They stood seething at one another; she in the doorway with her hands on her hips, he, leaning against the kitchen counter with stiff arms ending in fists. Looking at his wife with narrowed eyes, he began to kick at a strip of peeling linoleum.
“I hope you have the money to fix that, you drunk-ass piece of shit,” his wife growled. “Oh! That’s right! You don’t have any money!” She smirked.
He looked longingly down at his white knuckles.
“You,” he said, “are the dipshit bitch who spent seventy-five dollars on a pair of shoes for a wedding we didn’t even get invited to.”
“We would’ve been invited if you hadn’t gotten so drunk at the engagement party,” she snapped. “What kind of fucking asshole dances with an ice sculpture?”
He pounded the kitchen counter with his still-clenched hand. “I needed to get drunk. I can’t handle your friends. Up-themselves hot-girls. They’ll end up humping a pole for dollar bills.”
“My friends are professionals – they were certainly smart enough to tell me that marrying you was a shit idea,” she countered, her cheeks mottled. She took a carefully measured, yet menacing, step towards her husband.
His eyes brightened. He was beginning to enjoy the conversation.
“If your friends,” he said, snapping the words like chewing gum, “were so right about me, why didn’t you listen? I wish you had. I wish I’d had friends to tell me that buying a diamond ring is a one-way ticket to hell.”
“You call this piece of glitter a diamond? It looks like you got it from a vending machine.” She wiggled her left finger mockingly at her husband. The dirty half-carat gave out a half-hearted sparkle.
“You’re lucky someone wanted an ungrateful, worn-out slut like you at all.” He bent and violently ripped the strip of linoleum loose. She shrieked.
“What the hell are you doing. What the hell.” She started towards him, then thought better of it. “We’re living in a shithole. Rags for curtains. Cigarette burns in the carpets. Holes in the floor now. Bowl under the kitchen sink. I suppose Mr. Fix-It is going to repair that too, right? Just like you fixed the kitchen table the and the bathroom doorknob. Regular handyman, aren’t you? The King of DIY!” She spat at him, her grey-flecked phlegm nearly reaching his dirty sneakers.
He leaned over and ripped another strip of linoleum. It tore free just as his wife brought her boot-shod foot down upon his hand. Bones crunched. He yelped and reached up, clawing at her, but she put her weight into it, grinding her heel into his wrist. He shoved at her legs with his free hand, sending her reeling into the refrigerator. She slid down the door, stood, then wrenched the fridge open and snatched a jar of strawberry jam.
Drawing her arm back, she aimed with cold, careful precision. Her eyes were blank: black holes in her pale, tired face.
As he ducked, shielding his head with his arms, a piercing howl came from the bedroom. He looked up at his wife. She looked back at him and quietly replaced the jam.
“Baby’s awake,” she said, gently, and walked out of the kitchen.
Erica is a Nebraska native living in London. Her work has appeared in Press Pause Press, The Bookends Review, and Into the Void, among others. She holds a BFA of Creative Writing from UNO.