She pauses in her buffing to glance out the window. The snow is falling heavier now,
thicker. Maybe he’ll let her go early
tonight. Not because he’s concerned
about her getting home to her family on Christmas Eve, but because he wants to
make sure she gets back to him tomorrow:
If she gets stuck somewhere between here and there, she won’t be able to
serve Christmas dinner to his relatives.
And without her serving, how will he impress his family?
She studies her work. The bathroom faucet gleams. He won’t find water spots on it tonight. This time, he won’t find a reason to dock her
pay. Twenty cents for each water spot on
stainless steel. A dollar for a missing
button. Every perceived grievance is
fined: too much salt; bread that didn’t rise properly; towels misfolded; bed
made up with incorrect sheets; a book placed upon the wrong shelf. Every mistake costs her dearly: an
immunization foregone; her mother’s pills cut in half; an empty space where the
Christmas tree ought to be. Over fifteen
years, he has docked her pay by over nine hundred dollars.
She picks up damp towels from cold bathroom tiles
and puts them in the laundry basket which she lugs downstairs to the
basement. She dumps the basket over; un-balls
the socks flecked with discarded skin.
She sorts the laundry, darks and lights.
She treats the stains, undoing his mistakes and hoping she doesn’t make
one herself. She shoves the whites into
the washing machine and precisely measures the liquid.
In the kitchen, she mashes his potatoes and checks
the roast. She sorts his mail and opens
the package Fed-Ex delivered that afternoon.
She studies the return address – it’s from his most recent ex-wife, the
only woman who’d ever been kind to her within the confines of this bitter
house. She opens the package and takes
out a small vial, an envelope with her name on it taped to the side.
She looks behind her. She tears open the envelope. She slips out a piece of paper lightly
scented with lavender, a fragrance he despises.
She opens the note and begins to read.
know you still open his mail.
know he still treats you badly.
can help you escape, as you once helped me.
the vial. Pour it into his food. No one will know.
She shakes her head.
Crumples up the note and jams it deep in the pocket of her apron. The vial and the box and the note will go
into three different dumpsters on her way home tonight. She may hate the man, but she is no
She hears a bell.
Her signal. She picks up his
salad and takes it to the dining room.
Sets it down before him. “You’ll
be staying tonight,” he says. “You’ll
never make it back tomorrow morning.”
But, Sir…” She
keeps her eyes down, as he has taught her.
“This salad has too much vinegar,” he says in reply,
setting down his fork and picking up his newspaper.
“I can ruin you,” he says. “One word from me and your home, your husband
and children…” He snaps his finger. “Gone.”
For fifteen years, the judge has held her offense
over her head, threatening her with it whenever he finds it convenient. She drops into a curtsy. “I’ll make up the guest room.”
“You may take the salad.”
She returns to the kitchen and slices the roast beef
and dishes up his potatoes. She
considers the vial on the kitchen counter.
She picks it up, studies it. She
unscrews the lid and sniffs cautiously.
She hears the bell.
“One dollar,” he says calmly. “And another dollar for every second more you
make me wait. One…two…”
She thinks of the note; thinks of the look of joy
upon the ex-wife’s face when she finally made it out of the house for
good. Be free.
For far too long, he’s controlled her life. For fifteen years, she’s had to atone for her
simple mistake. For fifteen years, he
has abused her with his power.
She dumps the vial upon the potatoes and fluffs them
with a fork. Hands trembling, she
carries the plate to the dining room and sets it before him.
He picks up his fork and takes a bite. “These potatoes are cold.”
She shows him her teeth. Her last
words to him are, "you know what they say: Revenge is a dish best served cold."
He frowns. “Drop
your eyes, girl.”
But she refuses.
She watches him on his journey, somewhere between here and there. Then she reaches into his pocket where he keeps
his money in a silver clip. She counts
out nine crisp hundred dollar bills and returns the clip to his pocket before leaving the dining room forever.
In the kitchen she picks up the box and the
vial. She makes a note to stop at three
dumpsters before picking up a Christmas tree that night.
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Lisa challenged me with Her last words to him were, "you know what they say...revenge is a dish best served cold." I challenged ChrisWhiteWrites with I'd like to build a house of straw.
Labels: Fiction Indie Ink