by Jenn Ngeth
Ammonia and lavender fill the air–– a mop in hand, she performed her usual tasks of cleanliness. How can three people accumulate this much dust and dirt? Mars wondered. Scrubbing away at the mahogany floors, she felt a sharp pain in her lower back, followed by a stream of red, trickling down her long legs; shuffling to the nearest bathroom.
Now there’s only two, bouncing around in Mars’ mind.
Dizzying into her mental cave, she clings to the walls; lifeless objects becoming her support––once again. She sways her way to the kitchen. Filling the glass; brimming with tap water, Mars swallows rapidly––suffocating herself. Wiping the drips off the corners of her traced lips; the shine of her ring blinds her eyes–– mocking her.
The one who bestowed the ring on her finger–– the one who uses union to constrict will soon be home. I have to cook dinner, she thought. Scrambling to prepare the meal for tonight–– like every night––her thin frame standing in the yellow kitchen; pauses. Clark, her husband of five years, slaves away––every weekday–– to sustain the roof over their heads while fulfilling the luxuries he wants. He never asks me for what I want, she thought as she prepared his favorite meal.
As Mars chops away, she looks at her wrinkled fingers, and sighs. Her hands once enjoyed her routine of keeping their home spotless. Ironing airplane creases on Clark’s suits; the hissing steam satisfied her ears–– the navy suit he wears every Tuesday was her favorite.
Banging the knife onto the kitchen counters, she exhales, Who am I kidding? This is bullshit.
Clark, in his navy suit, enters the yellow tiled kitchen with white marble counters; the aromas of allspice and garlic infusing with ginger and lemongrass; mingle into the air. Mars, setting up the table in the dining room, glances at her husband before finishing up.
In the center of the white counters, lay a decanter of aged whiskey, a mini ice pail, and tongs. The usual set up that Mars assembles every weekday–– but today she was missing one item.
Clark yells, “Why isn’t my glass here?!” Do I have to do everything, he thought.
Mars busts through the door frame, opens the cupboard, grabs his hi-ball glass, and slams it on the counter. The sharp clink makes Clark’s shoulders flinch. His thick brows rise into an arch; triggered. The fuck. She’s never shown aggression before, he pondered as he ingests the whiskey.
Her raspy voice calls over to Clark for dinner. He sluggishly appears before the six-seater dining table, sitting at the opposite end, directly facing Mars. She decorated the table in gold-rimmed dinnerware and centered in the middle was supper. Clark’s favorite: marinated steak with potatoes. In addition, Mars whipped up a new dish: spicy dumplings.
As Mars gets up to pass the steak, she asks the redundant, “How’s work today?” Clark wastes no time in unloading his recollections for the day; his bass-heavy voice drowning out Mars’ ears as she swirls the wine in her cup, creating a red whirlpool, sucking her in, waiting to coat her taste buds. His babbling subsides. She swigs, finally.
Silence; except for the scraping of utensils.
“Aren’t you going to ask how my day was?” Mars questions.
“Oh. Sorry, sweetie. How was your day?” he asks.
“Then why’d you make me ask?”
“Because you never care to, sweetie.” taking her sip of wine.
He grumbles and shakes his head; releasing the fumes from his skull. Scoffing down the now-sour steak so he can swiftly leave the room. Mars picks up her glass and drinks the merlot.
Clark takes notice and says, “Aren’t you pregnant? Stop drinking.”
“Shut up and eat the dumplings,” she snaps while gulping down the liquid.
Clark freezes. Holding his glass in midair–– his lips so close to taking a sip. His brows scrunched, What is up with her today? His stare fixed on Mars; her fox eyes not batting a lash, refusing to let go. He loses the stare-down, picks up the dumpling and shoves it into his mouth.
The sack of dough bursts with the flavors of numbing spice, garlic, and supple meat. He eats one more dumpling; drooling. Grabbing another. And another. The tender umami hindering his escape plan, turning him gluttonous.
Mars’ lips begin to curl; a twinkle of flames, a glimmer of contempt, gracing her eyes.
Clark takes a bite and looks into the dough pouch, curious of what composes such a delicacy. He sees green onions, minced shrimp, and flesh… “I had a miscarriage this morning.” Mars interrupted.
He spits out the half-chewed dumpling. Staring down at his plate. Speechless. Mars, holding onto her glass, motions her hand, in an attempt to extract the words out of her husband; who’s choking on reality. Clark jolts out of his seat, “W-wait what?! Why didn’t you tell me? Are you okay?”
Mars’ eyes widen, confused by his behavior; opens her doll-like mouth, “Well, 1 out of 8 pregnancies end in a miscarriage.” I wonder if that goes for marriages too, she thought. As though engulfed by static, Clark clenches his forehead; inhaling and exhaling, rupturing the air with his breath; threatening to combust.
“What did you do with it?” he furrowed his brows; dumbfounded by Mars’ laid-back demeanor.
She glances at the dumplings, then back at him.
Clark’s eyes dart back and forth; thoughts of panic flood his mind, paranoia in the words “dumplings”, echoing in his head.
“You didn’t…” as he covers his mouth; preventing vomit from spewing out. His body starts to shiver. His clothes; soaked from all bodily fluids as Mars clears up the dinner table. Her smile overtaking half her porcelain face.
Mars leans in to whisper in her husband’s ear, “I want a divorce.” before disappearing into the yellow kitchen.
Shortly after, Mars packed up her belongings and left with two suitcases. Clark lingered in the dining room gathering himself from such horrors. Dragging his feet into the kitchen, he stumbles upon a note left on the white counters–– right in the center––glistening. Reaching for the paper with his ex’s imprinted cursive; swallowing his anxiety, Clark scans the note:
The meat was pork. I flushed it down the toilet.