The footsteps stopped. If Dick counted correctly, she was at the base of the stairs silently standing there.
“I know it’s you because you the only person who still wears Aqua-Net in mass quantities. The commissary at the jail must have ordered it in special just for you.”
Dick heard the floorboard creak as Jane took one step toward the living room where he sat on the couch. Even though he couldn’t see her, he imagined Jane held a curling iron already heated fully. After all, it was what she used on him so often near the end. It was her punishment for when she thought he lied to her.
“You are you shacking up with, you pig?” She finally said.
“No one, Jane. As much as you never believed it then, it’s still true now. I sleep alone, unless Nell gets frightened, that is.”
“So, how did you get this place?”
“My Uncle Wilbur died a year ago. He left me some money which I used to buy the place and fix it up. It was cheaper that way.”
He heard Jane take another step or two.
If her steps were the same length as they used to be, he thought, she should be just outside the living room.
He looked at the television screen and, based on the reflection of her in the screen, his calculations were correct. The only thing he couldn’t see were her hands.
“Where’s Nell, pig?”
“At a birthday party.”
“Nowhere that I’d tell you.”
“I’ll make you tell me, you know.”
He shivered a little at that, but took a deep breath. It calmed him.
“No, you won’t. I’ve changed a bit since you left.”
“I didn’t leave, you prick! You called the cops!”
“No, I didn’t,” he almost felt his voice crack as he said it, but he maintained control. “The neighbors did. Don’t you recall?”
He turned the television off to better see her reflection in the screen. She hadn’t moved, except to lean against the entry to the room.
“No, you called them!”
“Screaming will do you no good anymore, Jane. No, I didn’t call them. I was too busy running from you and protecting my daughter. I escaped out the door because you were about to, how did you put it, ‘make it so you’ll never be able to me again.’ I convinced you to untie one of my wrists and, when you turned around, I untied the other, ran out, grabbed Nell, and ran the hell out of the apartment and onto the courtyard between the buildings.. One of the neighbors called the cops because I was standing there buck naked and holding my crying daughter.”
“Your daughter?!? I gave birth to that sniveling little brat. You loved her more than me from the start, you son of a bitch!”
“Yes, I said, my daughter. You may have given birth to her, but you sure as heck were never a mother to her, unless it was convenient for you.”
“My, Dicky, don’t you sound all brave after five years? I think I can alter that attitude pretty quickly, don’t you? After all, I was the one who killed that jail guard. Those other two bimbos sure as hell weren’t smart enough to escape by themselves. Know how I killed that bitch? I beat her with her own club, just like I’ll beat you to death with it after I’m done with you. Turn the fuck around and face me, if you’re man enough.”
He turned just enough to see her.
Jane still wore the orange jumpsuit and her face looked older. Five years looked more like ten on her, but that didn’t surprise him much considering how she had been used to pampering herself on a regular basis. He used to have to find creative ways to pay bills due to her habits. Her tastes were expensive, to say the least. He had tried to make things work. He used to attempt to ease the stress she said she was always under with her job by taking care of all the housework, the cooking, the budgeting, and later, Nell. At first, he did it out of love. For some reason, he never thought a man like him deserved a woman like her. After all, he was on the heavy side and a bit passive by nature.
She took those feelings of his and used them to her advantage. It was never about love for her. Instead, it was control. She could control him. Dick finally realized that as she would remind him whose money it was that made up the bulk of their income and whose family was of higher status. He took it all, especially after Nell was born, in the hope that motherhood would change Jane. He also hoped that she’d see his efforts and treat him as the good man that he was.
Instead, she’d gotten more controlling and jealous of their daughter even. She told him that he deliberately spent more time with Nell than with her. The reality of it was that she was always either at work or elsewhere de-stressing, as she called it, than at home. It was a dinner party for her work that brought things to a head.
Dick had become very capable in cooking and baking with Jane being away so much. A coworker named LouAnn struck up a friendly conversation with Dick and the subject of cooking came up. From Jane’s perspective, it appeared that he was flirting with LouAnn in a way to cheat on her. When she walked up to them, Jane overheard Dick agree to help LouAnn prepare for a party she was hosting.
Later, as they walked out of the party, Jane whispered to him, “Planning to fuck her as payment for your cooking?”
“What the hell are you talking about, Jane? I’m just helping one of your coworkers with a party. Maybe it will bring in some extra cash for us.”
“More like some extra tail for you.”
He was brought out of his thoughts by Jane’s voice. It was closer now.
“What the hell are you thinking about?”
She was now within a couple of feet of him. Dick noticed the club in her hand and the dried splotches of blood on it. Jane stepped closer and raised the club to strike him.
As she brought it down, Dick flung himself off the couch, knocking over the coffee table and his tea. Her attempt to hit him was so close that he felt the wind from the club on his arm as he moved and heard the solid thunk as it hit the upholstery. He ran to his right and into the kitchen.
Jane was close behind him. As he neared the stove, she caught up with him and raised the club again.
Dick grabbed the tea kettle and shoved it into her face. He thought he could hear her skin sizzle as the heat burned into her. She dropped the club and screamed.
“You bastard! You’ll pay for this!”
Dick was already out the back door and off the porch by the time she said the last word. He grabbed the shovel he and Nell used the other say to plant a tree in the yard.
Jane barreled through the back door and launched herself off the porch at him.
He swung the shovel and felt as it connected hard with Jane’s head. He heard the crack of her skull as the metal pierced it and the thud of her body on the patio stones.
Dick stood there for a moment looking down at her. Jane wasn’t moving. He collapsed to the ground.
It was finally over. He felt a buzz in his pocket. It was Nell calling him. He answered.
“Daddy, can I stay the night at Becky’s house, please?”
“But you don’t have your nightclothes or toothbrush.”
“You could bring them to me, couldn’t you, Daddy?”
He looked at Jane’s lifeless body. There were no tears from him.
“I’ll be over in a couple of hours, okay my sweetpea?”
“Okay, Daddy. Daddy? Is everything okay? You sound out of breath.”
“Everything is fine, baby girl. Everything is just fine.”