In Dreams

by E.V. Jacob on June 14, 2012

Another one of our stories from 2006. We are particularly fond of this one – maybe it’ll get an update in the near future.

Charlene turned, examining herself in the mirror. Her figure had been altered greatly by the pregnancy. Not that she minded, really, it was more the fact that she had nothing to show for those months of labor and waiting except for some extra weight.

Checking her watch, Charlene took her new shoes out of her closet and slipped into them. They were a bit uncomfortable, but she didn’t own anything else that went with her dress, so she would just have to put up with them for the night.

She went down to the living room and sat down in Joseph’s favorite chair. It was big and soft, and she loved to sit in it when he wasn’t around, it made her feel like he was near. She checked her watch again; it was twenty minutes to six. Charlene sighed and closed her eyes, massaging her temples – she constantly had headaches, and she felt so tired all the time. If she could only rest for a moment…maybe take a quick nap…

Just then the garage door opened and Joseph darted in.

“Hi sweetie,” he said, rushing over to kiss her before turning on his heels and racing up the steps.

“Just as I was getting comfortable,” she said in mock disappointment.

“I’ll be fifteen minutes, just give me fifteen minutes,” he called from upstairs.

“Why are you rushing so much?” Charlene asked, sinking back into the chair.

“Well, they start serving cocktails at six, and the actual dinner party doesn’t begin until seven, but George wants me there a little earlier this time,”

“I thought it didn’t matter when you showed up, so long as it was before seven,”
“Yeah, but you know George.”

Joseph hurried through a quick shower and changed into the suit Charlene had laid out for him.

Charlene smiled as her husband opened the car door for her and began putting on her make-up as he started the car. They were going to one of his many work parties, and she was not looking forward to seeing all his co-workers again. She hadn’t talked to any of them since before it had happen; Charlene could just imagine what they would say, how they would look at her, it made her want to jump out of the car, but she forced herself to be strong for Joseph.

“Sweetie, you just ran a red light,” she scolded gently as he zipped through the intersection.

“I did not,” he said, “it was still yellow.”

She laughed, “Sure it was…”

“No, really, it was,” he said playfully.

Charlene smiled, still shaking her head, and finished applying her make-up.

They pulled into the parking lot and Joseph paid the valet worker to park their car. He then took Charlene’s arm and walked with her into the country club.

“Are you alright?” he asked quietly.

Charlene nodded and patted his hand gently, “I’m fine, honey, really,” she promised.

The dinner party went basically how Charlene had predicted it would; endless chatter, pointless gossip, and everyone discreetly asking Joseph, “how is she?” or “is Charlene holding up alright?”

It was Darryl who was finally drunk enough to bring up the unpleasant subject to Charlene’s face. A bit of his wine sloshing over the side of his glass, he asked, “So Charlie, how’s the baby? Due pretty soon now, eh? Like, a month, right?”

She felt Joseph grip her shoulders slightly. He whispered to her, “He’s drunk, sweetie, ignore him.”

Charlene took a delicate sip of wine and replied gently, “I lost the baby last month, Darryl, but thank you for asking.”

Darryl blinked once and nodded, “Oh…right. Right, yeah, yeah…Michelle told me not to bring it up. Right, sorry,” and with that he stumbled off to bother another co-worker.

Charlene stared intently at her half-empty glass of wine for a moment while Joseph tried to think of something to say.

Kissing her forehead, he told her, “If you want to go, we can just leave. It’s fine with me, really.”

Charlene shook her head, “No, no, I’m alright.”

She gulped down the rest of her wine and went to the bar tender to ask for another glass. She hadn’t had a drink for more than seven months, and with the topic fresh in her mind, she decided to indulge and get a bit tipsy herself. Maybe she could ask Darryl something embarrassing as revenge.

After two more glasses of merlot, Charlene began to wonder where Joseph had gone to. Granted, she’d been sitting at the bar for a while, but she couldn’t help but worry.

Standing, Charlene began to wander through the party – which was steadily dying down – in search of her husband.

“Joseph?” she called as she walked down an empty hallway. There was the sound of a door closing and Joseph came walking down the hall. One of his younger co-workers was with him.

“Oh, hi honey,” he said to Charlene. “This is Alicia – she’s one of my associates.”

He seemed quite happy about all this.

A horrible, sinking feeling emerged in the pit of Charlene’s stomach as she began to wonder if it were possible Joseph was seeing someone else.

“Oh…hello,” Charlene said, trying to sound calm, “I’m Charlene, Joseph’s wife.”

Alicia nodded, “I know.”

Charlene was at a loss. They weren’t even really trying to hide it.

Joseph looked back and forth at the two women for a moment, then said, “Well, hey, Charlie, Alicia and I were talking, and she’s got some great business ideas – so she and I are gonna stop by the office and get to work on some of this so why don’t you go ahead and go home. Alicia will give me a ride home, I shouldn’t be too late.”

Charlene didn’t know what to say, so she just nodded. Joseph handed her the receipt for the car and then kissed her very, very lightly on the forehead. Then, without another word, he and Alicia walked off toward the bar and ordered a couple drinks.

Tears welling up in her eyes, Charlene walked as quickly as she could without actually running and called up one of the valet workers. While she waited for him to come back with her car, Charlene struggled to keep her composure. Once she was in the car, however, she allowed herself to burst into tears. He was sleeping with her! He was with someone else, how could he?

Charlene sped all the way home and screeched into her driveway, not caring if she’d awoken her neighbors with the racket.

The clock in the kitchen read 11:27. Still sobbing, Charlene snatched up the phone and dialed Joseph’s cell number. She stood there staring at the “talk” button, trying to make herself press it, but she couldn’t. She hit end instead and dropped the phone on the counter.

“How can you do this to me!?” she screamed to no one.

Charlene stomped around her house for a while yelling into the darkness, but her fury was short-lived and she found herself collapsing on the floor in a fit of tears.

She got up after a moment, still crying hard, and fell down onto Joseph’s chair – the same one she’d been so happy to remember him in earlier – and cried herself to sleep.

* * *
Charlene woke up suddenly, her face stained with dried-up tears. In the midst of her pain, she had fallen asleep and dreamt about him and that girl, Alicia. She had dreamt that she’d gone to the office to confront him and found the two of them together. When her suspicions had been confirmed, she’d pulled a revolver from the purse she hadn’t had a moment before and shot them both.

That had been the part that had awoken her. Sitting up, Charlene checked her watch. It was past six in the morning. Charlene stood up and straightened her dress, which was wrinkled from having slept in it. She rushed through the house searching desperately only to find that he still wasn’t home.

Charlene fell against the wall sobbing and slid to the floor. Her feet hurt from the damn shoes. She pulled them off and threw them violently across the room. She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t think straight. He was seeing another woman; he had broken their wedding vows. The only thing in her life that had ever hurt this badly had been finding out her baby was dead inside of her.

That’s what started this.

With a terrible shock of pain, she realized that it had in fact been her own moping about after the miscarriage that had driven him away from her. Of course – he didn’t know what to do with her, or how to cope. It had hurt him too, but she’d been so absorbed in her own suffering she hadn’t realized it – too selfish and immature to even recognize the suffering of her husband.

Charlene gave a shrill cry of agony and slammed her fists against the wall. She hated herself completely and absolutely. Writhing in emotional agony, Charlene staggered across the entry way and into the hallway that lead down to the basement Then, still crying so hard her surroundings were blurred, Charlene stumbled down the stairs, nearly falling and breaking her neck on the way down.

She rummaged around in the storage bins for a time before finding a length of rope. Charlene had no idea how to tie a noose, so she simply tied the rope securely around her neck with several strong knots. She searched for something to stand on and finally spotted the brand new, unused highchair sitting in the corner. She dragged the highchair across the floor to a spot on the ceiling with a two strong hooks. Joseph had placed them there a year earlier with the intention of buying a good bicycle and keeping it stored out of the way, but had never gotten around to using them – the baby had distracted them both from most of their plans.

Charlene stood on tip toes on the tray of the highchair and tied the rope around the hook. After she’d completed her knots, she gave a slight tug on the rope to make sure it was secure, which it was. Taking a deep breath, Charlene kicked the chair out from under her feet. It fell away with a sharp bang!

* * *
Joseph turned the knob of the front door and walked into the house, home from work a little later than he’d hoped to be.

“Charlie?” he called, “Honey, are you ready? We’re going to be late for the office party.”

He dropped his suitcase on the couch and checked his watch; it was only half-past six – they had enough time, but he was hoping to get there a bit early. He wanted to get Charlene out of the house, maybe cheer her up a bit. These past weeks had been hell for them both; he wanted to make sure she was doing alright. He undid his tie and continued calling to his wife.

“Are you wearing your new dress? Come on down, I wanna see how gorgeous you look.”

The house was silent.

Joseph called to her again, “Charlie? I’m going to come up whether or not you’re ready,” he teased.

But she wasn’t in their room, or the bathroom, or anywhere that he could see. He searched everywhere, but couldn’t seem to find her. Finally, wandering through the house once more, he noticed the light seeping into the room from the basement door.

“Charlie?” he called, the eerie silence stretching on for far too long.

Slowly, Joseph began to descend into the basement.

That was where he finally found his wife. There was no note, no explanation – just Charlene’s lifeless body hanging from a support beam, half-open eyes staring blankly at Joseph as he collapsed into a heap on the floor and broke down.

  • Mark

    So dark and sad. I love it.

    • Elena Jacob

      Thank you! :D

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