The Thing That Lives Inside by Rica Lewis

Fiction

It swirled inside her belly, rising, climbing, scaling her insides.

The sour-bile truth stretched across her tongue like a venomous, roaming snake.

But fear was bigger. And shame was easy as a garment to slide on, like an overcoat or a sweater. So she covered herself, carefully layering her indignities with the cloak and veil of ritual, of morning tea by the window and evening walks near the pond where she watched the ducks shake their wings in the sun. But at night when black overtook the room, she felt the singe of his fingers on her thighs and the ghost of his breath hovering in the hollow of her neck.

She’d sleep for a while, drift into some ordinary dream of driving to the market or gardening or scrubbing a potato near the sink. Then, his face would appear, the hard lines of his work-worn face and his eyes would flicker like headlights on the dark road of her dreams. The sight of him would startle her back to the bed where she’d find herself fighting to the surface of reality, up and away from his image, like a diver with failing equipment.

She’d sit for a while — hand on her heart, gripping the sweat-soaked cotton nightgown he gave her, a lace-hemmed number with hundreds of tiny red rosebuds. How could she stand to wear it?

On the 18th night, it occurred to her that he was on her, draped across her skin in all the places her nightgown touched. She realized she would never be free from him — although she had done the worst of all things to free herself. Springing from the bed, she bumped down the hall, knocking her bones against the door frames. She collapsed against the cold, porcelain bowl that had become a luminous sphere under the bathroom window. Her chin on the rim of the toilet, she hurled. It felt acidic and warm and sharp, but it did not taste like freedom. Would it ever taste like freedom?

While she had tied his drunk, limp and stinking body to concrete blocks and rolled him into the pond, and it had taken half the night — her thrusting, kicking, jostling, she still felt the singe of his fingers on her thighs and the ghost of his breath hovering in the hollow of her neck.

And the truth — she could not vomit the thing. Instead, it swirled inside her belly, rising, climbing, scaling her insides.

Biography
Rica Lewis is a senior staff writer for an award-winning magazine in Florida. Her essays have appeared on Huffington Post, Elephant Journal, Motherwell, The Sunlight Press, Open Thought Vortex and more. She’s currently penning a memoir on single motherhood post-divorce. Twitter: @Ricawrites

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