SADLY JANE lay in bed and spoke as though no one were listening … and no one was.
She wrapped a strand of her candy-apple hair around her index finger, and a strand of midnight black around her pinky, and watched her fingers turn purple.
"Sometimes, I think I could just lie down and die, and it wouldn't matter…"
She sighed, loud enough for him to hear, and peeked in Gregory's direction. She watched him in the bathroom as he trimmed his beard down to stubble with the electric razor that she bought him for Christmas.
"…and sometimes I think if I were to die the world would die with me. Because I never believe in anything I can't see."
"Bullshit," Gregory said. "The world would still go on without you and it will still go on without me. Your problem is that you have no plan in life. You need to find some direction and stick with it. You give up too easily."
That was all Gregory said, and would be most of what he would say for the rest of the night.
Sadly Jane spread her fingers and admired the color her fingers had turned.
"You'll see," she said.
Then she began to talk to herself, not caring anymore if Gregory listened — and speaking so softly that he could not.
"One day you will see when I close my eyes forever and you disappear."
The old brittle windows whistled a cold and grim tune. The room was chilly and she adjusted the covers so that she would be warmer and she wrapped her toes in the blanket to keep them from getting frostbitten.
"Maybe I will freeze to death. Just maybe."
Gregory dropped the razor onto the cabinet and stray whiskers rained on the gray marble countertop and onto the floor. He patted his face and admired himself in the mirror, smiling smugly at his own handsomeness.
But Sadly Jane saw him differently. She stared at the outline of his plump body and his mushy arms that, while they used to be sexy and muscular, had deteriorated over eight years. She watched him jiggle in places she'd never noticed as his tired legs followed his tired arms into bed next to her. He rolled over onto his side, away from Sadly Jane, and flicked off the light.
"Gregory," she whispered quietly, shaking him softly.
"Go to sleep", he replied.
She pressed her cheek into his back and chewed on her fingers that had gone numb until she could hear him snoring. Then she fell asleep.
The morning came and the sun glistened on a fine, white powder that had covered the sidewalks, cars, and streets throughout the night.
It was Sunday and somewhere on the South side, melodic church bells tolled sweetly, waking the wealthy citizens on the North side, breathing another week of hope into the vagrants in the streets on the South Side, and waking a tired Gregory in the middle.
"Wake up, Bug," Gregory said, throwing open the curtains and letting the sun beat down on Sadly Jane's face. She squinted her eyes painfully tight and swatted at imaginary balls of light that were blinding her, even through her eyelids. She pulled the covers over her face and squealed. She could hear Gregory cackling with all the air his lungs could hold.
She could smell his queasy smoke in the room and she yelled at him,
"Get out! Get out, Gregory, with those nasty things!"
She could hear him walking down the stairs laughing himself until he choked, leaving her there to fend off the relentless sun and the lingering threads of smoke in her breathing space.
She added, quietly, "And I hope they kill you, too."
Gregory was making breakfast sausages downstairs. Sadly Jane could smell them, and they made her taste buds tingle – but they made her stomach queasy even more. She had lost fifteen pounds in the last month. Gregory said that she looked like a skeleton and that she needed to eat or she would starve herself to death.
"But that's probably what you want, right, Bug?"
Sadly Jane picked herself up, wrapped a sheet around her body, and went downstairs.
Gregory had already stuffed three of those sausages into his pudgy mouth before she'd arrived. He had a plate at the other end of the wooden table and two sausages and hash browns for her. She sat down, poked at the hash browns with her fork, and nibbled a bit of skin off of the sausages.
"Claire and Eddie are coming over for band practice tonight," Gregory said.
"Why?" asked Sadly Jane.
"Because I invited them. It would be nice if the house looked somewhat decent."
Sadly Jane stuffed a hunk of sausage into her mouth.
"Look! I'm eating, Gregory."
She smiled and let him watch her chew, but she didn't swallow and only let it fall from her lips and back down onto her plate.
"Did you hear what I said?" he demanded.
She looked down at her plate and let her fork slide out of her hands and onto the white tablecloth, smudging it.
"Do they have to come over tonight?"
She looked at Gregory, wide-eyed, trying to make herself look as irresistible as she possibly could.
"What about tomorrow or next weekend? Why don't you go over there instead and I'll have the house clean by the time you get home?"
"They're coming over tonight," he insisted. "We invited them and they've already agreed."
"YOU invited them," she corrected him.
Nothing else was spoken throughout breakfast. When Gregory was finished, he took Sadly Jane's plate and scraped the two nibbled sausages and most of the hash browns into the garbage, and mopped the table with a cloth from the sink. Then he adjusted his tie and gray suit jacket, put on his overcoat and boots, and told Sadly Jane that he was going to church.
Sadly Jane went to the living room and sprawled out across the couch. Her cat Princess sprung up next to her and brushed her silver-blue fur up against Sadly Jane's sheet-covered thigh.
"What do you have in your mouth, Princess? A present for me?"
Princess wagged her tail. Sadly Jane stroked Princess's long fur and playfully wrestled with something between her teeth.
"Oh, Princess. At least you remembered my birthday," Sadly Jane said, and she smiled wistfully so that the corners of her lips curled up and around like a pair of winding staircases. Princess licked Sadly Jane and nudged her with her nose. She received a petting fit for a queen for the rest of the morning.
To Useless Shard #8 ⇒
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All poems and stories on this web page are (C)Copyright 1996 - 1999 by Ronald Rand.