We Don't Make Love

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Thom and his wife don't make love. (It's not erotica.)

Submitted: November 02, 2007

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Submitted: November 02, 2007

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We Don’t Make Love, We Just

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Christmas came early again, thought Thom.

Winter. Winter came early.

The snow lay in thick drifts in the fields, and in the woods, it piled, where it had sneaked its way through the trees. The canopies were bare of leaves for the most part; brown and dead looking, but here and there, conifers threw smears of colour into the cold, grey, winter landscape. The canopy itself was so thick that even without the broad, green leaves covering the branches, the ground was dark, covered in shadow, and the sun, let alone the snow, could barely peek through. The gaps where it managed were few and far between, and only there could grass and flowers grow. The snow buried them so that just the tips peaked out, and the wind whipped and whistled through the trees, drifting the snow so that in its depths the grass looked like green cities of skyscrapers, buried in the dunes of an encroaching desert, some kind of omen maybe, of an ever looming apocalypse.

Christmas comes at the same time every year.

The dirt was solid, frozen into iron. Thom found softer ground where thin roots broke up the soil, and snow had drifted, insulating it from the cold, making it easier to dig. He hacked away for hours, the cold earth unwilling to yield, but he persisted. His breath billowed, and moisture from it froze in his scarf, causing him to stop every now and then and beat it against a tree, breaking out the ice.

The exertions made him sweat profusely, his longish, greying hair adhering itself to his forehead, and despite the bitter cold, he had to take off his jacket as he worked. Nerves and cold combined created a waterworks in him and he had to frequently walk off a way and urinate in some hidden bushes. He knew he was going to get dehydrated if he didn’t hurry.

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Through some superhuman feat of strength, he’d dragged the dead weight over six miles of fields and dense woodland. The heavy snow in the open had hidden his tracks minutes after they’d been made, and in the woods, he’d taken care only to travel the most frozen path, utilising tree roots as bridges and stepping-stones. He was far from where anyone would see him, but nevertheless, wasn’t going to take any chances.

He shaped the edges of the hole, carefully gauging the size. He didn’t want to make it any bigger than he needed.

At last, he threw the spade behind him, breathing heavily, and took a hold on the black plastic sheeting. He tugged, but moisture on the sheeting had frozen and the smooth leather exterior of his gloves slipped on it, sending him tumbling backwards into the hole. Dazed he staggered to his feet and pulled off his gloves, gripping the freezing plastic tightly in his bare hands. He leaned backwards, gaining leverage, and stepped down into the hole, pulling the plastic and its heavy contents down with him, a soft thud audible on the hard soil, and a muffled groan from within the bag.

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Thom looked around anxiously from the noise and then set about bending the package to fit into the hole. It resisted furiously, muffled shouting from within, but a few blows from Thom’s fist and the hard walls of the hole eventually calmed it down. Thom climbed out and looked down on the black, silvered shape; small whimpering sounds were coming from within, and he knew that the contents were crying. He shook his head sadly, and pulled a wedding band off his finger, throwing it down where it glinted dejectedly, shining in the dim dusk light.

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The plastic shape let out a terrified, but stifled yell as the first shovel-full of earth landed on it, and once again writhed about, unconscious of hitting itself against the walls of its grave. The soil built up around it, gradually stopping it from being able to move, and Thom just continued to pile on the earth.

He flattened down the mound as best he could, unwilling to jump on it, or beat it down hard with the shovel, and then scooped up snow from a nearby drift, sculpting it over his mound to look like a similar, smaller one.

He stood over the grave, and gave a liturgy, of sorts.

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*
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By the time he arrived home, darkness had set in; the snow reflecting what light the moon could steal through the clouds, giving the cold world an eerie, foreboding glow. Thom rinsed off his boots and shovel in the yard, drying them with a towel, which he then put on a quick-cycle in the machine, and left them in the garage with the Land Rover. He opened the boot, and vacuumed it out; emptying the vacuum in the compost heap he kept down near the vegetable patch. He went over the car with a magnifying glass and tweezers, removing every hair and stray fibre he could find, then called his dog over from the kennel and let him climb into the boot, where Thom shut him in. He breathed a sigh of relief, and walked slowly inside.

“Thom? You back?”

He let his head fall forward as he sighed, and he closed his eyes. The pause seemed to last eternity before he took a deep breath and replied:

“Yeah Chrissie, it’s me.” He called.

Her head peered around the door down the hall, and she blew him a kiss. “Sorry darling, I’m up to my elbows in flour. Did Bertram enjoy his walk?”

Thom nodded and smiled warmly, hanging his hat on the hook by the door, and peeling off his jacket. “He had a great time – you know how he loves the snow! I left him in the car tonight; it’ll be warmer in the garage than his kennel. I think it’s too cold for him outside in this weather.” He paused and she nodded, her head disappearing back into the kitchen.

“Will supper be long?”

“No,” Came back Christine’s disembodied voice from through the doorway, “I’m just making sour dough – It’ll be about an hour.”

He stood in the doorway of the kitchen and watched her as she kneaded the dough, her strong, slender arms tight with the muscles of a hard working housewife. She brushed one of her own silvering locks away from her brow, and Thom admired her strong face, lined by the years, deep furrows beginning to show themselves around her ever-smiling eyes. She smiled at him watching her, and he smiled back and came and kissed her tenderly.

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Later that night, as Thom settled down in front of a crackling fire, slippers on, and a good book and glass of brandy at his side, Christine slipped quietly into the room from the kitchen, where she’d been doing the washing up. She put her hands over his eyes from behind and then nimbly swung herself round onto his lap. ”Guess who!” she said playfully. She uncovered his eyes and looked into them for a few minutes. Thom thought she seemed troubled at what she found in there, but she said nothing, and eventually just put her arms around him and rested her head against his chest. They sat for a long while then, in silence, and Thom’s eyes grew heavy, he felt his eyelids droop and darkness washed over him.

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When he awoke, Christine was gone, his lap cold, and the fire had died down to a red glow nestling amongst the embers. He left to join her in bed, placing the guard carefully over the fire.

Upstairs, he undressed in the bathroom, quickly putting on his pyjamas, the cold almost too much to bear. He hurried into bed, turning off the light in the bathroom, and finding his way in the dark. His side of the bed was cold, and he pressed close to Christine to share her warmth. She stirred, but didn’t wake, and as his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he raised himself up on an elbow to look at her sleeping form.

He sang a quiet lullaby under his breath as he watched her, and she briefly woke, smiling at him and murmuring, “I love you,” before falling back to sleep.

“I love you, so much,” He whispered as he stroked her hair, gazing tenderly at her pretty face. So pretty, he thought. Even as a silhouette - even as age and dusk dulled the skin and took the spring out of her step - she was striking. He knew that he would always love her, always adore her, and that to him, she would always be perfect; always be beautiful.

His mind drifted off and he lay back onto his pillow. He rubbed his forehead despondently, and didn’t sleep one wink that night.

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*
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In the morning, before Christine was awake, Thom carefully injected her, just above the ankle where the skin wasn’t so sensitive, with a sedative he’d procured from the veterinary surgery when the dog had its last check-up, and taped her ankles and wrists together. He then taped over her mouth, and, leaving her in her nightdress, he wrapped her in a black tarpaulin. He cut a small slit in it for air as he taped it up, and left her upstairs, drugged into unconsciousness as he ate breakfast.

When he’d finished eating and washed the dishes, he fetched her from upstairs, still unconscious, staggering with her weight over his shoulders, and loaded her into the back of the Land Rover, turning Bertram out into the yard, where he slunk off into the kennel. He took the needle and syringe and buried them in the roots of an apple tree out in the orchard.

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He drove the Land Rover to a field a couple of miles from the woods and parked it in a little copse of trees, just off the road, where it would leave no long tracks to draw attention to it, and would be hidden from sight. There were no houses for several miles. The only nearby road was the one he’d just driven down, and it was unlikely that there’d be many people out in this weather.

The snow began to fall heavier as he opened the boot and took a hold of the tarpaulin; its grey mist obscuring the horizon and making Thom feel more at ease. He tugged hard and Christine fell with a dull thud onto the snow. She stirred, the drug beginning to wear off, but Thom ignored this, and began his arduous trek across the fields.

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That dusk, Thom once again buried his wife.

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“I’m sorry,” he said as he stood over the snowy mound where she lay, “I really do love you, more than anything in the world.”

He paused, before hurriedly blurting; “I see your face every time I close my eyes Christine, and my heart quickens at your touch. I feel your pain as my own, and live your life in duality with mine. Truly, you’re the most perfect, amazing friend I could ever wish for, and I was complete from the moment I met you…”

He drifted off, regretting having said that. Too hurried; seemingly heartfelt sentiments, but deep down, meaningless.

?

He stood in silence for a while, fingering the pale stripe where his wedding band had been and took a breath, thinking hard about what he wanted to say. He needed to tell her why.

He lowered his head and spoke sadly, almost whispering.

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“We don’t make love,” he said, “we just –

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By Sam Halfpenny


© Copyright 2017 Sam Halfpenny. All rights reserved.

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