“Leave the light on.” she said quietly, barely above a whisper.
I withdrew my hand from the light switch, and shuffled over toward where she lay, a single bed sheet covering her. Stifling a yawn with my hand, I lifted the sheet and snuggled in beside her. I didn’t know which was colder, the bed itself or the lack of response from her. Sure, I’d been in the doghouse before (what married man hasn’t?), but this was something different. I trailed a single finger down her bare back, moving slowly over those points years of experience had identified as those guaranteed to slowly awaken her, or earn a swift rebuke if sleep was all she had planned for the evening. She barely moved. I rolled onto my back next to her and sighed:
“Okay, what have I done now?”
“You know full well what you’ve done.” came the cold, emotionless response.
“So, I stopped off for a few drinks with Gary. I’m not that drunk, and I’m not that late either. I called from the office and left a message. It’s not as if I didn’t tell you!”
I gritted my teeth, resisting the urge to shout, to head down that path that would lead to further recrimination and the standard sullen silence.
“You’re seeing someone else.”
It was said with such utter finality and sureness that any of my prepared excuses faltered before they even reached my mouth. Somehow her words stopped me from even trying to pretend whatever I said next was true and that I believed it. A couple of times I started to speak, but each time all that sprung to mind were the cliched phrases I’d heard in so many movies or read in so many books, used so often that nothing could ever give them weight anymore. So I settled on the only thing I could do, something long overdue. The truth.
“Yes, I guess I am.”
I paused, feeling the guilt squirm inside me, before pushing on.
“About six months.”
She went quiet for a while, so quiet I thought she’d fallen asleep, before her voice spoke again in a hush so low it was hard to tell she’d spoken at all.
“Thank you for being honest.”
“It’s the least I can do, all things considered.”
I moved to touch her shoulder one last time, to try and feel that connection we once had. The certainty in her voice though, the finality in it, caught me and I let my hand drop. All words gone now, I lifted the cover off myself and stood. I turned once to gaze at her, maybe for the final time. Was this it? Was this the last time we would be this close, this honest?
“Do you want a divorce?”
It caught me by surprise as she said it, as if nothing else this evening had been as unexpected. I looked at her, confusion obvious on my face at the suggestion.
“Well… isn’t it obvious? You’re dead. I killed you.”
There was a knock at the door, and I turned as the Detective entered the morgue, his face a mask of professional concern.
“I can give you more time if you need to say your goodbyes?”
“No. No, I think I’ve said all that needs saying. Thank you officer.”, and patting the passport in my pocket, I left.
13 Comments on 'The Cold Shoulder'
What does the author mean by spending the night in the doghouse?
he means getting in trouble it is a saying
Very well written short story. It had my complete attention to the end. I was wanting to know where this whole thing was going to go wrong in the end. But great story!
It means that he was in trouble with that person or on their “bad side” @TheHypernix
I really liked this pasta as a short little moment of split insanity. I always liked it in movies when they did what was done in this story. I don’t want to spoil anything for people who haven’t read it yet and are checking the comments. The only thing I can say is that the last line was a bit lacking because it was one of those moments where telling actually is better than showing, which a lot of writers are told to avoid. Still, good dialogue, nice use of body language, and a cool twist to tie the whole thing together.
Oh, and “spending the night in the doghouse” is mostly an american expression for “the wife is angry for something the husband did”. It’s an old saying but it DOES let the reader know that the couple is most likely middle aged without saying their exact age; another plus to the short tale.
Keep up the good work!
It means he was in trouble
That was a huge plot twist when she said, “I already killed you“
wow… Amazing! i totally didnt expect the ending it had
personally, I found the ending a bit rushed, which made it confusing. Good job, though!
I literally went “pshhh” went I read this
that plot twist got me. i expected her to kill him, but did it happen? no, because apparently she was already dead… how does that make any sense? i need an explanation.