Again and Again

Beatrice hummed softly as she stoked the fire until it crackled happily, warming her from head to toe. Her body was moving without any real input from her mind; it was late, and Howard should have been home from work hours ago, but then again, it had been months since he had actually been home from work on time, and loathe as she was to admit it, Beatrice found that she was rather used to it at this point. Hopefully, at this point, it was late enough that– 

There. That creak there, that was the sound of the front door swinging open. Beatrice stopped humming and stood, setting the poker aside, brushing off her skirt, and closing the small grate in front of the fireplace– it wouldn’t do to have an accident. Sure enough, a few moments later, Howard emerged into the drawing room, his steps heavy and swaying and his eyes glassy and drooping. 

“Hello, darling,” Beatrice said, taking a careful half-step towards Howard. “How was work today?” 

“Shut up,” Howard grumbled, dropping down onto the nearest sofa– oh, Beatrice had just cleaned this room earlier today, and now the water-stains from the rain clinging to Howard’s coat would be a nightmare to get out. “Go gimme s’more whiskey.” 

Beatrice took a deep breath, and retreated her little half-step back towards the fireplace. “Don’t– ah. Darling, don’t you– don’t you think you’ve had enough? I– I know you have work again tomorrow–” 

“Work,” Howard scoffed, rolling his eyes. “As if you’d know a thing abou’ workin’. Go get m’whiskey.” His head began to slump forwards, his eyes drifting closed. 

“Howard, you know that you’re mere days away from losing your job at this rate. You can’t keep going on like this. I can’t keep going on like this. I didn’t marry you for–” 

You didn’t marry me at all,” Howard said, his head lolling backwards this time, his eyes fixing once more on Beatrice. “You hate me. An’ I hate you. Always fuckin’ naggin’ me. ‘Howard, don’t drink so much. Howard, you’re gambling too much. Howard, it’s your fault we lost the house.’ Hate you. Hate this. Get my fucking whiskey.” His eyes drifted closed once more, and he began to snore. 

Beatrice stared at her husband for a long, long moment, her entire body cold. It wasn’t as though he was wrong. Beatrice hated him, and had done so for years. Decades, perhaps. Ever since she’d met him. But he had been wealthy, and he had found her pretty, and so when he’d proposed, it wasn’t as though she’d had much choice in the matter. She’d gotten married two days after her eighteenth birthday, and she had hated every moment of her life since. 

And, oh, she was just so tired of it. Tired of the late nights, of the gambling, of the whiskey and the rage and the clothes that smelt of perfumes that Beatrice herself had never worn and the cold, endless silences and being trapped here like nothing more than a servant, only here to cook and clean and do the washing-up and keep the fire burning, unable to even sing while Howard was home for fear that the sound of her voice would ignite his temper. 

Oh, Beatrice was tired. Tired enough to lean up against the wall behind her, still staring at her snoring husband. Tired enough to wrap her hand around the poker for support as her knees buckled under her. Tired enough to pull the heavy metal from its stand, to stumble forwards until she was standing in front of the sofa. Tired enough to stare, stare, stare, at the disheveled, grey hair and the ruddy nose and the unkempt beard and the dirty suit and the crooked tie and the debt tickets sticking out of his coat pockets and the water-stains on the sofa, this was the fourth time this week he had left water-stains on the sofa, and he had tracked mud into the drawing room and his breath stank of whiskey, his stupid, stupid whiskey. 

Tired enough to lift the poker up over her head in steady, careful hands, and plunge the pointed end down, again and again and again and again, until Howard’s ridiculous, careless messiness had stained the sofa and the carpet and Beatrice’s hands and dress and his drunken snores turned to screams to gurgles to blessed, blessed silence. 

Beatrice stood over the body of her husband, her chest heaving, the poker clutched in her hands, her eyes wide and wild and her mind racing. 

The drawing room was bathed in red. Now, that wouldn’t do. What would the neighbours think, if they could see? Beatrice thrust the poker down into her new favourite place for it one last time, then bustled off into the kitchen, gathering her cleaning supplies in red-drenched hands, and fetching some dark linens from their place in the process. There was quite a lot of cleaning to be done, after all, and there was no sense in getting the white linens dirty in the process. 

It was surprisingly easy to take Howard’s body apart, wrapping it in the linens and tucking it into the corner of the drawing room, just for the moment. It was significantly more difficult to get the new stains out of the sofa and the carpet, but Beatrice had faced more stubborn messes before, and she had no intentions of backing down now. It only took a few hours of scrubbing before the drawing room was clean once more. But then, of course, Beatrice herself was dirty– oh, she always managed to work up a sweat while scrubbing, which was terribly unladlylike of her but it wasn’t as though Howard was ever home to complain about it– she giggled at that, and giggled and giggled and giggled– but it would be good to wash up, and she simply must change out of this dress, it was ruined, and what a pity, it had been wonderfully comfortable. It didn’t take Beatrice long to get changed, and she brought the small bundle of fabric back downstairs, to where Howard was still tucked neatly into the corner, and the fire was crackling along merrily behind its grate. Beatrice began to hum again, thinking back to a lovely new song she had heard on the radio earlier that day– perhaps the station would play it again tomorrow! Oh, wouldn’t that be lovely. She would need Howard to be gone before then, though. How he hated music. Ever so carefully– it wouldn’t do to have an accident, after all– Beatrice moved the grate away from the fire, and set her ruined dress down in the flames before heading over to the corner and pulling the small, slightly-squishy bundle of dark linens into the light. The poker had been put back into its place while Beatrice had been cleaning, of course it had, Beatrice prided herself on being conscientious, so it was within reach as she began to feed what was left of Howard into the flames. With a small smile, Beatrice hummed softly as she stoked the fire until it crackled happily, warming her from head to toe.

Photo by Craig Adderley from Pexels

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