In times of great sadness, desperation, or emotional shock, one tends to separate oneself into two halves. One half is the physical, temporal self. The other is the spiritual, ethical self. One is the body; the other is the soul. Some experts say this separation is a self-preservation mechanism. For Robin Blake (or Robi, as she was usually called), she felt as though her ethical side had stepped out of her body and her temporal side was taking control.
Robi was in pain—physical pain from her self-inflicted wounds and the cold black water surrounding her body. Pain pierced her head as she looked at the bright lights glaring down at her like accusative eyes from above the vanity mirror. She was in emotional pain from the betrayal, from the easy lies he told, and from this wicked revenge she was taking on him. She felt a disappointment in herself for dealing with her problem in such a weak manner. This emotion was an unexpected enemy, as a stronger woman would have confronted the infidel with photographic evidence of his philandering, divorced the cheating spouse, and then walked away with half his money and a confident chip on her shoulder. The intention behind this retribution was far deeper than that. Robi was, at that moment, doing something reprehensible, unforgivable.
Robi was attempting suicide.
Her sole intention was to inflict pain on David. She knew that he loved her. It was not a question. What truly hurt was that he did not love her enough not to cheat. She had hoped to be the center of his universe as he was hers. She chose suicide because it was so perfect. She had no family. She was orphaned as a toddler and had spent time in multiple foster homes. She fought for her education and self-sufficiency and was careful to form only very loose bonds. There had been some relatively good friends, but none who would miss her if they never heard from her again. She was not leaving children behind. She was only leaving the one person who would miss her. She had attached herself to him at the deepest level. He was the only man she had ever loved, one of the few people she had ever loved, and she loved him intensely. It was not like her to act so rashly; she was a thinker. She tended to be a touch shy and reserved, but this was not to be confused with insecurity.
Suicide had seemed like such a good idea at the time…
Robi was feeling unbearable discomfort, and she chastised herself for not preparing better. She was determined to do it right, from planning to cut her right wrist first (since her left hand might not be steady enough to finish the job if it were cut first), to executing the cuts in such a way that would do the most damage. If doctors tried to save her, she wanted it to be difficult for them. She meticulously timed the event to ensure she would be long gone before David came home, and salvaging her life would not even be an option. She did not want to be remembered as an attention seeker who was just “crying out for help.” She wanted her last mortal act to be a success.
Robi reprimanded herself for not making the bathwater hotter. She was shivering. She had not accounted for how cold she would feel as the blood drained from her veins. Now she felt weak and was terrified that she might slip under the water and drown. The thought of drowning was a terror she could barely contain. It would be appropriate karma to die by drowning while attempting what she thought would be a less horrible way to go.
She started talking to herself. Whether she was talking aloud or in her head, she did not know.
Should have had hotter water in the tub…
Less water and hotter water…
She thought she might be hearing a voice in the house, calling out her name.
Isn’t David supposed to be at work? How long has it been? It seems like just minutes.
Someone was knocking on the door. “Robi, are you in there? Why aren’t you answering me?”
Did I lock the door? If the lock is horizontal, does that mean it’s locked? I should have locked the door, but he shouldn’t be home yet. Too foggy to try to think about it.
David knocked louder, sounding agitated. It was in sharp contrast to the squishy heartbeat in her ears. Robi needed to just close her eyes for a minute. It seemed like it would feel so nice to just sleep. For blessed relief, she closed her eyes. Her legs had been rigidly straining, feet planted against the opposite side of the tub, to keep her head from slipping into the water. They were cramping and needed to relax. They felt like wet sandbags, and they trembled before releasing their vigil.
Fiery, violent hands on her wrists caused Robi to startle just enough to open her eyes for a few nauseating seconds. David was wrapping snow-white towels around wrists that were nearly as white. She noticed tears. His tears left shiny, dark streaks on his beautiful, dark skin as if someone had run a wet paintbrush down his cheeks. His expression of pain instantly melted her rage. She was not supposed to have witnessed this moment.
Oh, what have I done? I wanted him to hurt, but I’ve changed my mind!
David’s head was scrunched oddly to his right shoulder. Odd. His short, black hair was still neat as a pin.
He’s got paramedics on the phone…of course.
Her eyes closed again, yet she could still hear him as if his voice were coming through a soup can.
“Okay. Now what do I do?” Fear was in David’s voice. She had never known David to be afraid of anything. She had never heard this pathetic tone. “Please help me…” a short pause, “I know they’re on the way. I need them now! She’s dying on me!”
Robi felt a vibration throughout her body. Was this death? She did not know. She did not feel anything physical now. She did not feel David’s arms lift her limp body from the tub. She did not know that he had gingerly placed her in the middle of their white-carpeted living room so that the paramedics would be able to quickly administer to her. She did not feel him gently, yet rapidly placing blankets on her naked body to reserve warmth, but just as importantly, to reserve her dignity.
In some dark corner of Robi’s mind she bobbed on waves of guilt and shame.
This was a bad idea…
Robi felt mercilessly lucid now. There was no way to tell how much time had passed. She was engulfed in blackness, but could think clearly. She could see nothing with her physical eyes, yet viewed the horrible scene in her mind as if she were looking through red stained glass.
Angela picked up her hot-pink cell phone to see if David had responded to her last text message. Her message log showed the status of her message as “sent.” She absent-mindedly reopened the message to see if she had remembered to include the suite number she had reserved for them for the weekend; she had, no big deal. She flipped the phone closed and looked around the hotel room to make sure everything was perfect, and then headed to the bathroom to take a shower. She stopped to look at herself in the mirror. Tonight she would ask David to leave his wife for her. Why wouldn’t David leave his wife for her? Sure, Robi was cute, but she looked at her own reflection—her tall, svelte frame and long, smooth blond hair—and it solidified her high opinion of herself. She had striking blue eyes that people openly coveted. Robi had brown eyes—simple, brown eyes. Robi was short…athletic, but short.
An alarming thought suddenly occurred to Angela as she placed her phone on the marble counter, and she thought she should check the message again. She was probably just being paranoid, but she flipped the ridiculous pink phone back open to look one more time. Icy, stinging adrenaline poured through her veins as she let the phone drop to the tile floor. One little purple rhinestone that was part of the decal that spelled out “Angie” popped off and lay on the floor next to the injured device. She had read the message log and could see the words in her mind’s eye:
MESSAGE to BLAKE, R…SENT
“Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no!” she panicked. She stared at the phone, as if looking at it could make the reality of what she had done disappear. She picked it up and read over the message several times to see if it was as bad as she thought.
There was no way to explain away: “Davy-I got the room we wanted # 342 overlooking the bay. Can’t wait to see you!”
“I should have been more careful. David is always so careful. He’ll never forgive me.” She was mumbling. “Why would I program Robi’s number into my phone?” She knew the answer to that. She was one of the firm’s paralegals. In David’s firm, this translated into “attorney’s assistant” most of the time, and she had called Robi many times at his request. She was trying to make herself feel better, but it was not working. She thought about trying to call him, but knew he would already be home by now. He had left work early to ensure things were in order at home; he had told Robi he was going on a business trip. She could call Robi and tell her she had sent the text to the wrong number, but what were the chances she would believe the coincidence that the person she was sending the text message to would have the same initial as David? Slim chance. There were too many late nights at work. David had told her Robi seemed a little suspicious of him lately. She was sure that now Robi knew the truth.
Angela had to get out of the hotel. She needed to rush home and hide. Did Robi know where Angela lived? Would she confront her at her condo? No. She wouldn’t expect her to be there. Robi would expect her to be waiting for David at the hotel…but Angela had not mentioned which hotel in the message.
Angela nervously called David’s number. He did not answer. It went right to voicemail every time she pressed the tiny green phone symbol. She was anxiously gathering her things when she felt a wave of nausea overtake her. She rushed into the bathroom.
David Blake looked in the little window that separated him from the presence of his dying wife. He had been escorted out to keep his emotions from getting in the way of the medical staff’s rigorous attempts to revive her. He felt shame and sadness, and he could only assume Robi had found out about his affair. He had broken her heart. He had demolished her, and now she was broken beyond repair. Even if by some miracle she survived, she would not forgive him or ever trust him again.
David pulled his phone out of his pocket and thought about calling his mother, Felice. If he were to call her, he would have to tell her everything, and he knew she would be disappointed in him.
Felice had met David’s father while he was stationed in the military in Guam. He was a handsome, charming, farm-raised man from the Midwest. She was a beautiful young Guamanian girl. They made such a stunning, contrasting couple. Her heart had been broken by his father when he cheated on her. Now he realized he had perpetuated the sin by doing the same thing to his sweet Robin. He decided not to dial the number; he would wait to tell his mother.
David’s attention was drawn to the flashing light on his phone, signifying missed calls. He opened the call log and saw eleven missed calls from Angie. Seeing her name filled him with instant fury. He knew it was not fair to be angry with her, as they had both made the decision to have the affair, but his pride was being hammered down to humiliation, and he needed someone on whom to blame it. He felt the urge to hurl the phone down the empty hallway. She was probably sitting in the hotel room wondering why he was taking so long. She could sit and wait, for all he cared. She was probably getting annoyed by now, but she deserved to be annoyed. She would know what had happened soon enough. She was, he now knew, the biggest mistake of his life.
David had been infatuated with Angie from the minute he met her. She had responded to his ad for a job in the firm as a paralegal. He irresponsibly hired her on the spot, and knew he was acting impulsively. He flirted and enjoyed the dangerous attention Angie returned. Robi never seemed to feel threatened by her. She trusted him…at least until lately. She had been a little quieter when he told her he would be working late or going to a restaurant with a client for dinner, but she never accused him.
The truth was that he was arrogant. He had let himself feel like he was above Robi. He was the highly-paid, highly-sought-after divorce attorney. She was an accountant. She was an orphan and had no one. She needed him to be her everything, and he capitalized on it. He thought back to the first day he saw her in the gym, as she was intently concentrating on a news channel while walking on a treadmill. She was charming in her sweats and T-shirt. She was there to work out. His friends were talking about another attractive woman who was scantily dressed in tiny shorts and a sports bra, but he was not interested. He was amused with himself for being taken by this other, seemingly down-to-earth girl. She was probably too young for him, but he had to find out. He spent all his evenings at the gym hoping to see this girl, and when he found her, he would conveniently happen upon a neighboring piece of equipment. He started breaking the ice by typical small talk: “This summer seems hotter than last...That Charger’s game was pretty great yesterday…Can’t believe I have to work the weekend, but I guess I only have myself to blame, since I am my own boss...Are you a student?” All the simple, non-threatening things he could think of. She was smarter than that and picked up on his intentions. One day she called his bluff and nearly caused him to lose his balance on the treadmill.
“You should probably ask me to meet you for coffee pretty soon, or I’m going to get bored.” She had been smiling when she said it, and he knew she was on to him. “Of course, I’m not really a coffee drinker, but you could at least get the awkward ‘asking-out’ thing out of the way.” She continued, “I love action movies and psychological thrillers. I like Japanese food, especially sushi. I also like Italian.” At that point, she’d had the nerve to shut off her treadmill. She pulled a folded slip of paper out of the pocket of her jacket that was draped over the handle of the machine. She pressed the paper into his damp palm and smiled mischievously as she strode toward the women’s locker room. He had no idea of the amount of courage she had mustered to perform that act. She had given him her name and phone number that day. It was the day that started the relationship that would lead to marriage.
Although David had felt like Robi was completely dependent on him and just a small social step down from him, she was his soul mate. He would not dream of dissolving the marriage for a woman like Angie. Angie was intelligent enough, and certainly of his social standing, but lacked the quiet charm that Robi had. He was the powerful, outgoing half of the marriage who never lacked friends in high places. Robi had a subdued, smart sense of humor that she usually reserved for him. At business parties and events, she would politely smile and let him take the spotlight.
She seemed so young. She was twenty-six, but looked only about twenty. It sometimes made him treat her like a child. Now, he realized he was the one who was dependent.
David looked in the little window again. Something was wrong. The hospital staff had lost their sense of urgency. He angrily threw the doors open.
“What are you doing?” He wildly looked around the room to see if anyone was concerned that this young woman was in need of their help. One of the men in scrubs was pulling a sheet over Robi’s head. “Why are you doing that? Why have you stopped? You can’t give up on her!”
“I’m very sorry, Mr. Blake. We tried everything. The transfusions were too late. Her blood loss was tremendous…Why don’t you sit down?” The doctor was trying, in a very proper English accent, to be helpful, but David only felt like ringing his British neck. Who was he to decide when it was time to quit working on her?
“Doctor…” David glanced at the doctor’s identification tag “…Warren. She’s a tough little thing, and if you just give it another try, I’m sure she’ll fight.” He had wanted to sound more intimidating, but knew he only sounded pitiable. The doctor looked cold with his crystal-blue eyes.
“I am not sure she really wanted to fight.” That was a blow that brought David’s precarious house of cards tumbling down. He lunged toward the doctor and was instantly pulled away by several other scrub-clad men. “Right now, you need to go home and rest.”
David incredulously stumbled around the room in disbelief. He wanted to look at his wife, but he was being shuffled out by security. He wanted to see for himself that she was gone. He was aware of someone guiding him along the halls of the hospital toward the exit. Another young man asked him, “Are you going to be okay getting home, or can we call someone to pick you up?”
“I just want to see her one more time.” The thought was agonizing.
“Sir, for security reasons, I think you’d best go home.” David hoped this young punk in his security uniform would someday feel what he was feeling.
David wandered around the hospital parking structure until he found his car. He slipped into the black BMW, closed the door, and numbly started the engine. His head was clouded with the thought that he had just killed his wife. Technically, they were still newlyweds, but he had betrayed her, and now she was dead. What kind of man cheats on his wife of less than two years? He wanted to think clearly. If he could think, he could think his way out of the reality of what had happened.
David was nearly home when he realized he didn’t remember most of the drive. It occurred to him that he did not want to go home. To see the pink-stained carpet and blankets in the living room, to go into the bathroom to let the crimson water down the drain…to put his hands in that water, to clean up the death in the house, and to relive those last few hours in the very place where it occurred was too hideous to comprehend. He pulled onto his street. Far on the end of his street was a long cinderblock wall that separated his property from a housing development. It faced him as he began to increase his speed. The answer was right there. No more pain. No more guilt…and the possibility of seeing Robi on the other side. He felt a hint of relief as he pressed the accelerator a little harder. The well-engineered car responded obediently. He glanced at his house, rapidly approaching on the left. A blue Buick was in his driveway; his mother was at his home.
David screeched the car to a stop. His mother emerged from her car with a look of horror on her face. “David, what are you doing?” she called to him. He pulled his car into the driveway next to hers and got out shakily. “What’s going on? Why are you so upset?” David was thankful she had not yet gone into the house.
The son looked down into the mother’s eyes, and she pulled him close. He was much taller than his mother, but it made him feel like a child again. Tears and sobs erupted with emotion from the exhausted man’s body.
“It’s Robi.” It was almost all he could say. Felice knew something was very, very wrong. He continued, “She’s dead.”
“Let’s go inside and sit down, David.” His mother’s tone was gentle, masking her shock. “You can tell me what’s happened.”
“We can’t go inside, Mother.” His words made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end, as it implied something horrible had happened there.
David left his house and stayed with his mother that night. He told her what he had done and that he was sure it was the reason for Robi’s suicide. She listened, as a mother does when her child tells her something that is almost too painful to tell. She took in the bloody details with a knot in her stomach. Disappointed as she was, her heart broke for her son and the heartache he would be feeling for a long time. She tried to comfort him by telling him Robi had made the choice to handle the betrayal this way; her suicide was not his fault. It did not help much, but it was soothing to him to hear her try. It was a comfort, second only to the large amount of wine he was drinking, to hear her offer to take care of everything. He would do everything he could to avoid setting foot in that house again.
An hour or two later, David rifled through Robi’s purse. He had grabbed it as he left to follow the ambulance in case there was something in there she needed, as if she was going to be checked out of the hospital the next day after leaving all the blood in her body in their bathtub. It was an act of denial, he knew, but he was glad he had brought it because he needed to touch her things. He could not go home to get her clothes or her favorite throw, so he sorted the items in her purse. She had a beaten-up paperback novel in there. She had been reading David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. He didn’t know that. If he had been home in the evenings, he would have known. He read a few lines just to read over the same words his wife had read. He set the book down and pulled out her lip balm. She put on a little bit of makeup once in the morning, and only on weekdays when she was busy preparing taxes or keeping clients’ books at her office, and that was all you got…after that, lip balm was all she liked to have handy. He knew that about her, and he smiled. She had a Snickers bar, a couple of pens, and a thumb drive. She had eight dollars and some loose change in a zippered pocket. She was married to a very wealthy man, but only kept enough on her for a couple of novels at the used book store. It made him sad. Angie would have loved to have his money on her. He found Robi’s MP3 player, then he dug around the purse a little more until he found her phone. He opened the phone and looked at the picture of the two of them on the screen. He loved the woman standing next to him in the picture. Her alabaster face was framed by her chestnut hair, and her brown eyes smiled so becomingly.
He opened her message log to read over their last string of text messages. He did not yell or lose his calm demeanor when he saw the message from Angie; all his questions were answered. Robi had been growing suspicious, and this message had confirmed everything she had needed to know.
David tossed sleeplessly in his old bed in his old room, trying to block the images that relentlessly assaulted his mind, waiting for the alcohol to kick in. He got up and walked down the hall to see if his mother had gone to sleep yet. He heard her quietly crying in her room. She loved Robi, too. She had held it together while her son needed her. Now she was free to mourn for herself. A new wave of remorse washed over him. Robi had been like a daughter to her, since David was her only child.
Tomorrow he would have to call his work and let them know he would not be in for a while.
David turned on Robi’s MP3 player and put the little earphones in his ears. Willie Nelson’s velvety voice was singing about blue eyes crying in the rain.
Robi was a little young to be a fan of Willie, but a fan she was. It must have been the rebel in him.
Robi’s body lay cold (or at least it seemed that way) in the hospital morgue.
© Copyright 2016 Suzanne Bertussi. All rights reserved.
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