|Knife knew it would be one of those nights. The moment the top cracked on the whiskey bottle, and the first chugs went down the man’s throat the pattern would follow. It had been like this for months, or maybe years; time for cutlery didn’t pass as it did for people.
Jacob was the man’s name. Knife knew this from the woman’s screams and pleas. She was Patricia, or Bitch, or Slut, or any other number of names the man used. It was confusing why the man had only one name, yet she had so many. Knife once thought it was some kind of honor, but the man’s actions didn’t fit that idea, so Knife guessed they were derogatory—like being called dull or nicked.
Jacob paced the kitchen, his steps getting heavier the more he drained the bottle. The air soured with the strong odor of alcohol and sweat. Jacob downed the alcohol as fast as his gullet allowed. Jacob vomiting in the trash or sink, as he’d done in the past, was inevitable. Poor Patricia would have to clean it up; this seemed unfair.
Knife liked Patricia. She had a gentle touch cubing vegetables or cutting potatoes. When Knife’s blade lost its sharp edge, she massaged it with a diamond instrument and Knife felt better afterwards—ready to slice and dice again. Then she would run a finger over the newly sharpened edge to test its keenness—soft and comforting. On more than one occasion, she would grip Knife hard enough to whiten her knuckles. This was painful, but Knife didn’t blame her. Jacob’s angry voice made her do it.
“Where are you, Bitch?” Jacob said through clenched teeth. A slur was already perceptible in his speech.
Waves of Jacob’s rage swirled around the kitchen and Knife trembled. When Jacob got this angry, Knife’s friends paid the price. Last time, he threw Plate against the wall and Knife felt hollow as Patricia swept up the pieces and discarded them in the trash. Before that, Glass and Mug both met their end when Jacob brushed them off the counter with his arm. Knife was glad he wasn’t as fragile. He might not be invincible, but he didn’t break easy. He was durable—like Patricia.
The counter vibrated as the front door closed. Patricia was home. Jacob whirled at the sound of jangling keys. His hip grazed Knife’s handle and the carver spun around until his blade hung over the edge, threatening to fall. Knife hated hitting the floor. He feared going through the rest of his existence notched or damaged—like Patricia’s husband. The man hurried out of the room, uncaring of Knife’s peril.
“Where have you been?” Jacob’s angry voice yelled from the other room, reminding Knife of chopping onions—rough and tear inducing. “Dinner is at six. How many times do I have to tell you?”
“I had to work late.” Patricia’s voice was like cutting a tomato—quiet and effortless.
Patricia came into the kitchen, her white uniform juxtaposition to Jacob’s shadowy form trailing close on her heels.
“Working late, again? That’s the third time this week.”
“What can I do? The hospital’s short-handed. “
“Is that what it is? Maybe screwing some doctor after hours is more important than your husband starving to death?” Although insinuated regularly, this was the first time Knife heard the accusation put so bluntly.
Knife gave an inward grin at Patricia’s rolled eyes. He was glad she didn’t let her husband see. That would’ve set off a turbulent tirade. Knife didn’t want Patricia to bleed. It ached him deep inside his forged metal when she slashed her fingers with his steel; it filled him with hatred when the man caused it.
“Don’t you think that’s exaggerating a little? You won’t starve to death missing a meal. Besides, there’s steaks marinating in the fridge. You could’ve started cooking without me.” Knife was happy when Patricia showed Jacob her back.
Jacob clenched his jaw. Knife wanted to warn Patricia; scream for her to watch out for the violence brewing in her Jacob’s eyes. Despair gripped Knife at the futility of his own desire. He could only watch as Jacob grabbed her arm and whirled her into a vicious right hook.
The sound was like Cleaver splitting a raw roast. Patricia let out a miniscule shriek of pain before falling to the ground. Jacob stood over her, looking down as if she were no more than discarded steak grizzle.
“I wasn’t raised to play maid to a woman. You will cook for me and you will have dinner ready by six from now on,” he said in drunken deliberateness. His chest heaved with every word. “And, when I’m done eating, you will service me in the bedroom. Do you understand?”
Patricia looked up, eyes wide and full of tears. A trickle of blood ran down from her swelling lip. “Yes, I understand.”
Knife’s blade turned to ice. He didn’t understand how Patricia capitulated so easily. The woman, who wielded him with deft, confident hands, just lay on the ground and took whatever the human beast dished out. The same person who could cut a cow into bite-sized cubes without remorse just cowered like a shorn sheep before Jacob’s wrath.
As the man stormed from the room, full of over-confidence and self-importance, Patricia stood up and opened the refrigerator. Black and blue rivers ran from her eyes.
Knife was helpless. He couldn’t hug her or wipe the streams of polluted water from her cheeks.
Patricia rubbed a white sleeve across her face. The blood from her lip streaked a bright red on the uniform.
She put an armload of vegetables on the counter next to Knife, and picked him up by his handle. Her touch was delicate and Knife calmed. She started with an onion, using the base of Knife’s blade to chop it into tiny pieces. The onions were crisp and sweet and Knife enjoyed them. The vapors didn’t bother the utensil.
Patricia’s tears flowed again. These were clean tears—onion tears. A crooked smile slowly formed on her swollen lips.
She washed her hands in cold water and wiped them with a towel. Her eyes were dry now and Knife sensed something different in her stare—something strong. However, those orbs also radiated a darkness that made Knife’s handle tingle with fear.
Knife sliced through a potato. The vegetable was more resistant to his blade than the onion, but it was still no match for his keen edge. The starch stuck to the blade—its flavor persistent.
“So I’m to be a sex slave as well as a house slave, huh?” Patricia said to the air. “You think I’m the one who needs you? Ha…we’ll see how much I need you, son of a bitch.” Knife cried out as she slammed him down through a potato hard enough for his blade to stick into Cutting Board.
Knife understood that she talked to the man without him being able to answer. Her cheeks stuck out prominently as her jaw stretched the skin over them. Her eyes had an icy chill in them as she pulled Knife from the wood. It wasn’t like the impending violence of Jacob’s gazes. Patricia’s was more complex. Maybe it was her tortuous grip on his handle, but he sensed determination and…something else.
“I don’t smell anything cooking,” Jacob called from another room.
“It’ll only be a little while.” Patricia stroked Knife’s blade, turning it over to caress both sides of the razor-sharp edge.
“It better be.”
“It better be,” Patricia mimicked with a sneer. “I’m sick of this.”
She opened the refrigerator and took out the bag of marinating steaks. She slammed the raw meat onto the cutting board. Blood and marinade splattered against the wall. She stared at it for a while and Knife felt her hand sweat on his handle. The grip tightened and her eyes took on that distant stare, again.
A scuffle and a thump broke her from the trance and she turned to face Jacob as he stumbled into the kitchen. She started stabbing at the meat. She shredded it with Knife’s tempered steel, never in the flesh long enough for Knife to savor the flavor.
“What the hell are you doing?” Jacob’s question slurred into near incomprehensible grunts.
Patricia continued to hack and Knife quivered. He suddenly understood what accompanied the anger—anticipation.
“I said…” Jacob grabbed Patricia by the arm again and reeled her around.
She ducked away from the wild swing of his fist.
An exhilarating rush of air swished around Knife as he ascended towards Jacob. A silent cheer went through Knife as his blade penetrated the man’s flesh.
For a moment, Jacob’s heart beat a fading rhythm around Knife’s steel, and then stopped.
The taste surprised Knife. The blood of a bitter heart shouldn’t be so sweet.
word count: 1480