Sarah sat in her weather beaten Adirondack chair sipping from a full glass of white wine and gazing up at the sky. It was a clear night and she could see hundreds of twinkling stars lighting up the darkness. The full moon seemed thrown against the backdrop of the stars. She let her mind wander over the events of the past week.
Her divorce to Sam was now behind her. Thankfully, they had decided not to have kids, so she could walk away from this chapter of her life and never see him again. She won the house, all the furnishings, and her car in the settlement. Sam had, at first, tried to fight it, claiming everything they owned was due to his efforts, his hard work; but after her lawyer showed him the lovely photographs of Sam with his girlfriend in various, ah, poses, he stopped fighting. Hiring the private investigator was the best idea ever, Sarah thought to herself. Not that Sam cared that he got caught cheating on his own wife after eight years of marriage. What really got to him was the threat of showing the pictures of him participating in embarrassing sexual role play. Sam was all about appearances, and those pictures would not be the appearance he wanted the world to see. So, without another whimper, Sam gave Sarah everything she wanted. She knew she could have gotten alimony, but Sarah wanted the entire nasty mess behind her. She just wanted to never see Sam again.
Now, here she sat in her large, two bedroom, two and a half bath house. Alone. A sigh escaped her lips as she thought about her future. She still worked at the day care, answering the phone and greeting the working moms and dads of America as they dropped off their various children for the day. It was a pleasant job, for the most part, but not particularly fulfilling. Sarah had a college degree in art history, but Sam had always made fun of it and teased her about making a career out of ” looking at dead people’s paintings.” Honestly, there wasn’t a great demand for an art history major in the Florida suburb where she lived. Sam berated her for not working, so she took the first job she could find. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t horrible, either. Now she had a decision to make. Her job only paid minimum wage and would not be enough to cover the bills now that Sam was gone. She either needed to sell the house and move to something smaller, or find a better paying job.
Sarah looked around at the house. This had been her home for the last nine years of her life. It was a two-story modern with a detached two car garage. When she and Sam first bought the house, she only agreed to it because Sam was so insistent. He loved the sharp, angular look with the stark white interior, but Sarah secretly thought of it as a white box with no personality. But because he loved it, Sarah agreed. Now that she thought about it, that was how their entire marriage worked. Sam liked the classic look of the BMW, so that is what they bought. Sarah hated saying goodbye to the old Honda Civic she owned before they married, but Sam insisted she drive a better car that fit their new lifestyle. Sam wanted the house in the country club neighborhood, so that is where they lived. Somewhere along the way, Sarah stopped having a say in what they bought or where they went or what they did. She realized now that she had even given up all her old friends, including her best friend Margie. Now the only friends she had were the wives of Sam’s business associates. Ever since she and Sam separated a year ago and Sam moved to the new condo on the golf course, it became clear that her so-called “friends” were not friends at all. Not one person returned her phone calls when she tried to arrange a lunch outing. When she ran into Eve and Linda at Macy’s, they wouldn’t even look her in the eyes. They were so “busy”, maybe they could get together “real soon”, they would “give her a ring some time.” Yeah, right. Bitches, she thought now.
“Bitches,” she said out loud, liking the way the word sounded in the night air. Sarah took another sip of the wine, then grimaced at the taste. She looked at the crystal wine glass still half filled with the amber tinged liquid. I don’t even like the taste of wine, she thought suddenly. All these years, she and Sam had sipped wine from the set of crystal wine glasses Sam had bought her as a present for their first Christmas together. She had grown used to the fancy wine they served at their parties, but she never really enjoyed the taste. “Then why are you drinking it?” she asked herself out loud, then giggled. She was a little tipsy, she thought, since she was beginning to talk to herself. She held up the glass, closed one eye, then gazed at the moon through the liquid like she was peering through a microscope. Slowly, very slowly, she tilted the glass until the contents spilled out on the tiled porch. She watched it splatter and spread into a small puddle marring the pristine floor. She felt a jolt of power when she realized Sam was no longer around to tell her the porch was a mess and needed cleaned. Giggling again, Sarah allowed the stem of the glass to slip through her fingers and she watched it fall as if in slow motion. The crystal shattered with a delicate sound when it met the concrete flooring of the porch. Startled, she sat up and looked around to see if anyone was watching. All of the lights in the nearby houses were out. She looked back down at the concrete and saw beauty in the scene. The splattered drops of wine, the spreading puddle, and the shattered crystal created a statement, it seemed. Sarah didn’t own a camera, so she grabbed her cell phone from the arm of her chair and began taking photos of the image. She liked the way the wine and the broken pieces of crystal gleamed in the moonlight. Satisfied after taking several shots, she went inside her house. Cleaning up the shattered glass could wait for another day.
After tidying the kitchen, programing the coffee pot, and readying herself for the night, Sarah sank onto her bed. She arranged her pillows just so, then settled in to sleep. The sleeping pill she took nightly since the divorce tugged at her eyelids and she soon slipped into a dreamless sleep.
Sarah’s eyes flew open and her brain registered a sound in the same instant. Coming fully awake, she lay without moving and tried to determine the source of the sound. She held her breath and glanced around her bedroom. The time on the bedside clock registered 3:07 a.m. Everything was as it should be. Sarah eased out of bed and reached into her nightstand drawer. For a moment she felt panic as her hands searched in vain, but she drew in a settling breath when her fingers finally grasped the handle of the small handgun. She felt less alone with the solid form held firmly in her left hand. She sent a silent prayer up for her stepfather, who had insisted that she knew her way around a gun.
She crept slowly and silently to the closed bedroom door. Sarah opened the door and jumped out with the gun in her outstretched hand. She saw nothing, so she tiptoed to the stairs. Standing completely still for a full minute, Sarah listened intently but she could only hear the distant hum of the heater clicking on. She took her time going down the steps, being careful to avoid the third from the bottom because it squeaked. At the foot of the stairs she could see into the living and dining rooms, both empty. Rounding the corner to peer into the kitchen her heart was pounding in her chest. Nothing. No one was there. Sarah went immediately to check all of the doors and windows in what had become a nightly ritual. Everything was locked as it should be.
She sat down heavily on the sofa and put her head in her hands. I can’t go on like this, she thought to herself. Every single night this week, she woke up in the early morning hours because she thought she heard a noise. Every single night she had found exactly nothing. Her nerves were getting the best of her and she had to put a stop to it right now. Sighing, she forced her tired body off of the sofa and padded slowly upstairs to her bed. Sarah dove under the covers and decided tomorrow would be a day of action. She didn’t know exactly what, but some things in her life needed to change in a very big way. Having made that decision, Sarah fell into a fitful sleep.