Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Price of Rage

Kristine tied her mousy brown hair into a long ponytail. She allowed her bangs to remain free of the ponytail, they bordered her face in curved strands. A stray strand fell before her hazel eyes and she brushed it away with thin fingers. The hair fell before her eyes once more. This time she reached for the blue comb on her desk, but as she did her eyes fell upon the framed photo that was propped against the mirror.

Tears came to the girls eyes as she stared at the picture of her mother. The photograph showed the black and white cat sleeping, it’s tiny body draped over one of Kristine’s legs. Her eyes stared at the photo for a few moments longer before she noticed the sun’s light reflecting off the mirror.

“I’m late now,” Kristine muttered to herself as she turned away from the photo.

She grabbed her backpack from the floor and slung it over her shoulder before leaving her room and locking it’s door behind her.

Mark Myers muttered groggily to himself as he munched on a piece of toast and swirled his fork around a plate of scrambled eggs. With one of his large hands the man brushed his mess of uncombed hair back in hopes that none would fall into his breakfast. He shoved a large forkful of scrambled eggs into his mouth, allowing some to fall away. They clung to his unshaven beard like flies in a web.

He heard the soft footsteps of his daughter Kristine walking down the stairs. A moment later the girl entered the kitchen from the door to the left. Mark looked up towards her with bloodshot eyes. Sadness filled his heart as memories of the girls mother entered his mind. He ignored these thoughts, they were in the past.

“Why do you dress like that all the time?” Mark asked after swallowing his mouthful of eggs, “Always the same hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans. Why aren’t you wearing skirts and sleeveless shirts like most girls these days?”

“Most fathers tell their daughters not to dress like that,” Kristine replied coldly.

“Don’t you sass me,” Mark responded and placed his fork onto an empty plate.

Kristine said nothing. She began to pack her lunch, acting as if she hadn’t heard what her father had said. Mark felt his face begin to flush as his temper rose. He pushed away from the table and stood from his chair.

“Don’t you ignore me neither.”

“Dad, I’ll be let if I don’t hurry up.”

“I told you not to sass me!” Mark roared furiously.

The man’s right hand balled into a fist. He could feel it seeping into his muscles, running through his veins. Eating away at his soul. It was a feeling he was terribly familiar with. It was his rage.

He grabbed Kristine by the shoulder with his left hand and spun her around. Before the girl could react he had swung his right fist through the air and punched her in the face. She toppled to the tiled kitchen floor. She curled into a ball and began to cry, grabbing at the side of her face where Mark had punched her. The man stood over her for a moment before he turned away.

“Get to school, you’ll be late if you don’t leave now,” Mark stated.

Kristine had missed her bus because of her father. She now walked along the empty streets with the cool autumn breeze caressing her bruised face. The paths of dried tears were stained into her face and fresh tears had begun to form in her eyes. Her lips quivered as she resisted the desire to breakdown and cry herself to sleep right there in the street.

A trio of orange leaves danced towards her, carried by the breeze. Just as they reached her feet the wind shifted direction and the leaves danced to Kristine’s left. Almost instinctively she followed the leaves and watched as they slipped between the bars of a black fence and into a cemetery where they stopped to rest before a peculiar gravestone. A line of peeling red paint was slashed across the front of the grave.

Kristine also noticed that the grave lacked a proper name or date of death. She could see that several lines of prose were carved into the stone but from where she stood she could not makeout what they said. The girl stepped toward the black fence and pressed her face against it. She squinted her eyes and read the words that were carved into the stone.

Leave a photograph of your enemy before my grave, and I shall eliminate them for you. However, in exchange-

Mark sat on the couch sadly staring at a blank television screen. He had not bothered to turn on the television as he had only sat to prevent himself from falling. He looked down at his hands which both shook violently. Tears dripped from his wide eyes and splashed to the blue carpet floor.

“Why did I do that?” he asked himself, “Why did I punch my daughter?”

You know damn well why, you madman! a voice spoke within Mark’s head.

“A madman? Me?”

Do you remember your wife?

“My wife? Alyssa?”

Yeah, that’s the one! Do you remember what happened to her? Do you remember how she died?

“She fell down the stairs. She fell and her head split on the floor.”

That’s not what happened and you know it! Here, let me remind you!

“No… No don’t! DONT!” Mark screamed at himself and clutched his head with his hands but it was too late, the memories had already begun to play themselves in his mind.

Mark had stumbled home drunk that night. Drunk and angry. He had gotten into a scuffle with another man at the bar and lost. He was lucky to have walked away with little more then his shiner, but his pride had suffered terribly. He barely even bothered to turn the doorknob as he thrust himself through the front door and into the kitchen.

His eyes fell upon the thin woman standing at the sink. She was doing the dishes and whistling to herself. Hate and rage pumped through Mark’s veins. It was all her fault! He had never drunken so heavily before he married her! It was this thin woman with mousy brown hair so long it reached beyond her waist. All hers!

“STOP!” Mark shrieked to nobody once more, but the memories persisted.

In his mind, in his memories, Mark had grabbed the woman by the back of her neck. He screamed at her and slammed her into the counter. The woman had begun to cry and this seemed to enrage Mark even more. He whipped her across the room and into a wall. The woman slumped to the floor in a shaking heep.

Mark growled bestially. He could taste the beer on his own breath. He glared at the woman who had slowly begun to climb to her wobbling feet. She pleaded him to stop. She begged for him to go to bed, to wake up sober.

But Mark liked that. Her pleading, it filled his heart with glee. He smiled maniacally as he took a step toward her. She tried to back away but her legs were too weak and she fell to the floor once more. Mark took another step toward his wife, he was mere feet away now. That was when he spotted it on the counter. The mallet they used to press hamburger meat into patties. He snatched the mallet off the counter and turned back to his cowering wife, his eyes sparkling with joy.

“GO AWAY!” Mark shouted.

This time they did. The memories stopped. The images faded. The voice vanished. All that remained was Mark Myers, sobbing on the living room floor.

Their gossip was loud. It was irritating. And worst of all it was accusing. Kristine could hear every word of it. They were all talking about her black-and-blue cheek and her black eye. Some called it an abusive relationship, others said she was in a car accident. She never heard the phrase “parental abuse” in any of the rumors.

Ever since she had seen that grave with the red stripe on it she had been thinking about the words inscribed on it;

Leave a photograph of your enemy before my grave, and I shall eliminate them for you. However, in exchange-

She turned the phrase around and around in her head trying to figure it out. She was sure it meant that whomevers photo appeared at the base of the headstone would die, but what was it that the stone wanted in exchange? That part of the inscription had been too weathered and worn to be read.

“Hoods off in class, Miss Myers,” the voice of Kristene’s teacher brought the girl back down to Earth.

“Sorry Mrs. Bixley,” Kristene replied as she pulled her black hood off her head.

Mark drank heavily from the bottle in his hand. He had opened it only moments ago, and now the bottle was already empty. He placed it on the table with a thunk and grabbed another bottle from the six-pack that sat on the floor beside him.

His head lulled to one side and he fought the desire to sleep. The voice had stopped speaking long ago and Mark had sat at the kitchen table in silence for several minutes. He couldn’t think of what to do, and he hated himself for what he had done.

“I need to,” he thought for a moment, “To apologize.”

Her hair flailed in the wind like streamers on a kite. In her left hand she tightly clutched her pink cell phone. A lump had formed in Kristine’s throat and she swallowed. A trio of orange leaves ran in circles around her ankles.

Without saying a word she placed her cellphone at the bottom of the headstone with the red line. An image was displayed on the cellphone, but Kristine didn’t look at it. She didn’t have to, she already knew what it was. It wasn’t a photographed, but Kristine hoped it would be good enough. Silently she turned around and began to walk towards the gate. She took no more then three steps before she fell to her knees and began to cry.

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