Community Property by Marie Shield

Renee's teeth chattered and rivulets of perspiration and tears dampened her hair, sticking it to her face. The boat drifted when she untied the bowlines and lurched when she jumped into it. Her hands shook as she inserted the key into the ignition. Slowly she pushed the throttle to full speed, gripped the wheel, and turned the boat to where she had last seen Dave.

Tonight had started out the way most of their Friday evenings did; with Dave pounding down the drinks while Renee fixed dinner. Their next-door neighbors would be coming over at seven. She'd also invited her new boss and wanted to make a good impression. She checked her watch, put the lasagna in the oven, turned and smiled at her husband, "Honey, why don't you slow down a little?"

"Sure." He took a swallow of his Jack Daniels. "Pot calling the kettle black? How many glasses of wine have you had?"

"Two." The doorbell rang. "Never mind. Kate and Larry are here. You can make one for everyone."

Her boss pulled into the driveway as she opened the door, and everyone followed her into the kitchen where Dave was busy filling glasses with ice.

"Honey, this is Shawn Mccutcheon." She put her hand on Dave's back and gave him an affectionate pat.

"And this is my better half."

"Glad you could make it." Dave paused briefly before offering his hand. "What's your pleasure, Shawn?"

"Bourbon and Coke, if you have it."

"Jack Daniel's okay?"

"Better than okay. That's mighty fine."

Shawn lavishly praised her lasagna. Dave smiled across the table, giving a slight thumbs up and winked at Renee.

Always the loving husband, the perfect host. The usual conflicted feelings tangled in Renee's head and heart making it hard for her to swallow. Jealousy that he saved the best of himself for when they were around other people. Pride in his easy charm and natural wit and the way he made everyone feel good about themselves.

After dinner they played poker until Kate reminded Larry she promised to have their babysitter home by eleven. Shawn left when they did. The door had scarcely closed behind them when Dave turned to her with a scowl.
"You didn't tell me he was black."

"I didn't think it mattered. Does it?"

"It does when you're flirting with him and making a damn fool of me. You have no class, lady." "Cool it, Dave. I'm not in the mood." She started picking up the glasses. "Can't we have a pleasant evening for a change without you turning into a jackass?"

"Who the hell would ruin perfectly good whiskey with Coca Cola?" He grabbed the mostly full glass of Jack Daniel's and Coke out of her hand and poured it on the carpet.

Renee jerked the glass out of his hand and started toward the kitchen. "I guess Shawn would. What's it to you?"

He reached for her hair. She jumped out of the way and crossed her arms over her head. Saw his fist coming too late. It smashed into her breastbone. She doubled over, the breath knocked out of her. He shoved her to the floor, stood over her for a moment clenching and unclenching his fists, then backed away.

"I'm going for a swim."

"You're too drunk." She gasped for breath. "Don't do it."

He kicked her leg. "Don't ever tell me what to do."

The slider opened and minutes later she heard a splash. Sat up. Checked her ribs, her leg. Nothing broken. He'd shoved her around before, pulled her hair a few times but tonight was the first time he'd ever hit her with his fist.

Bastard. I should lock him out of the house. I don't deserve this. She looked at the stain spreading on the carpet. Why bother cleaning it up?

She'd been stupid enough to sign a prenuptial agreement. At the time the terms seemed more than fair. A generous settlement if he decided to dissolve the marriage. But should Renee file for divorce she'd be lucky to get out with what little she had before they married.

Renee got to her feet, closed the sliding glass door and could see Dave swimming; his arms slicing the water like scissors cutting a straight line in a sheet of metal. She finished picking up the glasses and put them in the dishwasher. She looked out the window and could no longer see him. She walked to the door, opened it again and stepped outside. Not a breeze. Not a sound. The water a flat mirror, the moon and lights from houses across the lake reflected in it.

She stumbled across the yard toward the dock.

Renee turned on the television and flipped to channel 2. The weatherman reported record high temperatures for the coming week. He ended his broadcast with, "Now we return to Stacy who is live outside the coroner's office in Laguna Brisa."

"The body of Dave Miller, well known Orange County millionaire, was discovered early this morning after his wife Renee placed a 911 call stating he'd gone for a midnight swim."

She picked up her coffee cup and went to the kitchen for a refill. She could hear Stacy talking about Dave's military record, his philanthropic works, his stellar business achievements. She returned to the living room and curled up on the sofa as Stacy reported, "Mrs. Miller is devastated by her husband's death but did speak with me briefly a few hours ago."

Renee's tear ravaged face appeared on the screen. "I don't know how I can go on without Dave. He was the kindest and most loving person on the face of the earth."

It wasn't hard to play the grieving widow. She was grieving. For the woman who once believed those words and for the one who sat in the boat last night and watched her husband drown.

The End

@ 2008 - Shield

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