Guilt (by Katrina Byrd)

I stood in my friend’s lavish living room. I tried to hold it all together. It was as if a dam was about to burst inside me. I wanted to get everything out in the open between me and Sarah but now wasn’t the time.

Sarah and I had been friends for nearly twenty years. We met right out of college. Sarah was everything I wanted to be – smart, beautiful, and  neat. She wasn’t a show off or mean spirited, just perfect at everything.  Well not everything. Her one imperfect thing was Ron, her cheating husband.

I’d been invited to the Lawson home on that cool January morning because Ron was gone and Sarah was broke.

"Look at me," she said from behind me. That was the one thing I wanted to avoid. Looking at her now was like looking at half of a photo. "Look at me," she said again and I did.

Sarah stood in the center of the room surrounded by long tables piled with her belongings. Hot pink price tags illuminated by the bright sunlight. Damn, she could turn a garage sale into a high class event. I felt like I was at an exclusive boutique and caviar would be served any minute.

"He left me with nothing. I’ve got bills and … and I could lose the house."

I wasn’t accustomed to seeing her frazzled. It was a major shock. I thought she had everything together or at least that’s what I told myself to justify what I had done.

Several loud knocks prompted Sarah to turn quickly and rush toward the front door. When she opened it a crowd of people rushed past her. Mrs. Pritchard, Sarah’s next door neighbor, was the first one inside. Mrs. Pritchard was a gossip who sat around in a house dress everyday poking her nose into her neighbors’ business. She hovered over the table like a vulture. She picked up one of Sarah’s beautiful plates. It was hand made by J. Johnston, a famous potter who fashioned it for Sarah and Ron’s wedding.

"How much?" Mrs. Pritchard asked.

"I can’t do this." Sarah was beside me. "Selling off his stuff – our stuff."

Looking at her was like seeing a beauty queen stripped of her title. It was like seeing her, the real her, for the first time. She was a woman who’d had her heart broken.

"Twenty five dollars," Sarah said to Mrs. Pritchard, who continued to hold the plate. Sarah’s face was stained with tears, her eyes red and puffy. Her shoulders slumped.

"You’ll get through this," I said.

"I want to buy it." Mrs. Pritchard reached into her ample bosom and took out a wad of money. She peeled off a twenty and a five. "Be careful when you’re bagging it," she said to Sarah, whose face was a mixture of shock and embarrassment.

"It’ll be okay," I said and snatched the bills from the giant woman. I took the plate, wrapped it in tissue and handed it to Mrs. Pritchard.

"It sure is ashamed about your husband, honey," Mrs. Pritchard said.

Sarah rushed past her and headed for the kitchen. I followed close behind her as fast as I could without breaking into a run. When I entered the kitchen she was sobbing near the sink.  

"Selling his things seems so cold." Her words mingled with the soft meows of Tiger, her lynx point kitty who moved about rubbing her sleek body on our legs.

"You have no choice. The insurance doesn’t pay in cases of su-" I stopped abruptly, searching for a better word. "In these cases."

"I know but it still feels wrong."

"It’s not." I spoke more sharply than I intended. Sarah cried on my shoulders for years. She told me everything. He was lazy, didn’t like her mother, ran around with other women and he liked to do freaky things in the bedroom.

"I know things have been rough since he was laid off but this? Why?"

How could I tell her? It wasn’t her. It wasn’t his job. How could I tell Sarah that I had enjoyed two years of raw, forbidden, adulterous passion with her husband? Long lunches that started with salads and ended with loud, ravenous love making while she was at work. How could I tell her that I had succumbed to Ron’s freakish desires? Occasionally barking like a dog and reciting the Gettysburg address during our love making sessions. It was just sex. I didn’t love him. I declined his offer to run away with him. I knew he was upset. How could I tell her? I couldn’t. Mrs. Pritchard was in the doorway.

"How much?" she said. In her fat hand she held a bowl. My bowl. A crystal bowl that had been handed down to me from my mother. A bowl that had been in my family for generations.

"It isn’t for sale." I wrapped my fingers around the rim and pulled. Mrs. Pritchard clung to it. "Sarah, how could you sell my bowl?"

"I didn’t remember that it was yours."

"Didn’t remember?" My voice rose an octave. "It was December 2nd,  the night of the Christmas gathering. You invited the entire neighborhood. You specifically asked me to bring my famous banana pudding  in this bowl."

"I remember that pudding," Mrs. Pritchard said. "The worst use of bananas I’ve ever seen."

"It was delicious!"

"Nasty," she said in a tone that sounded like a final verdict. "Nobody liked it."

"Ron liked it."

"Banana pudding wasn’t all Ron liked," Mrs. Pritchard said, adding a satisfied "ARF!"

The bowl was snatched. My body went forward then back. I stood frozen in horror. I glanced at the large woman beside me. Her mouth hung open.

"No!" Mrs. Pritchard said when Sarah moved near the counter where her fine cutlery lay.

"Sarah," I said. "Don’t do anything stupid."

Sarah didn’t say a word. She lifted my beautiful bowl high above her head.

(Katrina Byrd is a writer and playwright who graduated from Millsaps College with a B.A. in History. Katrina has published three books and received four Artist Minigrants from the Mississippi Arts Commission. Katrina has also designed and presented several writing workshops for all ages. Click here for her facebook fan page and here to check out her book, Byrds of a Feather.)

4 comments:

  1. So great to see one of my favorite writers here in Liminal Fiction today. It's a wonderful piece, filled with tension and drama.

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    1. Thanks, Karen, for introducing me to Katrina's writing!

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  2. I flounce my boa at you, Karen!!

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  3. Ooo- talk about adding insult to injury! It unfolded nicely, though!

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