Dave is finally released from the asylum and is ready to get back to his love, Marabeth.
|I counted the floor tiles under the dim lights of Dr. Patel’s office. “You seem to be doing much better, Dave.” She marked something in her clipboard as I read the spines of her books for the hundredth time. “I think you’ll be ready for release soon. What do you think of that?”
My eyes perked up at the word I had waited two hundred and seventy-nine days to hear. “Release?”
She looked at me over the gold rim of her glasses. “You’ve been taking your medication without incident, sharing in group therapy, and opening up in all of our sessions. I see no reason we can’t move this to an outpatient treatment.”
Pulling at a loose thread on the leather couch, Marabeth’s face flashed through my mind, her bouncing brown curls and wide smile was within reach now. “I feel like I’m ready.”
That’s something I learned in therapy, to say ‘I feel’ instead of stating my thoughts as a fact. It shows that you’re taking into consideration that others may have varying opinions. Plus, no one can tell you that you don’t feel a certain way.
Soon after, I was standing at the hospital exit, shaking Dr. Patel’s hand and promising I would see her every Tuesday and Thursday until it was otherwise decided. Her twinkling eyes held hope and I could tell she was proud of the work she’d done with me.
Mental institutions must be the opposite of prisons, or at least that’s what my pants told me as they dug into the skin of my stomach. I’d been put on so many medications; it wasn’t a surprise that I’d gained a few pounds. Hopefully Marabeth wouldn’t notice. Maybe she’d be into the chubby guy thing.
The stench of human filth rose as I stepped onto the city bus. One minute I’d been locked away from society, next I’d been thrown into the rush of it. I’d been deemed suitable for this. The thought of it made me smile to myself. I knew exactly where I needed to go.
Marabeth’s old brownstone wasn’t far from the hospital. I counted down the stops until I’d see her face. Her beautiful emerald eyes would light up when they saw me. She probably didn’t even know I’d been released. Hopefully she’d be wearing one of her white sundresses. She always knew I loved those.
I didn’t have to think of it long because, before I knew it, I was standing on the front steps of her house. The green door loomed over me, taunting. What if she didn’t want me back? What if she had moved on? Nine months is a long time, I reminded myself.
Shaking the thoughts from my head, I knocked three times on the door. I waited to hear her feet padding lightly down the stairs, but the sound never came. I knocked again, harder this time, counting them as I went. Surely seven knocks in a row was enough, even if she was in the bathroom. My patience began to grow thin. She worked from home and it was a Tuesday after all. Where else could she be?
Just as my mind started wandering to thoughts of her with another man, the door slowly cracked open, chain still locked. “D-Dave?” she stammered.
One green eye peered out, beautiful as always. “My lovely Marabeth! You look even better than I remember. I’ve come back to you, just like I promised in all those letters.”
“You shouldn’t be here,” she hissed, just above a whisper.
I stepped back in shock, feeling my chest tighten. “What? Why not? I told you I’d come back for you.”
“Does your wife know you’re out?”
I noticed that she still hadn’t unlocked the door all the way and ran my hands through my mangy brown hair in complete disbelief. “My wife? My wife, Marabeth? Why would I go see that insufferable bitch after what she did to me?”
“I’m sorry, Dave. I can’t see you. Go find your wife or at least get off my porch.”
I threw my head back and laughed as she started to close the door. I slammed my palm into it, snapping the cheap gold chain lock easily. I heard her gasp and stumble back as I looked around outside before entering. No one was around.
Inside, I caught the back of Marabeth’s head as she ran through the kitchen, into the living room. I chased her and grabbed the back of her sweater, throwing her to the ground. "I had to go through hell to prove I’m not insane, and this is how you thank me?”
Marabeth sat up on the hardwood floors, cradling her knees in her arms as tears poured down her face. “What is wrong with you?” I screamed, feeling my hands shake with anger. “What have I done to you?”
“I don’t want to be with you!” she screamed, her voice breaking. “I never wanted to be with you, Dave, you fucking psycho!”
Her angry words hurled me back against the fireplace mantle as I cupped my hand around my mouth in shock. “How can you say this to me after everything I’ve done for you?”
“Everything you’ve done for me? I tried to be nice to you! That’s it. If our kids weren’t in soccer together, we would have never met. I felt sorry for you, Dave, because I knew you needed a friend, but we were never together.”
A flash of red ebbed my vision of the dark, sterile room. All the time we had spent here, watching movies and cuddling on the very couch she had now propped herself against. “What about all the promises you made? You said you’d wait for me.”
Bewilderment covered her face. “What are you talking about? I never promised you anything! Please, just go see your wife. I won’t call the police. I’ll just pretend I never saw you.”
The police? Why would she say that she isn’t going to call the police? Realization washed over me. They were all going to think I was crazy. I’d be locked away again and for who knows how long this time? No, I won’t do it, I promised myself, eyeing Marabeth. If she wanted to play the victim, I would make her one.
I took a careful, calculated step toward her. Her eyes dashed through the kitchen and toward the front door. I shook my head no and watched her eyes squeeze together tightly. She whispered something quickly under her breath, a prayer perhaps. Then she took a deep breath and ran for the exit.
She was quicker than I anticipated and I barely caught her as she reached the front door. I heard her fingernails scratch along the wood as she screamed for help. Covering her mouth, I dragged her back to the living room and ripped the telephone cord out of the wall so I could tie her hands.
“You made a mistake, Marabeth,” I promised her, feeling as calm as I had since going into the hospital. “How could you even suggest that I go back to that woman, that terrible shrewd who got me locked up in the first place. Do you know what it’s like to be in a mental hospital, trying to prove yourself competent?”
She shook her head no, tears falling down the side of her face. “Now you never will,” I smiled. “It’s getting late. Let’s finish this so I can catch up with Debbie and the kids. Soccer practice still runs until six-thirty, right?”
Marabeth didn’t respond, just shook quietly in silent sobs. “Ah, that’s okay. I’ll find out soon enough.”
I walked toward her as she began screaming. “You don’t have to do this, Dave! Please!”
She kicked me in the shin as I neared her, only proving to infuriate me further. I grabbed her throat with one hand and lifted her against the side of the staircase, hearing her breath catch in her throat. She thrashed around madly, choking for air. Her face grew a deep shade of red and I was surprised at how difficult it was to keep her in place. She was such a small woman, after all, but she put up a fight unlike anything I’d ever seen.
She finally freed herself my kicking me in the stomach, only to have me meet her on the ground with a vantage point. I watched as her eyes pleaded with me until the life faded away. Her fighting finally stopped and her eyes glazed over. Her purple lips parted and I knew the deed was done.
“Take me to Rio Del Mar Elementary,” I asked the cabbie as he pulled away from the intersection six blocks from where Marabeth’s body lay cold in the living room. There was no time to get rid of the body, not with everything else that needed to be done today.
“My son is on the soccer team at Rio Del Mar, is that where you’re headed?”
I smiled brightly at the driver. “Yes it is! I have twin boys on the team. I figure if we make it there fast enough, I can catch the end of practice. I don’t make it as often as I should.”
“You’re telling me,” he replied with a friendly smile. “I’ll step on it.”
I gripped the cold handle of the .45 inside my jacket pocked. I’d found it upstairs in Marabeth’s dresser. If only she had kept it closer. I felt a sense of relief as the taxi lurched forward. We weren’t far from the school now. Today was turning out to be more productive than I’d ever imagined.