Just Another Done Her Wrong Song

done-her-wrongAuthor’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely intentional.

***

When Stella saw his car in the driveway, dread slithered out of her belly and up into her throat. Inside the house, Rod Stewart crooned Best Days of My Life on the stereo, and Jack held a full glass of wine out for her.

“You’re home before dark,” she said, taking the wine.

“I came home early to talk to you,” he said.

She took up position on the far side of the table from him. “What’s up?”

Jack sat and gulped his beer. “I know this will sound crazy.” He stopped and cleared his throat. “A few months ago I met a woman who told me she’d been secretly in love with me for years.”

She sipped her wine, watching him.

“She reminds me so much of you, Stel, you know, funny and smart and creative. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but I fell in love with her.”

He stretched across the table and cupped her hands. “The thing is, Stel, having a relationship with this woman made me see how much I love you, and I don’t want to lose you.”

Stella noticed the bluebonnets in the mason jar on the table had wilted, their heads bowed like they were embarrassed by the scene in front of them. She studied Jack, the loose skin bagging under the pale brown eyes that had changed from love to fury in a heartbeat; the weak upper lip camouflaged by a moustache that twisted into a snarl as his hands had lashed out, punishing her for what she never knew.

Stella glimpsed movement in the window behind Jack’s head and saw the young girl she’d been when she moved to Texas. Naïve and overdosed on Hollywood and Happily Ever After, she’d been easy prey for the Machiavellian puppeteer who dangled her from tiny wires and made her dance. As she watched the parade of lies she’d told to hide his abuse and the other women who’d notched his pistol march past her, a spark of rage ignited inside her. She poked at the feeling to see if it were real, and it reared up, hot and bright, and poked her back.

When she looked down at Jack’s hands covering hers, Stella shuddered in disgust and yanked them free.

“Dammit, Stella, are you listening to me? I said I love you and don’t want to lose you.”

She stared at him. “You already have,” she said, her voice calm.

“No, dammit. You listen to me. I’ve figured out some possibilities that will work if we behave like adults about this thing.”

“There are no possibilities, Jack, and there is no ‘thing.’ I’ll be packed and gone by morning.”

“What in hell’s gotten into you?” He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. “Listen, Stel. I know you’ll really like this woman. I think the three of us can live here together, happily, as a family …”

She flung what was left of her wine into his smarmy face.

“Bitch.” He jumped up and swiped at the wine.

She grabbed her phone, dialed 911 and hovered her thumb over the call button. “Get the hell out of here this instant, Jack, or this call goes through. I mean it. Get-the-hell-out.”

Jack hurled his beer bottle at the kitchen wall, spraying them both with shards of glass and beer foam. Stella brought her thumb down on the phone’s button and pressed.

“All right, damn you, I’ll leave.” Jack grabbed his jacket and strode past her. “But I’ll be back tomorrow when you’ve come to your senses.” He punched a hole through the screen door, jumped into his truck and peeled down the driveway.

Stella bolted the door and went to the refrigerator for more wine, kicking the broken glass out of her way. She collapsed into her rocking chair, breathed deeply to calm her trembling, and surprised herself with the laugh that bubbled out of her. “Well done, Stella girl,” she said out loud. “You grew yourself a nice set of balls this afternoon.”

At daybreak, her car crammed to the headliner and her rocking chair bungee corded in the trunk, Stella headed for her favorite hideaway, an old 1950’s motel tucked far back in the Hill Country. She needed a day to eat up some road and let the wind tug at her hair. She’d stop somewhere along the way and pick up supplies for a night of serious thinking.

At the motel, Stella dragged her rocking chair onto the tiny porch and sat rocking and drinking wine while the day crawled into the trees and disappeared. Tree frogs, crickets and an occasional train’s mournful wail kept her company as she reviewed her life and her options. She’d lived a lifetime defined and denigrated by men, first her father then her husband, her dreams scoffed at, her opinions ignored, her body bruised. “No more, dammit,” she shouted and raised her glass to the stars. “I am free now and will by-damn stay free the rest of my life.”

As Stella stared up into the night sky, a picture formed in her mind of Jack staked out on a large fire ant bed, face twisted, arms and legs jerking against the ropes. Two gloved hands, one holding a barbeque baster and the other a bucket of glistening honey, slathered the writhing body, paying particular attention to the holster area.

“I swear, Jack darlin, I’ve never seen you look so good,” Stella grinned and toasted the vision. “Know what I’m going to do first thing tomorrow, Jack? I’m going to send that floozy of yours a big bouquet of yellow roses and enclose a thank you card signed, From the One Who Got Away. Or would a sympathy card be more appropriate, do you think?” Her laugh was high and light, like that of a child chasing butterflies across a field of wildflowers.

When Stella pulled onto the highway the next morning, Garth Brooks’ The Dance played on the radio. She listened to his lament, then rolled down the window and shouted into the wind. “Yo, Garth-Baby, from now on this girl chooses her own songs and her own goddamned dancehalls.” The sun beamed at her over the horizon, and she sped into her new day.

Comments

  1. Phyllis says

    Another goodie! Beneath the story, however, is the sad truth that too many women are defined by their relationships with men and live with abuse. Glad this one got away.

  2. Susan says

    Absolutely LOVE the fire ant bed image! Pure genius. Your gift of dialogue and scene development brings to mind you need to explore screen writing my friend!

  3. Jan Freeman says

    I found myself just today telling another one of my friends “I’m sorry men are so stupid”. How did anyone ever think that love could last a lifetime?

  4. Grampa Crazi says

    damn sweet Annie,and just the right length,,,I actually know folks like that,
    whoda thunk it ! sometimes little boys take about 50 years to grow up,,and then don’t unless a zen-master happens by,,,,good work,,,now write the song,,,hummmm? three chords ,the one ,the four,the two, and the five,,,huh !

  5. Roxanne says

    Ann, there is a theme that weaves throughout many of your pieces. Strong women characters with grit, resilience and wisdom who remind us of our own strengths. This essay was full of imagery and sass. I enjoyed reading it, thank you.

  6. Julaina says

    I agree, Roxanne. I love your characters, Ann. Plus I feel the environments you provide. I feel like I’m there.

  7. David says

    Flex those prose muscles, Ann! Superbly written, and i hope it was therapuetic, too. I am embarrased for my gender’s Neanderthal behavior which is all too common, but Stella seems to have landed on her feet. I would not want to get on her bad side.

  8. Sherry says

    Your imagery is becoming more intriguing with every story. “Bluebonnets heads bowed like they were embarrassed”…”Macho Machiavellian Puppeteer”…very vivid. But my favorite and one that lingers “Day crawled into the trees”. I saw it so clearly. The “overdosed on Hollywood ” really brought home the sights and sounds that formed our ideas about romance. Thank you again.

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