That’s Twice Now by Leah Christianson

Earlier in the evening, they had dinner with friends. She made a salad and he picked up a red blend from McEachern’s. She hadn’t liked it. He drank the wine himself. They ate their fill and returned home. Now they sat at the dining room table, facing one another.

“I don’t love you anymore,” she said.

“I’ll get you more wine.”

She wiped at invisible dirt on her cheek. He went to the kitchen.

“I don’t want any.”

He returned with two glasses. They were gifts from her mother. There used to be four, he remembered.

“Alright, Ok. I’ll pay someone to fix the end table.” He sighed. “Will you, just? Here.”

He poured the wine.

“You can keep the table. You can throw it out.”

“Did you pay the babysitter?” He pushed the glass towards her. A bit sloshed over its crystal edge.

She waved her hand as though swatting at a gnat, lips pursed. Running her finger along the stem, she cleaned the maroon streaks dripping down. She sucked it dry and made a face.

“You don’t—“ she began.

“Don’t be ridiculous, now.” He patted her arm.

“Listen,” she said.

There was a small knock at the door, a suggestion. He took a sip.

“Can you believe Denise’s pie?” He adjusted his belt.

“We have to talk about the kids,” she said.

“I’ll put some coffee on. She sent leftovers.” He stood.

The wine that escaped her fingers seeped onto the tablecloth. It soaked the cotton and pooled above the waxy film protecting the dark mahogany. There was another knock, insistent now. He lifted the glass to his lips, still standing.

“Jim—”

“I’ll do better.”

“I’m going to stay with Denise and Mark.”

“I’ll do anything.”

“I don’t want anything.”

There was a slam against the door, like something being thrown. In three strides, he reached it. It flung open.

“You didn’t pay me,” said the babysitter, a hefty girl with shaky hands. He knew he should know her, but it took a moment to place her face.

“Your wife said she would be right back. I’ve been waiting in my car. It’s getting late.”

“My wife?” he asked. “Said she would pay?”

He looked to the dining room but the table was empty. The Earth was moving, he realized. He felt it shift under his feet.

“But why now?” he asked. The room echoed back.

“It’s been a while now.” She looked at her watch, as if to prove a point.

“What did you say?”

“Didn’t you hear?” The babysitter recrossed her arms.

“Who do you think—?” He took a step towards her.

The babysitter lifted her chin, exposing blue veins in her pudgy neck. He thought about latching his fingers around it and pressing. He would close out the words. He would tell her that she would never see his boy and the two girls—no, she wouldn’t see any of them again. Emma, only three, wouldn’t even remember her name. He would push her against the wall of this house that he built—he built—up from nothing, where his children slept and his wife made brisket and he stayed up late watching Letterman and drinking gin with lemon, not lime. He would make her feel it all. Then, he would let go.

“This should cover it.” He thrust a fifty-dollar bill her way.

He shut the door. Returned to the empty table. Emptied her full glass into his. A bit more spilled out, splattering the tablecloth again. The stain would be permanent, he knew. Like blood.

“That’s twice now,” he said to no one in particular.

Soon, a thumping began. Like something being dragged down steps.                                                                                                                                                                                                     Leah Christianson began writing as a sixtteen-year-old suburbanite outside of Minneapolis.  After graduating with an honors thesis in short fiction from UCLA, Christianson began working in consulting.  Her work has appeared in Westwind Literary Journal and received the Ruth Brill Scholarship for fiction. She currently resides in Los Angeles and various airports.

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