When it was over, Richard Rackham took three careful steps away, sat on the closed toilet seat, and removed his socks. Remarkably, they were unsoiled, save for one fleck of red. It was fortunate that he’d happened to leave them on, although he wore nothing else. He observed the expanse of white tiles surrounding the sink.
He had a decision to make. He’d learned enough about the law when Isabella was in law school and enough about psychology when she was an undergrad. He’d read her books, listened to her patter, and absorbed it all. Now, his quick analysis yielded two hypotheticals for a course of action. An overview of their relationship would reveal the weaknesses of assumptions underlying each, and besides, he was curious how to define what had happened. So, before he decided what he would do and how, he examined the initial why.
Something just came over me. A ridiculous expression, simply an excuse for one’s choices, bad or good, that the non-analytical found difficult to explain. This was only his second glimpse of something similar during his association with Isabella, but he would be able to explain it. Ever since he was a teenager, newly orphaned, he’d become adept at self-analysis, as well as at marshaling his behavior to meet the world’s expectations.
His first foray into that amorphous “something” occurred when he first met his wife. He told Isabella, of course, that he fell in love with her immediately. When the sophomore entered his classroom during his fourth and final foray into graduate studies, he knew she was perfect for him. The sight of her immediately aroused his lust. Her body was perfect in an average way, shapely, not too thin or fat, but her face had the kind of beauty that arises from imperfections and thus is so much more interesting than the symmetrical features of most of the cream-skinned coeds he usually fucked. Longish golden hair that was brown or red depending upon the light, a smattering of freckles across her cheeks. The way she held herself was most telling. He had become adept at recognizing the subtleties of facial expressions and body language that reveal identities, so he knew that she was that rare kind of girl who could not believe in her own beauty. And the way she looked at him. Not the run-of-the-mill light switch and greed that animated the faces of most girls when they saw him, but the wide eyes of the girl who spots the live image of her fantasies, following by the blush and duck that says she knows he’s beyond her reach.
He had experienced what seemed a rush of excitement, a unique sensation, but soon knew that it was only the certitude of an analysis so quickly completed it seemed instantaneous. Over time, as he came to know her, his decision solidified. She was highly intelligent, but didn’t believe that. So unsure of her worthiness, depressed at times, though she kept that in her past and to her herself usually. Moldable, she deferred to him, respecting his desires without question. Their seven years of dating and marriage worked so well that he’d had moments when he indulged fantasies it was love he felt, although he knew it was simply satisfaction.
Today’s experience was as different as it was similar. Moments ago, he’d tasted something like rage as he clasped her hand over the razor she’d been running over her legs and kept pushing it hard into her wrist until she dropped to the floor.
He observed the still body splayed before him and knew that the sensation was little more than disappointment, coupled with decisiveness. Dissatisfaction that the stiffening of her backbone, suspected wavering of devotion and incipient recognition of other possibilities for herself would end the ease of their marriage. Then, the sharpness of his decision to remove her from his life after she admitted a strong attraction to the partner, her mentor at the law firm. That was all it was. No crime of passion, although it could appear so to others. Juries convict passionate killers. It was not an option.
Now, to his choices. Disappearing was appealing. He would dispose of the body, along with the towels needed to make the bathroom tiles white again. Turn over the keys to the rental agency with a story of their move, withdraw their money, and change his name and location again. He ticked off the assumptions—that no one would witness his efforts; that her mother, though estranged, would decide again to try to find her; that the loss of a large account would lead the brokerage firm to speculate; and more.
The alternative: the distraught husband’s 911 call after he found his depressed mate’s body. Such a horrible disease. He’d tried to get her to see someone, but he’d never thought her capable of this, he’d explain.
Could he assume they would believe her suicidal? Although the blood covered them now, he knew the light scars of her earlier attempt would be visible beside the new, successful wounds. He was reasonably confident that she had no confidants, no friends to alter his story. Would acquaintances at the firm have speculated about her interest in her mentor? Not yet, he believed. Who knew her better than he? Her admission to him had only been a spark, which he quickly prevented from igniting. Would they believe her capable of such force, able to withstand such pain? He would make them.
He pondered his hypotheses, reweighed his premises, and decided. Then he stepped onto the soiled floor, tracked blood through the living room, made the call, and returned to settle into the semblance of shock on the floor beside her warm body. Oh, Isabelle.
He touched the still artery on her neck, where he would have felt for her pulse, pulled his dear, sad wife—so warm still—into his arms, and began to rock with her in a dance of disbelief.
Unbidden, tears came. For a brief moment, he wondered what had come over him, but he did what he’d trained himself to do at fifteen, just after he jerked the wheel that drove his parents’ car head-on into a tree. He again issued a decisive dismissal of further speculation, then willed more tears.
They came easily.
This was originally published in Fall 2017 edition of The Helix.