhilarating. Her father had been demanding and uncompromising, so she was used to this in a man. Cary found Rodney exciting, and thought herself lucky and cared for when he asked her to marry him. It seemed so long ago now, and yet, only yesterday, that she had been that naïve girl.
At first she had tried so hard to please him. His favourite meals and activities became the norm. It seemed easier that way rather than experiencing those tirades and insults. But no matter how hard she tried now, Rodney's rage was inevitable. He was sure to find something intolerably wrong these days and lash out accusingly at her.
Cary found herself increasingly cut off from her former friends and felt isolated in a suburban isle of misery-with-a-well-kept-lawn.
Rodney spent every weekend tending his perfect plot of grass, fertilising it, sculpting it and demanding it stand at attention. At least he was able to control that, Cary mused.
She allowed herself a small, melancholy smile, as she let the warm, furry thought of her lovely little Maltese cross cavort through her mind. When she saw that little face in the mall's
pet shop window as she whizzed by to do her grocery shopping, something so strong registered within her, somewhere near her heart, she thought; and she nearly skidded to a stop in front of the shop. Those little brown eyes looked into hers, and she felt complete...and maybe even a little courageous.
Rodney was not pleased when she brought the pup home and dealt out some of his finest and fiercest anger towards them.
But, directed at them both, it seemed Rodney's wrath somehow became a little diluted. Inured to his behaviour, these days Cary felt slightly removed from his onslaught, and now, proudly possessing a comrade and someone to protect, she felt a little bit stronger and able to cope.
Of course, there was also a lot more coping to do. Roxy sometimes dared not only to place a paw on Rodney's pride and joy of a lawn, she occasionally couldn't resist and did what all dogs need to do right in the middle of Rodney's green masterpiece.
‘That stupid, damned animal,’ Rodney would rant. ‘How much do you think it would take for me to wring its scrawny neck and throw it up against that fence? A big, strong guy like me? I should stuff its ugly little face in the shredder!’
Cary would see that Roxy was safely and quietly out of sight, and she would find some activity out of hearing range until Rodney wore himself out for the time being.
Later on, she would find Roxy, hug her tight and tell her how important, smart and precious she was. That warm glow would tingle through her chest and a small smile would creep across her face as she shared this security and sense of belonging with her little friend.
Now, when she pulled into the driveway she still found herself surprised by the emptiness, with no happy barking to greet her. It had been two months since her beloved Roxy had disappeared. All the searching of pounds and vets and neighbours had proved unsuccessful, and Cary could still remember the feeling in her stomach when she somehow knew just exactly who was responsible for this final insult.
She would not even give that feral monster the satisfaction of accusing him of his latest, cruelest crime, because somehow she knew he would be proud to tell her the grisly details.
All the physical pain to her body had become routine and almost tolerable, but Roxy's sacrifice somehow gave her the strength to do something.
Once she'd made up her mind, it almost seemed simple.
Rodney was not very smart when it came to business, and left the book keeping to her, as long as she never spent any money on herself. But transferring funds to one's personal off-shore account was not exactly ‘spending’ it, was it?
She had been secretly packing for weeks now. Only her favourite things. Not the outfits HE approved of, but the ones that made her feel special. Plus her mother's ruby ring, some precious photos and a certain small copper dog tag for luck. It was surprising there were so few things from her present life she felt necessary to transport to her new life.
As she browned the chicken for one of Rodney's favourite Asian meals, she thought of her packed suitcases secreted away in a cupboard upstairs, and this combination of comfort, excitement and hot chilli fumes filling her sinuses soothed her throbbing head. She noticed it all at once...and smiled a little smile.
Arranging the chicken pieces in the casserole dish, she was careful to position Rodney's portion in just the right place so it would be evident when she served it to him tonight. She never knew why she'd kept some of her dad's vet supplies after he died. Perhaps she'd had a premonition that they'd come in handy some day... Just enough sedative to give Rodney a good, uninterrupted night's sleep in that gaudy king sized bed with the ugly gold scroll trim around the headboard. Her new one would have a plain natural wood finish with maybe a few colourful pillows strewn across it to camouflage any dog hairs....
Again. That smile.
She couldn't help herself whenever she thought of her devilish, deserving, final insult. She knew it was childish, but it had given her such satisfaction and delight to carefully spray Zero weed killer in that well planned pattern across the front lawn. Several inverted heart-like
shapes with four small ovals on top. If all went to plan the patches of dead grass should look exactly like six giant dog paws running across Rodney's lawn.
How she wished she could have a photo.
Cary left the kitchen and headed upstairs. She knew she had just enough time for a last bath and change of clothes before Rodney returned home.
Still smiling, she wondered what Air Mauritius would serve in the first class section when she settled down with her glass of champagne later that night......
© Linda Collins 2012
Oufoxed and outsmarted
Once upon a time, long, long ago, way before last Saturday, and even before your last birthday, there lived a beautiful fairy princess. She was so beautiful that every time she saw her reflection in a puddle, it surprised her and made her feel special.
She lived in a beautiful, enchanted garden. Okay, the vacant lot next door, but it was beautiful to her. A few loose rocks and bricks lay around where an old cottage once stood, and part of an old skyscraper-like chimney was great for zooming down at great speed, scraping off some old soot on the way down, and then doing a triple back-flip somersault before touchdown on the fairy landing pad.
Every morning a magnificent chorus of chortling magpies announced its arrival with an elegant aria that harmonised with the screeches of the wattle-birds and the tootle-toots of the rosellas. Every summer the banksia roses bloomed on the wall.
Every spring, without fail, the lilac in the far corner erupted into beautiful shades of purple and encouraged billions of bees, or at least 35 or so, to come for a sip. The Royal Roses - Fairy-Princess-Pink perfumed plants, Magic-Wand-Yellow bushes and some with white blossoms the same shade as Magic Fairy Dust - seemed to be always flowering. At least one was always blooming when she needed some soft petals to land on, while being careful of thorns on her fragile fairy skin.
It was so peaceful and quiet in the enchanted garden. Sometimes a neighbourhood cat would wander in for a nap near the begonias. He looked so comfortable that the beautiful fairy princess would often snuggle down in his warm fur and enjoy the gentle vibrations.
Then, one dark, cold day, when the garden was wet with rain and only the spiders didn't mind hanging around outside, the gentle raindrop tapping was suddenly punctuated with a loud bang and clunk.
When the fairy princess heard those loud, ugly men's loud, ugly words, she got up from her hearth-side hideaway, dusted some soot off her gossamer wings, and knew she would have to get to work right away.
She tapped her magic wand against a chimney brick to shake the dust off, and waved it in an elegant figure eight across the sea of violets separating her from the rapidly-receding blobs of those cold, calculating demolition dynamos.
The tiny rainbow of magic waves hit the three men simultaneously and slowed their pace down by half. Instead of a strident stomp on the glistening grass and lucky four-leaf clover carpet, they were moving carefully, aiming their boots gently, lifting their weight daintily and swinging their arms in a magical wave. They looked almost harmless to her, but the beautiful fairy princess was brainy too, and she knew she would have to do more than slow them down.
She would have to back them up; rewind to before the greedy grandchildren contacted an estate agent and met the dastardly developers. Back to a time before everything was set in motion, and maybe even a long time before that.
Before last Tuesday and even before last Christmas.
The many levels of power held in a fairy's magic wand way outnumbered hairy, loud men's testosterone levels. And beautiful, brainy fairy princesses could certainly outsmart them.
She knew she could not safeguard all the secret gardens in the world, maybe not even in her neighbourhood; but she noticed her gossamer wings lifting up as she put her shoulders back and felt proud that she could at least preserve this small, pleasant garden. After examining her wand for wear and tear, the beautiful fairy princess looked around and smiled.
What a good idea!
Later, she would sift through some of her magic fairy dust...
© Linda Collins 2012