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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
Jean Hampstead takes a walk on the beach in the dead of night.
She reviews her life with Kent, with her family, with her resentments.
The cool, beautiful, promise of the pristine early morning proves to be, like so much in life, simply too good to be true. Or good. Or lasting.

Submitted: June 19, 2017

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Submitted: June 19, 2017




A Short Story

Nicholas Cochran


Roughly three years before their final argument, Jean planned to leave Kent. It was simply a matter of time. She examined every aspect of their life together before concluding that it was time to quit; turn out the lights; the party was over. Nevertheless, she remained for three more years.

Now, while she savored the profound stillness of the early morning, she did a rapid review of the failures which plagued them, both individually and in their marriage.

And the awful fact about it all is that I loved him from the beginning. And I never stopped loving him. I think I still do. In fact, my leaving him has nothing to do with marriage failure. The goddamnedest things fell upon us as a couple. None of them ever happened before we were married. Not even when we were courting; courting? what a quaint expression . . . word; whatever; when we were beginning our relationship.

Jean slipped closer to the edge of the water, stopping at the constantly changing endpoint of the endless waves. For a few moments, she listened to the eternal familiarity of breaking surf.

“Sophocles, long ago heard it on the Aegean” Jean remembered from her Fourth Form English Literature class.

How long ago that all seems. So much to think about before I even met Kent. And he was always a gentle man. Something happened to him when he took that trip around the world. He never seemed the same to me. Too big, Too sure of himself; maybe even arrogant. Where did he learn that? I guess I just accepted it, along with all the good things about him.

The half-moon laid a glittering trail across the ocean. The purity of the air, fresh and empowering, seemed to have sprung from some magical ocean well a mile or so offshore. Jean could not remember the night air being this palpably clean, this pristine.

She sighed as she stepped closer to the waterline, as if daring a sleeper wave to surprise her, to slam her to her death on the ocean floor.

She turned for a moment to look at the chalet. The building was a large A frame that sat a hundred yards back from the beach. It was three stories high and seventy-five feet wide. The three levels held eight bedrooms, four baths, three fireplaces, and an international décor. Souvenirs of every size from innumerable countries sat against or hung from the walls, while others simply sat somewhere on the massive square footage of the building, like the lost luggage of some forgetful foreigners. Normally, the building exuded an air of jollity and peace both within and without, an edifice that came alive with the joy of the vacationers, honeymooners—even the cleaners.

Jean looked for any lights that might have come on in the chalet during her musings. There were none. Quickly, she realized that her expecting any lights to be on, was, perhaps, bordering on a soft version of insanity: expecting something to be so, when—sighing while realizing—there was no reason for any lights to be on.  

Jean stopped walking to count the number she believed were still in the chalet.

Seven, I think. Barb and Jeff Taylor for two, Hattie and Roger Grim, Dorothy and Adrian Butler, and  then their son, Homer. Yes. Seven. Oh, and Kent.

She resumed her slow walking.

Funny, how over the last three years, Kent and I never had a vicious quarrel. Not even a nasty fight. Our only arguments were about Randy. Why did we ever have him anyway? Guess that was my call. To be fair, Kent never wanted a kid. Why the hell did I? Too late now. Well, at least he is not here. Not that anything would have happened to him. I don’t think.

She stopped again while reviewing all the reasons why Randy would still be asleep up in the chalet, if he had had been there at all.

A bat momentarily distracted Jean’s thoughts as it recalibrated its radar to avoid Jean’s hair. It  made off like one out of hell to escape what even a bat felt was a very bad situation.

Jean barely noticed the winged night creature. Her thoughts eliminated the bat while she wondered why she was out walking on a beach at three o’clock in the morning, when there was more than enough business to be done at the chalet.

There was that time in Pennsylvania, though. I think Kent hit me with that golf club. I’d forgotten that he played golf a lot back then. He said he started when he was a caddy. Never lost the swing. Beat the hell out of Homer, whenever the dork came out to visit. Jesus, what a stooge. How did I ever get stuck with him; with the others? Some people have warm, loving, caring families. Why not me?

Her only answer came from a forsaken owl.

Jean pursed her lips while she tugged at the long soaked white shirt that she wore over black pants. She forced herself to amp up her resentment toward the family gods who she accused of stiffing her in the clan department. There were several who agreed with her; Kent for one. Nevertheless, he seemed to be just as averse to her desires, her intentions—even her dreams—as her immediate family was. She harbored yearnings simply for an occasional show of affection, of caring. A tear slipped along her right cheek.

Jean Hampstead was not known as the teary type; by anyone. And certainly not by Kent.

Why did he come back tonight?. Why didn’t he just stay away for another three years? It would have been better for him if he had. The way things worked out. Much better. He could have been walking with me on a beach somewhere. Somewhere else. We’re both still young.

I’m only thirty-six; Kent’s only thirty-eight. Yes, if he hadn’t come back, he could very well have met a great woman and remarried, without kids. Without responsibilities. Without me.

But I couldn’t let that happen, could I?

Jean resumed her gentle stroll beside the comforting waves, while the clear night darkened to that point just before the dawn.Jean’s jaws clenched as hot bile jumped into her throat. She felt the stickiness flatten her long white shirt against her body. In the shifting light, she thought she saw redness around her knees.

Would I really want him handling another woman? Even fondling her? And Christ, then tracing his hands all over her while he; while he; Jesus Christno fucking way! Not my Kent! Not my goddamned Kent! That son of a bitch! Leaving me; laughing at me; the miserable bastard! Not him, the goddamned asshole! Yeah, Asshole Kent!

Abruptly, Jean stopped walking, turned to the ocean, and howled.

Several minutes later, Jean’s body sagged, then softly slid to the sand. Her head lolled to one side where the wandering waterline brushed her naturally-golden hair. The sand embraced the imprint of her full exquisite breasts. Her lips parted as though she was about to seduce the beach, the ocean, everything in her sight. Then the memory of Kent blew into her mind.

Why did they all support him? I mean, they were all so glad to see him. To see him back. But they never said they were glad to see him back with me. No. They were only glad to see him. They were secretly pulling for him all the years of our marriage,the bastards, the pricks! All against me! All for him! For Kent!Jesus Christ, Kent, you miserable son of a whore; you rotten miserable prick of misery. Yes, misery! All you ever brought was misery! To me. To the marriage—our marriage. Yes, misery!Nothing else. Nothing!

She began to sob. Gentle sobs, sobs of anguish, of melancholy, of heartbreak. Sobs of sorrow for her condition, sobs for her position in this suddenly-demolished world. Her exterminated world. The sobs quickly became more intense, more textured, more layered, layered with the sorrows of all the good times with Kent, as well as the moments when his temper—or hers—would erupt, initiating moments—sometimes hours—of brutal truths, lies, and innuendo. Hours when their acquired personalities devolved into those characteristics of the primordial gutter, of their beginnings, where muck and the foulness of language and actions scarred both of them for the remainder of their lives together, and then apart.

Jean failed to notice the black-bottomed clouds, which were gathering behind the moonlight; tall, billowing, roiling clouds that threatened to obliterate both the moon and the world at any moment. The crests of the waves grew higher, the barrels wider; everything about the sea now began to shift from benign to angry. Suddenly Jean felt all the natural changes. Abruptly she sat up, sprang to her feet, and began to run up the beach toward the chalet. After a few strides she stopped to howl and screech. Her blonde hair acquired the tangle of madness; her eyes bulged, the pupils changed to black.

Now, while the terrifying monumental bank of black clouds rushed toward the chalet, there was almost a palpable change in the vibes emanating from the structure; instantaneously, there was a foul smell capturing every atom of freshness; ghostly shadows took on the likeness of  ghosts; sounds of death, whimpers of pain, cries of despair, death rattles, all rushed toward the front of the chalet and burst out to meet Jean and her blood-soaked white shirt as she dashed toward the porch. She took the steps two at a time. She stopped on the porch facing the open front door. From inside she heard the remaining groans and soughs of those still living. The dead maintained their silence. Now no one was alive in the chalet. Those who were alive hours earlier had gone back to their beach houses. Or were in the chalet, but not alive. 

Kent lay in the hall just inside the frame of the front door. He had tried to prevent Jean from escaping, from running away from the butchering, from the annihilation of the two families. Kent’s family. Her family.

The twelve-inch carving knife of malicious multiple murders thrust out of Kent’s chest.

© Copyright 2018 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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