Nothing in the Dark
Wanda needed to hurry. Frank and the kids would be home soon and she wasn’t anywhere near being done with dinner. No matter how many times she criss crossed the kitchen it seemed like she never had what she needed at hand. She stopped to scream in exasperation. At God. Through the ceiling in frustration. Somehow she just knew it was his fault.
“I don’t know why I’m screaming at the ceiling. It’s not like he’s on the roof.” She said to herself as she started to chop the carrots.
She looked up when she heard a laugh. A big, tall man with blue eyes and a calming smile was leaning against the doorframe to the kitchen.
“He might be. You can’t be sure.” The man smiled.
“Ha!” She laughed before going back to chopping the potatoes. “You a friend of Frank’s?”
“I am. I knocked but no one answered…”
She looked up from her work. “Ahhh, I’m sorry. I’ve been so busy…”
He held his hands up and smiled again. “It’s OK. No harm done.”
“Thank you.” She shrugged getting back to the cutlets. “I tell you it’s a wonder I get anything done around…” For a moment Wanda felt an overwhelming wall of fear wash over her. She gripped the butcher knife tight to her chest as she began to shake. Then she felt warm hands on her arms. Rubbing. Soothing. She looked up to see him holding her. “You’re…” She had to swallow to clear her throat. “You’re not dangerous. Are you?”
He gave her a big smile. “Well, I wouldn’t say that... but I’m not going to hurt you.”
Something about his smile comforted her. When she gave a nod that said she was fine, he let her go and stepped back to lean against the counter. Wanda resumed her chopping of the onions.
“You know, I should be annoyed with Frank.”
“Why’s that?” He asked.
“Inviting a friend over for dinner and not even bothering to tell me about it. My mother would have frrreEeaked.” She laughed.
He gave a hearty laugh. “I can imagine.”
“Everything had to be “just so” with her.”
He chuckled. “She could be free spirited at times.”
“Ha! Shows what you know. Home: had to be perfect. Family: Had to be proper. Church? She even told the preacher what to do! Not even sure why she went. She never agreed with anything the man preached.”
She looked up as he let out a big belly laugh. “You know she was right, most of the time.”
Wanda stopped chopping. “She was not. She just wanted to pretend she knew more than he did.”
“That’s... partly true.” He smiled. “But to hear that man tell it, Jesus died so man could burn in hell. I can see where your momma might take umbrage with that.”
“Well I’m sorry, but you can’t just do what you want and expect everything to be OK.”
“Wanda…” He shook his head. “...there’s a world of difference between, “God loves you” and “Be good or Santa’ll put you on the naughty list.” He smirked.
“I suppose. But there has to be a price for the things you do.” She emphasised with the knife.
She found herself staring at it. Having forgotten about the chopping.
“What?” She looked back at him a little confused.
“Does there have to be a price?” He asked gently.
She rubbed her forehead. “I’m tired.”
When she stepped closer and gave him a hug goodnight she could feel the warm comfort of his hand rubbing her back. “Can you finish up here? I want dinner to be ready when they get home.”
“I’ll take care of it.” He smiled.
Wanda needed to hurry. Frank and the kids would be home soon and she wasn’t anywhere near being done with dinner. No matter how many times she criss crossed the kitchen it seemed like she never had what she needed to hand. She finally put her hands on the countertop, hung her head and cried in frustration. When she felt him pull her to his chest she wrapped her arms around him and continued her crying.
“When will it end?” She asked through her tears.
He kissed her on the top of her head. “In due time.”
She nodded, stepped back and wiped the tears from her eyes. She laughed before going back to chopping the carrots. “You a friend of Frank’s?”
“I am.” He smiled.
She smiled back. “Haven’t had any company in a long time. It’ll be nice for a change.”
“I certainly hope so.”
Wanda laughed. “My mother would have people over ALL the time. She’d make me and my sister help get things cleaned, ready, cooking. The place had to be ready for a “Better Homes and Gardens’” photo shoot at a moments notice.” Wanda smiled with the memories of it. “She was a regular… oh, what’s her name?”
“Would you stop?” She smiled. He shrugged. She snapped her fingers and pointed at him. “Martha Stewart!”
“Ohhh.” He gave one big nod. “Yeah, that makes more sense.”
She laughed again as she went back to the potatoes. “Too bad she couldn’t have the same attitude at church.” Wanda said in a distant tone. She looked up suddenly. “You can’t go arguing with the preacher!” She emphasised her point with the knife.
He nodded. “Because he’s got a certificate from seminary.”
“Right!” She gave a big nod before going back to the cutlets.
“That he got from other men with certificates.”
“Right.” She replied in a tone of warning.
“That they…” She stropped chopping to look at him with irritation. “got… from…”
“Uh huh.” She commented cooly.
“What’s your point?”
He cringed. “Pretty sure there’s a Bible verse specifically against listening to those kinds of people.”
She squinted her displeasure at him as he smiled a disingenuous contrite grin.
“She would’ve loved you.”
“Absolutely!” He smiled.
“You can’t just go making things up as you go. There has to be rules.”
“Yes!” She gave a firm nod.
“Who’s rules?” He smiled.
“People who are trained to know.” She stabbed the air with her knife on each word.
“Wanda…” He smiled and shook his head. “All the experts in the world could get together to decide “How things are” and you know what effect that would have on God?” She shook her head in thought. “None.” She laughed at him. “God don’t care what men think is right. And they can, AND DO, vote on what comes next, who makes it and so on and none of it changes a damned thing.” He smiled.
He watched as she became lost in thought. “...But some sins just can’t be forgiven.” She seemed to say to herself.
The terror came on quickly. She held her hands to her temples and closed her eyes to fight it off. She was just beginning to shake when she felt him pull her close. He held her until the attack passed. “Can you finish up here? I want dinner to be ready when they get home.”
“Sure.” He rubbed her back before she left the room.
Wanda needed to hurry. Frank and the kids would be home soon and she wasn’t anywhere near being done with dinner. No matter how many times she criss crossed the kitchen…
She licked her lips nervously as she looked around the kitchen,
“Where am I?”
“In the kitchen,”
She suddenly realized she didn’t recognize any of it. “Who’s kitchen?”
“The people that live here.”
She looked at him. “You’re a friend of Frank’s?”
“I am.” He smiled.
She nodded. “...We’ve had this conversation before.”
He laughed and nodded. “Many times.”
She gripped the knife tighter as she rubbed her head with her left hand. “Is something wrong with me?”
He walked to her and pulled her close. “No.” He shook his head and kissed her gently on the forehead. “You’re just a little lost.”
She pulled back enough to look at him. “Where is Frank? And Julie and Rob?”
“Home. Safe. Happy.” He smiled.
She looked around. “I thought this was home.”
He shook his head. “Not for a long time.”
She began to tremble. She felt her grip tighten on the knife. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d put it down. He pulled her tighter to him to ease her trembling.
“You don’t remember?” He prodded.
She shook her head. “...I was making dinner..?” She trailed off. “...The phone rang.” She pointed with the butcher knife to a spot on the wall but the avocado wall mounted rotary phone wasn’t there. Nothing but a small calendar with a picture of a beach. Her hand dropped and she started to cry. “It was the police…” She sobbed. “There was an accident…” She held him like her life depended on it.
“What did you do?” He coaxed.
She shoved him away. “NO!” She screamed as she stepped away from him. “I can’t!..” She ran her hands through her hair. “I was making dinner…”
“No.” He shook his head.
“I - WAS - MAKING - DINNER!!!” She screamed... and cried, before falling to her knees.
She felt his hands on her arms. Warm. Comforting. “No.”
“I ca… I can’t.”
“...Can you set your knife aside?”
She looked at the knife, dripping with blood. She shook her head. “I can’t.” She said through her tears. “I’ll remember.” She looked at him. “You’ll look at me…” She cried harder. “Like I’m... Like I’m pathetic. Like I’m weak.” She cried harder. “A selfish little…” She shook her head again.
“Set it aside.”
She didn’t realize what she had done until she heard the weapon hit the floor. When she looked down she saw both of her wrists had large bloody slashes across them. She looked at him terrified.
“I’m so sorry!” She squalled. “I didn’t mean it! I’m sorry!” He pulled her to him. “I just want to see my family!” He kept holding her. “Please!” She cried into his shoulder. The pain of the loss returned heavier than it ever had. She needed the knife. It would make everything better.
But he wouldn’t let her go.
“I miss them. Please.”
The man shushed her and held her until her tears faded. When he leaned away he pulled her wrists to his mouth and kissed them until they stopped bleeding and the wounds healed.
“What are you going to… Where are we g…”
He rubbed her cheek. “Are you ready to go home?”
She nodded through the last of her sniffles before he helped her to her feet. He held her hand as they walked to the front door.
She looked up at him. “Who are you?” She asked.
He smiled that comforting smile of his. “Gabriel.”
She stared at him for a few moments before she nodded.
Gabriel wrapped his arm around her and opened the door.
She never realized how dark it had been until the sunlight streamed through the doorway.
Wanda finally felt peace.
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