The look on her face was delightfully contemptible. The glowering eyes were matched with equally disdainful pursed lips. She always smiled, even when she was angry. But when he could wipe that smile off her face it was one of the most gratifying feelings to him. It made her more attractive. It was almost inevitable that she would have her hair pulled back at these times and if it wasn’t she moved quickly to tie it up. Maybe she felt she was more threatening when she didn’t have to constantly brush her almond colored hair aside.
Lisa’s eyes were always intense whether they shimmered happily or smouldered with a wretched hate. She was a strongly attractive woman who stood a bit taller than average and had enough heft to her so as not to be thought of as just a girl. She matched her strong visage with a determined will and a silver tongue. You could never imagine to hear a plaintive plea pass her lips.
“So apparently you think that makes sense,” spoke Lisa evenly.
“It doesn’t matter if it makes sense, it’s the facts,” said Owen.
“I’m sick of you talking about my family that way. You would fly off the handle if I spoke about yours that way,” spat Lisa.
“You do, because you know I’m the whipping post.”
“And here comes the ‘woe is me’ speech. I love it, I could probably recite it verbatim at this point. Shall I?”
Lisa’s smile was back on her face and Owen had been worked into a fury. His temples began to pulsate and his gaze narrowed as he grasped for a form of attack. Her arms were now folded condescendingly, her weight shifted slightly to one side. She continued,”I’m waiting…”
Owen was a tall gaunt individual. When he was cornered like this he would stalk around in a stoop like a cat trying to avoid attention. His powerful gaze matched Lisa’s intensity which was accentuated by his spade like nose. He had once been a well kept man but recently had let his hair to grow and had ceased to shave. Even with a bit of stubble still his small pink mouth jutted through defiantly.
When the two of them were locked in an intense argument it was quite something to behold them watching each other. Their postures were enough to make one uneasy. It was not uncommon for Owen in these instances to storm off and listen to music loudly in another room. The songs were always meticulously chosen to be ones that were poignant to each argument. He would have several drinks and listen in excess and revel in how clever he was at choosing just the right song for the occasion. With a sickening grimace he would listen and drink. Occasionally he would emerge and show himself to Lisa with a comically vibrant smile on his face and inquire as to how she was doing. He never managed to elicit more that a ‘fine’ from her. Back with the music his smile would quickly fade and a darkness would wash back over him and he would reassure himself with self pity.
Lisa would usually return to her work at hand and grind away at it, slightly more resentful. She knew that no matter the situation between them she would still have to pick up the slack and get either her work done or whatever other task had been put off by Owen. She sipped at her glass of wine, it tasted bitter. For every one she had he easily downed three. Whatever he drank was always cheap, it was about the buzz for him not the taste. Having worked herself into a slight fury over this she resentfully threw the rest of her wine into the sink and sat back down to her paper work.
As Lisa walked by the room Owen was in on her way to bed she saw a light flicker of light from underneath the door. The music had long died out and only an eerie deadness emanated from the room. A hollow thud of a glass bottle slipped passed the threshold. After a deep breath she sighed heavily and went to bed.
Owen was sitting with his attention seemingly transfixed beyond the wall he was staring at. His eyes were glassy and his posture awkward, he hadn’t changed positions in quite some time. He was singularly occupied on when he had first realized he loved Lisa. He had known her for almost a year before he realized he had such feelings. It felt great, other women seemed less interesting to him they assumed a position akin to unknown men in his mind. She had made him feel young, thoughts of her occupied his mind day and night. Always the little things enveloped his thoughts; the laugh, the sideways glance, the way she held her cigarette with her elbow cupped in one hand, the smoke trailing lazily away as she stood in a dreamlike state.
He was jarred back into reality by a creak from the hall. He was in a cold sweat and could sense the furrowed brows of Lisa beyond the door. He reached over aggressively to shove his unfinished beer away. Instead he knocked it over, the contents spilling on the desk. The trickle of the beer off the edge of the desk quickly receded to a slow patter. Owen felt no anger about the situation, only complacency. The spilled beer only fit with the narrative of the evening. Like the right song it only accentuated an established motif. Rising from his seat he decided against cleaning up the mess, not wanting to risk running into Lisa. He didn’t want suffer her scowling face a final time. The beer continued to drip at larger intervals. Owen quietly slipped into the guest bed and was asleep faster than his mind should have allowed.
The next morning it was like nothing had transpired. They were slightly more sullen about the work week than usual but the status quo prevailed. Owen got the typical cups of coffee for the two of them and they lazily read the paper in bed before committing to starting the day. Lisa was the first in the shower and out of the door. This left Owen ample time to fiddle about the house. He would lightly rearrange things, it had become sort of a game. He knew it drove Lisa up the wall since she was the only one that actually cared about how the house looked. Owen left slightly later than he intended and went to work. The sticky mess from last night now dried on the desk and carpet in the guest room.
Owen dredge through work, he had a caustic relationship with his coworkers. In the morning as he entered the office before heading into the field the light buzz of voices would die out. He had become somewhat of a scapegoat for his crew. However minor the action he was always viewed as the agitator. If there was a labor issue Owen was sure to be the one to stir the pot. Everyone else just wanted peace. Owen would settle his affairs as quickly as possible and get out into the field, not wanting to engage anyone.
Once out he had minimal contact with people, simply wanting to finish the task at hand. Life had become work to him in general. Work had also become a reprieve since when he was too busy with working he was too preoccupied to think. Suddenly the day would be over and he was on his way home again for another sour evening with Lisa. During his drive home Owen would listen to the music he used to so enjoy when Lisa and him had started dating, he used to play guitar to, songs that let him bring action to his emotions. It was always bittersweet thinking of that time barely in the past. Having aspirations, having a girl he loved, that feeling of being powerful. There were certain songs that tore at him so deeply that he would clutch the steering wheel in a rage and shout until his throat was raw. Then he imagined Lisa smiling, they were happy, overworked and struggling, but happy. He had once been a reserved man and could become lovingly animated when happy. That emotion had become long foreign to him and the thought of his former self only buried him deeper into his hapless soul.
Always sooner than he desired he was in his driveway, car off, music still playing as he stared blankly at the dashboard. He blinked involuntarily and his eyes watered heavily from having been so dry. Owen didn’t want to go into the cold empty house. Lisa was not due home for at least another hour but it was no incentive to go in. He would walk in drop his pack on the counter and open a beer while looking absently around the kitchen as if waiting for something to give him purpose. Reluctantly he removed the keys from the ignition and traipsed to the front door and let himself in. He let the door swing itself open as if he were entering a haunted house. Owen suddenly felt anxious and began to sweat he stepped inside briskly and was about to fling the door shut when the meow of their cat danced trough the air. Owen gave a slight start to the musical intrusion of the feline and scolded himself internally, ‘fool!’. The cat stretch his long back and yawned like he always did when he had been locked in all day. Duchess, as he was called, scampered past Owen and out into the night.
Lisa had decided the name was appropriate for him since he was such a skilled hunter, but never had a hair out of place. And the cat was a hell of a hunter. One of his most ominous kills what that of a rabbit. The only remaining vestige was one of the rabbit’s feet. Duchess had openly flaunted his skill in the face of luck. He had devoured it in front of both of them, in its entirety, except the one foot. When he came in from a kill he was always in a lofty mood; purring, affectionate, and talkative. It was so hedonistic it was off putting even for a cat.
Owen had opened his first beer at this point. He hated that Lisa would accuse him of only drinking for the buzz. In his mind everyone drank for the buzz, some people just lied that they only imbibed for the flavor. As if the two were mutually exclusive. He sipped slowly and anxiously awaited Lisa’s arrival. Another evening of pain and torment awaited them. They had both lost any inkling to make one another happy. She didn’t arrive until nearly nine. He had awaited her arrival so anxiously that he had stopped drinking around seven and was sober when she arrived. This was free license to attack.
“Where were you all night?” mused Owen sardonically.
“My parents, I figured you could take care of yourself for a night,” said Lisa dismissively as she walked down the hall.
“So it already begins!” shouted Owen down the hall triumphantly.
Lisa struggled against the urge to respond but she knew it was what he was looking for. She jumped into the shower immediately, hoping Owen would be in bed by the time she got out. The light looked to be off in the bedroom. It was a cold resurrection as she stepped out of the shower. Lisa slipped into bed cautiously hoping not to provoke a comment from Owen. They both slept uneasily, neither wanting to acknowledge the other.
Lisa was first out the door like usual in the morning. She had the news on in the background but hardly heard a word. Her mind had already turned towards work.
Lisa got to work well before anyone else. She enjoyed having a slow morning to ease her into the day. In the break room she prepared herself some tea and stood absentmindedly for several moments watching the steam swirl from the mug. Lisa looked up to see Sarah watching her.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to sneak up on you,” said Sarah in a warm tone.
“Oh, no, it’s fine. I was just lost in thought,” smiled Lisa back.
Sarah cast a worried glance at Lisa and asked. “Are you doing okay? You’ve seemed a little distant.”
“It’s just Owen, well, us in general. Things have just been rough at home lately…”
“I’m sorry,” said Sarah.
You could tell she didn’t know where to go from there. The two of them stood around awkwardly for a moment before they exchanged pursed lipped smiles to each other and Lisa left the room.
She wandered slowly down the hall to her class room. It was about an hour before her first class, she felt a twinge of dread in her chest. She didn’t know if she could do another day. At her desk she got lost for a moment again in the steam swirling from her tea. She started to cry, it was harder than she had ever cried before. Lisa had never been an overly emotional person, she liked to solve problems not have them embroil her. Her sobs wracked her body and she pulled herself to the door and locked it. Hunched over her desk with her head in her hands her tears dripped slowly and silently from her eyes. Why had Owen become such a son of a bitch? She knew why and she had known why for a long time but he was stubborn.
Owen was profoundly unhappy at his work, he had never really managed to achieve anything in his life beyond just skating along in life. He had dropped out of college, taken a good union job that paid well enough, and twenty years later they almost had their house paid off and a couple of successful kids. But, he never struck out to take a chance on what he wanted. Whenever Lisa had pushed him to finally sit down and write, take a union stewardship, or maybe go out on hike by himself he simply shrugged and took a sip of beer and unpaused whatever movie he had be slowly working though. She still loved him she assured herself.