By Janet Shell Anderson.
I’m twenty one. I was married so long ago that I’ve forgotten. You’ve been dead eighteen months today.
In the Saline Valley, odd filaments, strange clouds, cross a daytime moon like antennae of monsters. Anvil shaped thunderheads blacken the horizon.
I went to our house after you were dead. All the windows were dark. The sea was dark that you drowned in. You were twenty.
Revenge, they say.
Your house. My house. Our house. I was married so long ago I’ve forgotten. Or I lie and say so to myself.
It’s hard to vanish. I did it. I became another person. No one here can guess, but back home, I had everything; maids washed my clothes, did my hair, woke me up, put me to bed. I had horses, jewelry; my Godfather gave me a thousand dollars in gold coins every birthday in gold mesh bags. Taught by Ursulines in Bethesda, I prayed to the Virgin in French, English, Latin, knew exactly what to order in fine restaurants when I was six. Back home, spring comes early; summer’s hot. There are no storms like what is coming here.
In coastal Florida where the house sits with the black windows, in coastal Florida, where you died at twenty, in coastal Florida, no spring ever comes. My cousin’s house in coastal Florida looks like a flying saucer. Its palm trees sift the scent of money. Every woman there is perfect, not one eyelid wrinkled.
“Yvette,” they said to me, “Sweetheart.” I dream sometimes the saucer-house has black windows and everyone is gone.
Inconvenient people drown. You and I were inconvenient. We knew everything. We had big mouths. We were nineteen, twenty. I’m quiet now, and if I pray in English or French or Latin, I do it silently. I’ve hidden in a place none of them know, don’t even believe in. Flyover country. The rich have no sense of it. In Maryland, in Florida, they don’t know the kind of storms that grow out here.
This is a lonely place, good for solitaries, with its miles of no-till crops, brief clusters of still-bare trees, its kyrie of one strong prairie hawk aloft. Pure luck brought me here. I’ve hidden where only the dry wind whispers, only the black crows talk. They know my old name. They know Maryland’s gone and Florida and all the money. They know everything.
You had no money. You went to South Florida and brought in drugs, made more money than my father, more than my uncles, more than my cousins. I married you at nineteen, and we had more money than words for it or ways to spend it. Big mouths.
You were in the water. Drowned, they said. They thought I would forget you. That’s the way, they said. Too bad. Move on. My grandfather made money in prohibition in Baltimore. Millions. My father made money I cannot even think of in ways I cannot stand to think of in Washington, DC. Both died. My grandmother and my mother both moved on. My cousins make money in investments, they say. Fast trips. Hard choices.
Revenge, they say.
I was married so long ago I’ve forgotten how you stood at the end of the aisle and I walked toward you, my silk dress costing thousands, thousands of dollars, sewn with seed pearls, my bouquet of white roses, my steps so slow, all the people on both sides like a sea parting, I walked toward you in the Maryland heat, wanting nothing wanting nothing wanting nothing but to marry you. Nineteen. I loved you. No one here has ever seen the ring I wore, the engagement ring with such perfect and enormous diamonds. Now I wear a plain gold band. That’s safe. I thought I’d have a child, but he was born too soon, two weeks after you fell by accident, so they say, into the black sea off Florida.
I went to your house. Our house. All the windows were black. The child was dead. You were dead.
In the Saline Valley, I keep time like a crop and count the rows of it, raise it in the spring, harvest it in the fall.
Revenge, they say, is a dish best served cold.
I’ve learned how to cook.
JANET SHELL ANDERSON was nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Micro Prize, included in Wigleaf’s Long List of Best Fiction for 2015, have been published in London and Paris. Her work has appeared in Long Story Short, Vestal Review, FRIGG, Diddledog, decomP, Cease Cows and others and in Choose Wisely, an anthology with Joyce Carol Oates. She is an attorney.