It was the body splash Jane always used to wear that tipped Dick off. A fruity flavor he couldn’t quite place. Probably a berry. Maybe strawberry. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t been able to place it as soon as he’d come in. How stupid of him.
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
And even now, as he sat there, listening to her muffled, whispery footfalls as she came down the stairs, he was unable to move, frozen stiff with that sickening sense of fear that inundated him. It’d been so long, Dick thought he’d never know what it felt like to lose all control of himself again.
Or did he? Hadn’t he, on some subconscious level, waited long for this day? Wasn’t this just the self-fulfillment of a pathetic, almost sadistic dream of his?
Of course it was. Of course it was.
He was still facing the TV. Her footsteps had ceased. But he knew. Oh, he knew. She was right there.
His stomach clenched. The hairs on the nape of his neck stood up.
Dick had first met Jane back when he’d been working at a diner out in the middle of South Dakota. It was in the mid-60s, when the Beat Generation was giving way to what would soon be known as the hippie movement; Eisenhower was president, bell-bottomed pants and long hair flourished, and a definite undercurrent of hopeful optimism crackled through the air like electricity. Everything was grand and glorious and . . . well, alive. If there was ever a time in humanity that Dick could have chosen to live in, it would’ve been right there and then.
When he first saw Jane, she was wearing a pretty floral print dress with a bright yellow flower in her hair. There had been something instantly captivating about her. He wasn’t sure if it was her carefree, confident stride; or maybe the mesmerizing cadence of her words as she placed an order of coffee with toast and eggs. It didn’t matter.
He was smitten.
It wasn’t until she’d been a regular for two months and fourteen days that Dick managed to speak to her and asked her if she’d want to go and get some ice cream when he got off work.
“Why Dick,” she said, “that would be lovely.”
They had many long talks after that. Below the stars, behind the moribund community center where the town had once held a monthly dance, anywhere. It was here that they grew close. He told her everything about him. There wasn’t much that made for good conversation, he thought. She didn’t think so. She asked all about his life and what he’d done before he came here to South Dakota, and about his friends, and his three-legged dog, and the poetry he composed after being inspired by Kerouac and Burroughs and all those geniuses.
He didn’t have to belong to the incipient hippie movement. He didn’t have to be an intellectual, or rich, or one of the liberals. He was who he was. She accepted him.
He loved her for that.
“Let’s get married,” Dick said one August evening when they were sitting on the back porch of the apartment he lived at. They were eating a slice of Mrs. McCurty’s rich apple pie with a creamy scoop of vanilla ice cream. The air was silky, the crickets were singing; it was one of those moments Dick wished could be frozen forever and preserved.
“Honestly?” she said.
“Honestly,” he said.
She took the last bite of her pie. “Let’s.”
They were married at St. Andrew’s on September 12, 1968.
Jane had always had something of a short-fused temper, but nothing out of the ordinary. Not at first, at least. It would be little things, like whose turn it was to do the dishes—none of that “women must do all the housework” here, thank you very much—or what TV show they should watch tonight. She’d normally get snippy, not talk to him for a few hours, but he hadn’t been too concerned. That was marriage, right? It wasn’t all roses, right?
But it wasn’t supposed to be like this, either.
Eventually, things got worse. She became paranoid, convinced that Dick was carrying on an affair or three with one of the gals at work. She raged for hours on end, and more than once things had gotten physical. He didn’t want to hurt her—his own dad had been an abusive monster; Dick had no intentions of going down that road—so he ended up taking most of the blows. He didn’t even know why he suffered them silently, knowing full well that he’d be able to take her down with a one-two to the face. But he wouldn’t. He couldn’t.
After it was over, she’d always apologize. He’d always accept. Love her. Hope things would get better.
Then they’d happen again.
To be continued.