Choices

“…there,” he said, “it’s out. Almost a relief to have it out in the open.”

She did not reply. She stared down the hood of the car as it ate up the road.

“I think I actually wanted to get caught. You can’t imagine the stress I’ve been under.”

She sat ramrod straight against the back of the passenger seat. Her magenta nails dimpled her skirt.

“I never wanted to hurt anyone. You’re both so wonderful. In fact, you’re really a lot alike—”

“What did she say?” his passenger interrupted, “when you told her?”

“To choose, of course,” he replied in cautiously level tones, “between the two of you.”

She said, “I see.”

The car traveled over a graded section of the road. The tires complained over the ruts.

“And what did you say?”

He fiddled with the steering wheel cover. “I said I would make that choice.”

She may have asked something then, or it may have been a simple warning shout. He jerked the wheel sharply to the right, aiming for the cement barrier on the side of the road.

He did not mean to roll the car. As they tumbled, the passenger side belt gave way and she fell, shrieking, into the tumult. They came to rest with a crunch.

 

“How was it?” she asked.

She stood in their bedroom doorway. Her hair was loose, rather than up in a topknot. Her clothing comprised of casual sweats instead of attention-grabbing skirts and camisoles. But for these things, he could not have told them apart.

He indicated his arm in a sling.

“The car?”

“Totaled.”

“And her?”

He stretched out on the bed. “You won’t have anything to worry about.”

She stood near the floor-to-ceiling lamp. It cast a halo around her head that made his eyes ache.

“Yes I do.”

He covered his face with his free hand. “Look, you gave me a chance. I made the best of it.”

“You don’t get it.”

He sighed, rubbing his forehead. “Apparently not.”

“You don’t,” she insisted, “that wasn’t why I gave you a chance.”

Her voice had an odd dullness to it. He wriggled his pinky in his ear.

“—make amends for it. Own up. That kind of thing.”

He had to laugh.

“Look, it’s done, all right? The problem no longer exists, and now I think I have to lie down for a while.”

Her voice was crisp and cold. “Yes, you do.”

“I mean it.” He squirmed, trying to get comfortable. “I really did a number on my spine.”

His back ached, and he couldn’t find a soft place on their mattress. His head felt full, too, and he wished she would go so he could close his eyes but she stood in the doorway with her face obscured by the light that made his vision blur painfully. He slid over the side of the bed until his head dangled. Changing angles just made her face darker, harder to see her expression.

 

“—not responsible.”

He opened his eyes. This was hard, because he was working against gravity. “What did you say?”

His vision was cracked. No, the windshield was cracked. He was in the car and he was upside-down because his seat belt had held.

“I was waiting for you to claim responsibility for what you did. That’s worse than anything else.”

His wife was standing with the lamp behind her.

No.

It was the other woman, and the sun set behind her.

No.

It was both of them.

He couldn’t make his mind work against the blood pressing into his head. His arms didn’t want to respond, or maybe it was just that he had forgotten how to use them.

“I gave you a chance. Remember that. I gave you a chance.”

He couldn’t tell who was talking, they sounded so alike.

In one motion, both women turned and began walking away.

The idea that this was probably bad and he should do something about it trickled in a bit too late.

“Wait,” he called feebly.

As the women grew further away, the light overpowered them. It made them harder to see individually, until their shadows united into one dark figure who walked steadily away from him.

And as his eyes closed of their own accord, he had time to marvel at how alike they really were before the darkness ate him too.

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