She moved across the bed, shuffling the pillows to the other side, bent lower over him and kissed him on his shoulder. “Do I love you?” she whispered near his ear. “Or do I hate you?”
Billy snuffled in his sleep and shifted on to his stomach, snoring gently, too far gone in drink to be merely asleep.
Bonnie moved slowly, with infinite care for the million and one aches and bruises, some half-healed, others as fresh as the bloodstains she could see on the bed. She winced, distaste for the sight of the smeared blood mixing with the pain.
She dragged on her old robe, deriving what comfort she could from the feel of it: cotton wool-soft from repeated washing. A bit like herself, she thought wryly, catching sight of herself in the mirror. She looked… not old, but perilously near to it. She was conscious of the invisible clock inside of her ticking, ticking, ticking as she studied her face. Lately, the sound of it sometimes became too much to bear.
With one last look towards the bed, she shuffled painfully to the hallway, her muscles easing a bit once she no longer had to worry about accidentally waking Billy up. It would probably take an earthquake and a half in his present condition but she remembered one time… She pushed the thought away.
The kids were fast asleep. She tucked them in a little tighter and smoothed her hand over them. They were so warm, had gotten so big. Sometimes she couldn’t believe these miraculous beings had once lived inside her. She pressed a kiss on their brow – fleeting – and then carefully closed the door behind her.
The kitchen lay to the right of the stairs. She found it flooded with moonlight. She stared pensively out the window over the sink as she ran ice cold water over her wrists. Bonnie had been telling Billy for years that they really ought to pipe in some hot water for the sink, given that they couldn’t afford a dishwasher. He’d refused pointblank. She’d stopped asking the second time he’d hit her for nagging him “to death” over it.
Suddenly she leaned forward. The neighbor’s little terrier was out on one of his nocturnal jaunts again. The pesky little thing had a fatal attraction for her petunias. No matter what she did, it somehow found its way back to her garden. She’d complained thousands of times but its owners simply promised to keep a better eye on it in the future and left it at that.
“Shoo!” she said, voice lowered so as not to wake the rest of the house. “Shoo!”
She burst out laughing as she caught a glimpse of her reflection in the closed window in front of her. Shooing a dog that couldn’t hear her in the kitchen of her home in the middle of the night. She sobered. Something would have to be done with the dog. Something.
She came to herself with a start; it might have been a minute later or might have been more. The clock at the bottom of the stairs had just struck half past, but she didn’t know which hour. The tap was still on. The water cascading over her freezing hands.
She turned it off and dried her hands. Something would have to be done about the dog, she thought once again. Something.
Then, walking as though in a dream, she went to the big table in the middle of the kitchen and carefully selected the big stainless steel carving knife her mother in law had gifted her one Christmas.
“Well, isn’t that a beautiful gift?” Billy had mocked his mother that day, already drunk even though it was only five in the evening. “It’s exactly what Jesus would have wanted isn’t it mother?”
Absently, she got out the whetting stone and ran the blade a few times along its length. The soft schtick-schtick sound of steel meeting stone was oddly comforting. Well, the knife was exactly what she wanted, thought Bonnie. Trust a woman to know what a woman wants.
She shook with silent laughter at the image conjured up by that fleeting thought: her mother in law’s rotund face, rosy from drink, blissfully unaware of her surroundings. She didn’t think this was the use her mother in law had intended for this knife.
Bonnie held the knife close to her heart all the way up to her bedroom. Billy still lay on his stomach near the center of their bed. One of his hands covered the bloody spot where she’d lain. Bonnie looked at him tenderly as she inched closer.
That one unruly lock of hair, the feel of those beautifully cut lips against her heart, the touch of those big, calloused hands that knew what it was to love just as much as they knew how to hurt… she stood still by his bedside, a thousand waves of memory crashing over her.
“Do I love you, Billy?” she whispered to his unconscious form. “Or do I hate you?”
Her hand hovered his head for a moment. And then she brought up the butcher’s knife in one smooth, practiced motion – and cut off a small lock of hair.
She smiled at him gently, fingering the soft curl of hair. “I guess I love you Billy. Tonight. I love you tonight, Billy.”
Bonnie heaved herself to her feet and hobbled over to the tiny walk-in closet that held a dresser jammed inside, groping for the small, flat box she kept hidden in the tiny space underneath. Carefully she tied a bit of string around the lock of hair and deposited it inside. Billy wouldn’t miss this any more than he had the others. She always took care to snip tiny bits off the back of his head where he’d never notice.
She smiled as she got to her feet. She liked playing Delilah to Billy’s Samson like this.
“You might be Billy to the world but you’re my Sam, aren’t you?” she said conversationally to the man lying on the bed. “My very own Samson. I wonder what will give out first? Your hair or my love?”
Update: I tag Aditi!