Slow Turn by Annamaria Formichella

It starts like this. Not the way she imagined it when she was young and didn’t understand the slow murder that can happen between a man and a woman. As a teenager, she would lie in her bed at the end of the hall, her mother alone at the kitchen table with a deck of cards and a full ashtray, and visualize her parents’ dramatic break-up. Her mother throws his monogrammed dress shirts out the window, the ones she was supposed to press and fold so carefully, and they collapse like a swarm of wounded butterflies on the lawn. Her father storms out through the screen door and stands in the driveway, screaming that if she didn’t act so crazy, he wouldn’t have found somebody else. He jumps into his convertible and backs up, leaving tire tracks on his French cuffs. The dog barks. The heat swelters. Loud music reaches a Hollywood crescendo.

No wonder she doesn’t recognize it when it creeps into her house one night, no legs to make noise, just a slithering sound like a whisper. Or the soft tear of fabric. She is lying as far as she can on her side of the bed, fingers fumbling for the edge of the mattress so she can balance herself. She hears her husband breathing, but not the deep rise and fall of sleep. Her heart pounds as she opens an eye to look over at his pillow. His green eye returns a blank stare. No recognition. They look at each other in silence before she lets her lids fall.

She remembers earlier that day when he made a list of her flaws on a paper napkin. The litany was familiar—sponge constantly left in the sink, not enough sex, spoiled children, not enough sex. In the past when he’d trotted out these offenses, she’d defended herself. She had cried and felt as if the world were tipping over, and she was about to slip right off the edge. But not today. Today her mood was as steady and flat as the napkin.

As lifeless as the stare he’s giving her now, the same stare she will face every evening and every morning for the rest of her life. This is why her mother chose the silence of the empty kitchen and the swish swish sound of the cards laid down on the vinyl tablecloth. This is how it starts and how it ends. Not with a crime and a battle and an explosion. But with the slow turn of a body under the covers, moving away.

A native New Englander, Annamaria Formichella currently teaches in the English department at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. Her creative work has been published in the Knight Literary Journal, Toe Good Poetry, Wilderness House Literary Review, Gyroscope Review, and Litbreak Magazine. Her dreams include returning to the ocean and writing stories that hit the reader with a quiet crash.

Deck of cards spread out on an unmade bed.
Photo by ethan on Unsplash
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