Dreaming of Suzanne


by Josh Roseman

“PLEASE…”

“Shut up!”

*          *          *

My eyes snap open. I’m covered with sweat. I sit straight up in bed and gasp for breath, hands to my throat, body tangled in the sheet.

“Ben!” Cindy’s up on her knees, pulling me against her, arms around me. I grab at her and push her away at the same time. “It was a dream, Ben! It was that dream again!”

I’m still pushing. I’m frantic. I can’t breathe.

Cindy shoves me down onto my back, climbing onto my stomach, holding me down as best she can. But I’m writhing too hard and she shouts and falls off the bed, head cracking against the nightstand.

I cast my hand out, find the lamp, snap it on, hand around the base, holding it like a weapon, like a club, ready to attack…

…nothing.

Nothing but my bedroom.

And my wife on the floor, groaning, trying to get up onto her knees.

“Shit!” I drop the lamp and get off the bed, gathering Cindy into my arms. “Oh, God, Cin! Cin, can you hear me?”

She groans. “I’m… fine. Fine. Fi–“

A rush of wet heat pours out onto my chest and stomach, and she’s crying and choking and now she’s the one trying to breathe and I’m panicking again. “Cin, slow down! Slow down! Oh, God, Cindy…”

“I’m okay,” she croaks. “Head hurts.”

I pull my phone off the nightstand and call 911. “You might have a concussion,” I say, rubbing her back, the stench of vomit cooling on my skin forgotten for the moment. “You have to go to the hospital.”

Cindy looks up at me, eyes bleary. She opens her mouth.

“9-1-1,” I hear. “What is your emergency?”

But I can’t respond right away. Cindy’s thrown up on me again and now she can’t breathe.

*          *          *

“No! Please, not them! Hurt me, but not them… never them, please!”

*          *          *

I jerk awake from where I was slumped in the chair beside Cindy’s bed. She’s on monitors, beeping rhythmically, reassuringly. No concussion, but they want to observe her for the night. It’s just after five in the morning.

Cindy’s looking at me.

“Hi.”

“Hi.” Her voice is hoarse, throat sore, burned from vomiting; her chest is bruised because I mistakenly tried CPR and nearly broke her ribs in the process. “Water?”

There’s a pitcher on the table at the foot of her bed. I pour her a cup and hold it for her. She takes the straw between chapped lips, sucking gently. Her head lolls back after that. “Thanks.”

“Cin… Cin, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

It looks like she’s trying to shake her head, but I think she’s still too nauseous; she can barely shift it from side to side. “Accident,” she says. “Not your… your fault.”

I refuse to believe that, but we can’t argue about it now. Her eyes have drifted closed, and she’s sleeping again.

I don’t want to sleep. I don’t want to face the dream again. But I’m exhausted. I can’t stop it.

*          *          *

I take gentle steps around the kitchen, making lunches for the children. Lynnie and Billy have no idea, but Marie knows. She sits at the table, eating toast, watching me try to hide my pain.

I don’t care. I’ll endure whatever Henry gives me, because if I give in, he’ll start on them.

I won’t allow that.

*          *          *

I help Cindy into the house and bring her into the den. I wanted to put her to bed, but she said she’s had enough of that. At least in here she can watch TV. It’s the only other place besides our room that’s remodeled enough for her to convalesce in.

“Promise you’ll call me if you need anything.”

“I will.”

I cup her cheek for a moment, then go upstairs to the room we’ll eventually use for a nursery. Not yet; Cindy’s not pregnant. But someday. And if we’re going to raise a family in this house, we’re going to have to finish fixing it up.

We knew it was a fixer-upper when we bought it, six months ago. We just didn’t know how much fixing up we’d have to do. The inspector passed it, but things started to break as soon as we moved in. It began with the toilet in our master bath, which blocked up and overflowed; the bedroom carpet got soaked and we had to rip it out. Next, as Cindy was putting herbs into the window-box behind the kitchen sink, she noticed a crack in the tiled counter. She swore there was only one, but by the time I got home every tile along the window was shattered.

By the time the garage door slipped its chain and took off my car’s rear bumper, it was too late for buyer’s remorse. We were stuck with the house, and the only thing to do was completely remodel the thing ourselves. We’re teachers, both of us, and after sinking all our savings into the down payment, there was no money left to hire anyone. But my grandfather had remodeled houses, and I’d picked up a lot just by tagging along. What I didn’t know, I could learn.

I needed to learn a lot.

The moment the school year ended, Cindy and I started our monumental task. Okay, so the house is only a four-bedroom, but we had a ton of work to cram into a two-month summer break.

I finished the master bathroom and kitchen first. There was nothing wrong with the appliances, but the counters and cabinets nearly turned to dust as I tore them off the walls. Dead termites were everywhere. Cindy had had to strip three layers of wallpaper and one layer of paint off the bedroom walls before we could even lay down a primer coat. Then the den — electrical wiring gone to shit, only luck saving us from starting fires every time we’d flipped a switch.

Only luck saving me from shooting nails through my hands or falling off ladders. Not because I’m clumsy.

Because I haven’t been sleeping.

The day we started remodeling was the day the dreams began.

*          *          *

I dig my teeth into the flesh of my forearm. My eyes are crammed shut, but tears are leaking out. As long as I don’t make any noise, though, it’ll be all right. Even a whimper and he’ll hurt me more.

What he’s doing now is kind by comparison. If I try hard enough, I can forget the grunting and the sweat plopping on my back and the hot, boozy smell of his breath wafting over me.

He yanks my hair. My teeth rip my flesh. I squeak.

It’s enough.

He shoves my face into the pillow. It’s only a matter of time until I pass out.

*          *          *

“Where’d this bruise come from?”

“Hm?”

Cindy’s holding my wrist. She turns my arm over and, with one finger, traces a mottled irregular double-crescent. “What’s that?”

My vision tunnels down onto the mark, but I swallow hard and fight down a wave of pain in my lower stomach. I don’t think Cindy notices. “Probably knocked it on something.”

She smiles and kisses the mark. Her lips are dry. “Be more careful, huh?”

“I’ll try.” I squeeze toothpaste onto my brush and stick it into my mouth, wincing as the plastic bumps bruised gums. I think one of my teeth is loose.

Cindy and I wash our mouths and spit. “What are you doing today?” I ask.

“I want to finish the tile in the second bathroom,” she says. She wipes her mouth with the hand towel, then drops it between the two sinks. “I just have to put the toilet in first.”

“Do you need any help?”

She looks like she wants to say no, but I stare at her. “You can put it in place,” she allows. “I’ll hook it up.”

“Okay.”

It’s over breakfast that she mentions she was on the internet last night while I was in the garage, replacing the last of the asphalt flooring. “I managed to steal some signal from the Morrises.” They’re the family next door: mom, dad, two sons, two mutts. “Ours is down again.”

“Damn it.” I’m eating cereal; milk drips down my chin. I swipe it away with the back of my hand. “You want to call this time?”

“Maybe later.” She fiddles with her toast. “I think we got lied to.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, the records said the house was rebuilt in 1995, right?”

I nod and spoon up some more cereal.

“That’s because, in 1992, the original building burned down.”

I slam my fist on the table; it catches the bowl, which flies across the kitchen.

Cindy shakes her head, watching me get down on my knees with a roll of paper towels. “The rest of the neighborhood is about thirty years old,” she tells me while I mop up the mess. “I couldn’t find anything about the house that used to be here, but there was something in the archives of the Journal.” Despite our repeated phone calls, the paper kept getting tossed on our driveway. I haven’t gotten a bill yet, so I’m not complaining. I just keep putting them into the recycling bin. “A gas explosion,” she says. “It blew away the back half of the house; the fire took care of the rest. Four people died.”

“Oh. That’s… just lovely.”

“I know.” She nibbles at a bit of toast. A smear of strawberry jam paints her chin and lower lip. Cindy really is the messiest eater I’ve ever known. “Is there someone we can sue?”

I shrug as I get up. “I doubt it. We would’ve had to do it sooner.”

“I’ll look again tonight if I can. There’s got to be something we can do.” She gets up from the table. “Someone should’ve told us!”

I just shrug again. Cindy puts her arms around me and I hug her back, tucking her head under my chin. I’m not a giant, but she’s five-foot-nothing. I kiss her hair, which is pulled back into a tight ponytail. Her shoulders are bare but for the straps of her tank-top, and her skin is covered with freckles. It’s been too long since I’ve teased her about them, or teased her by kissing every single one of them. But by the time we get to bed these days, I’m too scared of what I’ll see when I fall asleep afterward.

*          *          *

Tape around my wrists and ankles keeps me from struggling. I can’t move but to close my eyes. At least he left me that. At least I don’t have to stare into the mirror and watch him.

The stickiness burns my skin; I concentrate on that instead of what he’s doing. The tape will be ripped off when he’s finished; my skin will come with it.

But it could be worse. At least he hasn’t used the tape to make me watch.

He likes to make me watch.

This time I’m allowed to close my eyes, to endure him, to thank whatever God put me in this place that he only hurts me.

He slaps the side of my hip. I don’t even flinch.

I never flinch anymore.

*          *          *

Cindy meets me at the truck. She gets in before I can shut it off.

“Drive.”

Her face is colorless. She has a sheaf of papers clutched to her chest. She pulls her seatbelt across her body.

“Cin?”

“Just drive.” She looks at me, chocolate eyes ringed with white, rimmed with red. She’s been crying. “Please, Ben, just… just get me away from here!”

I do as she says. I drive us to the park on the far side of the neighborhood. It’s barely eight in the morning; I got up early to pick up new carpet, thick rolls of it in the bed of the pickup, red flags hanging off the back, warning other drivers not to get too close.

There’s no one but us at the park, not at this hour. I crack my windows, then turn the engine off. “Cin, what is it? What’s going on?”

She’s crying again. I can’t hug her because the damn truck has a center armrest, but I reach out. She grabs my hand, squeezing my fingers so hard I’m afraid they’ll break.

I tug at the papers. She lets me take them. I skim the first few pages.

Ten owners in fifteen years. The man we bought the house from said he’d lived there a year, but he was getting a job transfer and had to sell fast. We thought we were getting a deal; we’d congratulated ourselves on paying well below market value.

Cindy had googled each of the owners. The most recent had quit his job and was working for a shelter in the city. Three had blogs full of dark thoughts and disturbing dreams. A divorced woman with two children — a son and a daughter — had left for a vacation, turned the wrong way on an exit ramp, and had been killed in a head-on collision. The kids were living with their father in California now.

“Cindy, what is all this?”

“It’s the house,” she says, her voice shaky. The only color in her face is around her eyes; the rest is paler than I’ve ever seen it. Her hand is cold where it touches me. “Look at this last one.”

It’s a printout from a library microfiche machine. I didn’t think they made these things anymore; we certainly don’t use them at the high school, and even our technology is woefully behind the times. But Cindy found it somewhere. The paper is slightly curled; I dent the edge with my thumb to keep it from rolling up.

It only takes me half a minute to get through the mercifully-brief article.

“That explains the dreams,” Cindy says. “It explains everything.”

I’d told Cindy about some of my dreams. Not the worst of them; not the ones that, when I woke up, I was so sick that I wanted to kill myself just to make them stop. She told me I should see someone, so I found a therapist. He was trying to help me find memories I’d repressed somewhere, but how could I remember being a mother who shoved her children into a shed to protect them from their stepfather? I’ve never been a woman, Cindy is my first wife, and my parents are still married.

“It’s got to be a coincidence,” I say, shaking my head. I pull my hand out of Cindy’s and stack the papers together, the news printout on the bottom, out of sight. “I can’t… I mean… how?”

“I don’t know,” Cindy says, eyes welling with tears again. “But Ben, we have to get out of there!”

“And go where? And sell to whom?” I’m snapping, almost snarling, but I can’t help it. “We can’t afford to leave, and the house is a mess anyway! Who’d buy it? We…” She’s sobbing louder, and I control myself, reaching for her. My hand touches her shoulder. The neck of her shirt is damp with sweat. “Cindy, we’d never get enough money to cover the loan, and even if we could, how could we pay for a new apartment?”

“I don’t care. B-B-Ben… please, just… please!”

I get out of the truck and slam the door, walking out into the park. There’s an old-style dome-shaped jungle gym; I climb slowly to the top, facing the small, man-made lake beyond the chain-link fence.

I hear Cindy climb up behind me. There’s enough room for both of us if we’re careful. Her arm goes around my waist and I hold her hand against my side. “Everyone who left,” I say slowly. “Everyone had something bad happen. I don’t want that.” I look at her. She’s not crying, but tracks from old tears glisten in the morning humidity. “I can’t do that to us. I can’t quit. I can’t face–” My voice breaks and I turn as best I can to hug her to me. My shoulders are shaking — that fine trembling I get when I’m trying not to cry, trying not to make a sound — and my fingertips are numb.

“We’ll have to face it together, then,” she says, her voice muffled against my shirt. “If you’re staying, I’m staying.”

We’re both crying, but I kiss her and she kisses me and somehow it helps.

*          *          *

I hear him talking to Lynnie. He’s controlling himself, asking her how her day went. She wants to know where I am; he says I’m asleep, that I wasn’t feeling well.

She doesn’t know I’m nearly covered in tape, under the blanket, unable to move. Every time I try, my skin pulls against the tape and I have to swallow my whimpers.

We have a deal, him and me: I stay silent, and he doesn’t hurt them.

I stay silent.

He’s in the bedroom soon enough. He takes off his pants, rolls me onto my back, and climbs onto my chest. He pulls the tape from my mouth. My lips burn, my body burns, his weight forcing my skin to tug and tear under the tape.

I can’t take it. I’m going to scream. I open my mouth.

And then he shows me mercy, forcing himself past my tender lips, all the way to the back of my throat. I can’t possibly scream now.

Mercy.

Mercy.

Mercy.

*          *          *

I wake with a scream — a full-blown, ear-shattering scream — and turn to my side, clutching my stomach, retching and gagging.

“Ben!”

I feel Cindy’s hand on my shoulder; I shrug her off and jump out of the bed as fast as I can. I don’t want to hurt her again. That’s the last thing I need. But her touch makes me sick, makes my head spin, and I stumble and fall to my knees.

“Ben, what is it?” She’s next to me, naked, just like I am. She reaches out, trying to hold me, but I shy away. “Oh, Ben, what happened?”

I turn on the light but it doesn’t help. Just seeing her naked, seeing myself naked, it all rushes back and I barely make it to the toilet in time.

When my vision clears, Cindy’s got a cup of water in her hand. I sip it, swish it in my mouth, and spit into the bowl.

“Here,” she says, going to the hook behind the door. She brings me my bathrobe and helps me shrug it on, then pulls her own over her shoulders. “Is that better?”

“Kind of.” I turn and sit with my back against the bathtub, head between my knees. Cindy flushes the toilet, then closes the lid and sits on it. “That was…” I shudder. “That was horrible.”

“The throwing up? Or the dream?”

I turn to face her; I know my eyes are bleary and my face is ugly, nose running and fizzing. She hands me a wad of toilet paper and I blow my nose a couple of times. “I was choking,” I say slowly. “Being choked.” I take a deep breath. “By him.”

“Oh, Ben,” she says. After we got home from the park, I told her everything: who I was in the dreams, what he was doing to me, what I was letting him to do protect my children. Her children. “I hoped… I guess…”

“It’s not your fault, Cin,” I tell her. I stroke the top of her bare left foot; her skin is cold. “It was a good idea. And we hadn’t done it in a long time.”

Cindy touches her lips with two fingers. “No. No, we hadn’t.” We’ve been married long enough that she doesn’t blush anymore, but she still doesn’t like to talk about sex. Doing it is fine, but talking about it? No way.

We sit in the bathroom for a while, until I manage to get to my feet. “I think…” I take a deep breath. “I think I need a hug.”

Cindy touches me tentatively, waiting; when I realize her touch doesn’t make me want to pass out, I hold her so tightly that I’m afraid she can’t breathe.

But her arms are just as tight around me.

*          *          *

I don’t know how much longer I can keep him away from my children. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be enough for him. He’s getting worse, more violent, and it’s getting harder to hide it from them.

Tonight he choked me until I passed out, then smacked me across the face until I woke up. Then he did it again.

He did it because Marie said something. It was quiet, under her breath, but he heard and he started for her and I was barely able to grab his arm and pull him back. I hugged him hard and, whispering, told him to hurt me. Told him I could take it.

Told him I wanted it.

It worked. Marie is safe. He’s asleep, and I’m dizzy and wearing a black-and-blue necklace, but Marie is safe.

I don’t know how much longer they’ll be safe.

I have to do something.

*          *          *

If I sleep in the den, the dreams aren’t as bad. Sometimes, I almost feel like I can figure them out. But when I sleep in the bedroom, in the very bed where Cindy and I made love for the first time, I wake in a cold sweat. Or a panic. Or nauseated.

One Wednesday afternoon, I tell my therapist I’m not going to see him anymore. He’s not helping, not really. He keeps telling me I’m repressing memories, and I keep trying to tell him that the dreams aren’t mine. He refuses to listen.

Cindy finds the reporter who wrote the article. She’d quit the newspaper the next day and gotten certified as a preschool teacher. “I see their smiles every day,” she told Cindy via e-mail, “and it’s all that keeps me going.”

When we finally meet, she brings her original notes from the story. “I keep them locked away,” she says. “I can’t bear to throw them out, but I’ll be damned if I look at them again.”

Cindy and I sit across the table from her. She watches us, sipping her coffee, and we go through her notebook, slowly turning pages, reading every word. I have a Coke and Cindy has sweet tea, but neither of us remembers to drink. We’re too engrossed in the story, told in that messy script.

“They never found him,” I say.

“No. But he’s dead.”

“We saw the note.” Cindy is pale, lips thin and tight, and I can see the strain in her shoulders and neck. I can see that she wants to rip the notebook to pieces. “The wife… she killed him.”

The woman cups her mug in her hands. “She said she killed him. She survived, you know. For a few minutes. Long enough to tell…” She falters, but manages to continue. “Long enough to tell us he was dead. And her children too. Apparently… apparently she could endure the abuse until he went after them. That…” Her eyes glitter. “That was her breaking point.”

I nod. “Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me,” she says quickly. “I still see her every day.”

“What?” Under the table, Cindy grabs my hand. “What do you mean?”

“I was there,” she tells us. She puts her mug down. “I saw the bodies come out of that house. Every day, I see that woman, and I wonder what I would’ve done if it was me.”

“Be thankful,” I say. “Be very, very thankful it wasn’t you.”             “Oh, I am. Trust me, I am.”

*          *          *

“Mama, what’s going on? Where’s Billy?”

“Billy’s gone to bed,” I say. “I need you to help me, Marie. You’re the oldest, and I need you to help me.”

“But what about Daddy?” Her voice is uncertain. “If you’re not there when he wakes up, he’ll–“

“Daddy said it was okay.” I try to sound reassuring, but it’s hard. We both saw him backhand Lynnie; she stumbled and fell on her backside, too stunned to cry, a welt forming on her cheek. Marie grabbed her and got her away from him. Then Billy jumped on him, and he threw Billy against the wall.

My children. He hurt my children.

He broke our agreement, and he hurt my children.

He will never hurt my children again.

I can trust Marie to help me with this. She’s sixteen, grown into her body, lean and strong. For a moment, I let myself wonder what it would’ve been like if she’d grown up like a normal girl.

Then we’re at the shed. I give her the shovel.

“Mama, why does Daddy need a hole in the shed?”

“Don’t ask me questions like that.” Instantly I feel shame for scolding her; she hangs her head, tensing up as if I’m going to hit her.

My poor Marie.

“Just dig, sweetie,” I tell her. “I’ll be right back.”

“Okay, Mama.”             I leave Marie in the shed, the sound of the shovel crunching into the dirt all the confirmation I need that she’s doing what I ask. But then, she’s learned to be subservient, to do what Daddy says. Invoking his name was all it took.

Lynnie’s in the living room. I’ve covered her with a blanket, and by moonlight I can’t see the bruise on her face.

“Daddy?” It’s the whisper of a child who’s still half asleep.

“Daddy’s not here, honey,” I say.

Lynnie’s lower lip starts to tremble. “Where… where is he?”

“He’s not here.” I kiss her forehead. “Go to sleep, honey.”

“But what if he comes back?”

“He’s not coming back. I promise.”

It’s enough. She closes her eyes. I kiss her again, then go to Billy’s room. I kiss him too; he stirs, but doesn’t wake up. I gave him Tylenol PM, told him we’d go to the doctor in the morning, once Daddy was at work; in his sleep he clutches himself, protecting himself from something in his dreams.

And finally I go to our bedroom. He’s on the bed, eyes closed. He looks normal except for the bloody gash in his forehead. He came for the tape; he was going to tape them like he taped me. I tackled him to the bed and he smashed his knee into my stomach; I grabbed the lamp as I fell and, when he pulled me up, when he drew back his fist, I slammed it down as hard as I could.

Then I did it again, and he collapsed.

He’s not dead, though. Not yet. He’s still breathing.

I wrap him in the blanket, hold it shut with loops of tape, and drag him out to the shed.

Marie’s not gotten too far with the hole, so I take another shovel and help.

“What’s in there, Mama?”

I meet her eyes, and I know she knows. “Just something that needs getting rid of.”

*          *          *

I blink the sleep out of my eyes.

“Quickly,” Cindy says. “What happened? Tell me what happened before you lose it.”

I see the pad on her lap, the pen in her hand, and I remember the plan. I tell her about the mother, the son, the daughters, and the husband. We’ve been doing this for a week now, our remodeling on hold. We can’t sleep much, either of us. Cindy catches naps when she can because she stays up all night, waiting for me to wake. The couch is doing horrible things to my neck and back, but if I sleep in our room, all I remember is being beaten. Or worse.

“This could be it,” Cindy says, reviewing what I’ve told her. “This… this is the first time you’ve had this one?”

“Yeah.” I sit up on the couch and crack my neck. “Yeah, I think so.”

A smile spreads slowly across Cindy’s face. “So what do we do?”

“Call the police.”

“You don’t want to–“

“Oh, hell no. It’s their job. Make them do it.”

Cindy dials, eyes shining, still smiling.

I can’t help it. I smile back.

*          *          *

Marie’s gone to bed. It’s just me awake now. Just me, and the paper, and the pen in my hand.

I start to write.

*          *          *

Neither Cindy nor I watch as the police dig up the shed. I sit on the couch in the den; Cindy’s stretched out, head in my lap, asleep. I hear excited voices, then heavy feet on the stairs. A detective looks in.

“We’re going to need to take your statements,” he says, his face kind. He looks like someone’s favorite uncle. “Do you want to…”

“Can we come down tomorrow?” I ask, keeping my voice low. My fingers are in Cindy’s hair, the curls soft under my skin. “It’s been a rough week.”

He nods. “By ten, please.”

“All right.” I offer up a week smile. “Thank you.”

“Thank you,” he says, and he sounds relieved. “Turns out the fire eliminated traces of the fresh grave. Mrs. Langshaw was so thorough with the dirt that we might not even have noticed it if there hadn’t been… but there was.”

“Just glad to end it,” I say.

“My card is on your kitchen table. Call me if you need anything.”

“I will.” He leaves, closing the door gently behind him. I look down at Cindy’s peaceful face.

It’s all over. I can sleep now.

*          *          *

The sky is just beginning to turn from black to deep blue. I’ve written down everything I can think of. Someone should know the truth.

Someone should know why I had to do this.

Henry was always strict with me, but I deserved that. He was strict with me because he loved me. But then he started drinking more and more, and he threatened to go after the kids.

I hoped it would pass. I prayed it would pass.

But I knew it wouldn’t.

He deserved what he got. He deserved being buried out there.

My kids, though… They don’t deserve this. I put them through this, and they don’t deserve it.

Marie won’t recover. She’ll marry someone like Henry and it’ll start all over again. I should know: girls always marry their daddies, and my daddy was just as strict as Henry ever was. Marie will grow up and move out, but Billy and Lynnie will be stuck with me.

And I’ll do it again. I’ll marry Daddy again. I’ll start it all over again.

I can’t do that to them. I can’t let my girls become what I became, and I can’t let my son do to his future family what his stepfather did to me.

This will end here.

I put the note in an envelope and put the envelope in the mailbox across the street. Mr. Sutherland will find it, and he’ll know what to do.

I pocket a book of matches, then turn the gas on and close the kitchen doors. I go to the dining room. From the window I can see the sunrise.

Enough time passes. I light a match. I kick open the kitchen door.

And I smile.

*          *          *

My eyes snap open. My skin aches, like I’ve been sunburned. I sit straight up in bed and gasp for breath. I’m on fire! I open my mouth to scream and–

–don’t. The sensation fades as quickly as it came. I can move, I can breathe, and I’m not in pain anymore.

Ben doesn’t even stir when I get out of bed and pad barefoot to the kitchen. I draw a glass of water from the sink and carry it out onto the deck. It’s a warm night; the moon is full and there are no clouds to block the stars. I breathe deeply, enjoying the scent of the grass. Ben mowed it as the sun went down, and it still smells fresh.

At the back of our yard, police tape still surrounds our shed. The detective said they’d be coming back tomorrow to finish up the investigation.

Something moves in the darkness of the open shed doorway. I squint, then shake my head. They took Henry Langshaw’s body away. I don’t know that I believe in ghosts or spirits or anything like that, but the moment the body was gone, Ben and I both felt lighter. Like we could breathe again. Hopefully, Ben’s had his last dream.

I go back into the house, put the glass in the sink, and go back to bed. Ben makes a satisfied noise as I curl up behind him, his bare legs warm against mine. I smile and kiss his shoulder; he hums again in his sleep. I contemplate waking him up to make love, but that can wait.

We both need some sleep.

*          *          *

That bitch! That stupid bitch! My fucking head is killing me and I can’t… I can’t move! What the hell? Oh, what did she–

What the fuck was that? Sounds like an explosion or something. God, when I get out of this, I’m gonna break her fucking legs, and any of those little shits that helped her’ll get the same.

Shit, it’s hot down here. What the hell did she do, wrap me up in something? Smells like dirt and shit. And I’m sweating like crazy. And my fucking nose itches.

Damn! I’m burning up under here!

Billy? Lynnie? Marie?

Suzanne?

Suzanne, where the hell are you, you crazy bitch? What the hell did you do to me?             Suzanne Abigail Langshaw, you get your fucking bitch ass back here! I’m gonna die down here! Holy shit, I’m gonna die down here!

Suzaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa–

dreaming