And Then The
by Emily Suzanne
It was a dark and stormy night. Of
course it was a dark and
stormy night; it had to be. All murders take place on dark
and stormy nights.
Panting, Michelle let herself fall from her knees and land on her
side in the wet, muddy grass. Her nightgown was stained, her
fingers bloody and blistered. And she had a wild, uncontrollable
urge to laugh out into the darkness of the rainy night. She
wondered to herself if all murderers felt this way, or if she was
just crazier than the rest. She gave into the urge and rolled in
the grass, laughing loudly. Even to her own ears, the sound was
maniacal, almost scary. Her laughter faded to a broad grin and she
sat up. She hadn’t expected this moment to feel so good.
Mission accomplished. It was all over now, the evidence buried in
the woods a quarter mile behind the big empty house. There were
tears in Michelle’s eyes, to be sure, but they were tears of relief,
not tears of shame. She had finally done the thing she had been
thinking about, dreaming of, obsessing over, for years.
Since childhood, really. The focus of her rage had changed over the
years, but never the rage itself. This very moment was the first in
what seemed like her entire life in which Michelle could honestly
say she felt no rage at all. Still grinning, she stood, shovel in
hand, and breathlessly began the walk home.
The clock was chiming when she sloshed into the house and stepped
out of her husband’s knee-high waders. They were wet and filthy,
covered with mud and grass and God knows what else. She didn’t stop
to clean them, though. It was three a.m., and it wasn’t like he
would be using them any time soon. She smiled to herself as she
lifted her nightgown over her head, discarded it in a watery pile on
the floor next to the boots, and walked up the stairs naked and
She almost hated to go into the bathroom like this. She had cleaned
it so carefully. But there was no other way. She needed a bath,
couldn’t go to bed all covered with mud. It would ruin the sheets.
And besides, she was already so sore. If she didn’t soak her poor
muscles now, she’d barely be able to move by morning. So, into the
sparkling bathroom it was.
Michelle stared at her body in the mirror while the bathtub filled.
Her feet were short and stubby, her ankles thick and swollen. They
were the only parts of her body not covered in muddy swirls. Her
knees were barely more than indentations in her massive legs.
Turning sideways, she looked at her heavy, drooping belly and the
rear that protruded, firm and large and round, behind her. Her arms
swelled from her shoulders and her neck almost disappeared between
the mounds of flesh on her chest and the folds of her chin. Not
much to admire. Except, tonight, for the first that she could
remember, Michelle was looking at her body with no hatred, no
shame. She had finally freed herself, and it felt good.
She ran her hands over her body, feeling every inch of fatness that
she could reach, then climbed into the bathtub and drew a deep
breath. Reality was beginning to set in, just a little. Reality,
but not yet remorse. Michelle smiled once again and lay back in the
warm water. The fiberglass sides of the tub pressed against her,
comforting her in their firmness. It felt good to be contained.
Her eyelids drifted closed and she let herself relax into her
Michelle shot upright in the tub, splashing water onto the bathroom
floor. She listened carefully. Nothing to hear but silence. What
had woken her—just the cooling water, or had there been something
else? She waited for the water to stop sloshing and strained her
ears. Still nothing, so she hooked her toe around the bathtub’s
plug and lifted it. Silence was replaced by the gurgling of water
running down the drain.
Michelle hoisted herself from the tub with difficulty. Between her
aching muscles and the fact that the tub was barely wider than she
was, it took a few minutes to get out and balance herself
precariously on the edge of the tub. Dripping, she opened the
bathroom door and listened once more. There didn’t seem to be
anyone in the house. She considered going downstairs to check that
the doors were all locked, but it seemed like it would require too
much energy. The very thought of climbing down the stairs and then
back up tired her. She had already climbed those stairs so many
times tonight. Instead, she retreated into the bathroom once more
and began refilling the tub with hot water. Then she flipped on the
CD player to kill the silence and submerged herself in the warmth of
This time, eyes closed, head resting on the wall of the tub,
Michelle did not find sleep. Instead, she could see everything she
had been through in the past few hours playing like a movie in her
Michelle glanced at the clock and sighed. Quarter after six, the
dinner reservations were for seven, it would take her ten minutes to
get there, and she still hadn’t found anything to wear.
Hadn’t even thought about her hair or makeup yet. She
reached into her closet and pulled out a pair of black pants. She
pulled them on and even managed to button them all right, but when
she did, her stomach bulged out above them like she was wearing a
tire around her stomach. In desperation, she yanked on an underwire
bra in the hopes that her thus enhanced breasts would hold her shirt
out and away from her protruding belly. The only clean shirts she
could find pulled across the front, though. She needed one loose
enough to hide her imperfections. Tears welled up in her eyes and
she tore yet another outfit off in frustration.
The closet was just about empty. The bedroom floor, on the other
hand, was almost completely covered. She had gained a little weight
since the last time she’d gone out anywhere. Not a lot, but enough
that every pair of pants was just a little tighter, fit just a
little differently than it had before. And everything she owned
made her bulge out in some place that she wasn’t supposed to bulge.
Finally, she dug to the bottom of the pile on the floor and found
the first pair of pants she had tried on and then discarded as too
casual. At least they fit; Michelle hated the fact that she had to
wear stretch pants, but she had to admit that they were a fat
woman’s best friend. She dug into the pile once more and came up
with a red sweater that was pretty enough to dress the pants up a
little, then grabbed a pair of heels from the closet floor and
escaped from the chaos of the bedroom into relative serenity of the
bathroom. She dressed quickly and then looked in the mirror. Her
hair was standing out in wild peaks and nests from pulling so many
shirts over her head, her face was blotchy and tear-stained, and her
eyes were red and dismal-looking.
She sat on the toilet and felt a wave of grief washing over her.
She was tempted to give in to it, to settle into a solid fit of
tears, go hide in her bed and never get out. But Chris would be
waiting for her, and she didn’t want to upset him. She stood up
again, doing her best to avoid seeing any more of herself in the
mirror than she had to. She was amazingly good at pretending that
no part of her body below her neck existed.
Michelle set to work with a comb, untangling her ratty hair. When
she had worked out all the clumps and knots, it still didn’t look
smooth and sleek like she wanted it to, like every other woman’s
seemed to. She gathered it in a knot and pinned it at the top of
her head. There, that was taken care of. She quickly dabbed at her
eyes with a cold washcloth and then carefully lined them with white
liner that would, according to some magazine she’d read, lessen the
redness. A quick dash of lip gloss later, she was ready to leave.
Finally. Five minutes before she was supposed to be there. She
scowled at the scale in the corner of the room, the bane of her
existence, and hurried out the door.
When she got to the restaurant, her husband was already there,
waiting. Of course he was, because he was perfect. Always early,
always well-dressed, always the understated center of attention in
every room. Michelle had wondered many times how the hell he had
wound up with someone like her. She was glad he had, but even now,
after ten years of marriage, she still felt like it was somehow all
She’d first seen him in the park one day, jogging past the
playground where she’d been watching a friend’s kids. She’d just
landed her dream job and was experiencing an unusual burst of self
confidence. A deliriously bold burst of self confidence. When he’d
stopped at the fountain a few feet away from her for a drink, she’d
introduced herself and asked him out. Just like that. He’d been so
surprised that he’d said yes.
But by the time they’d actually gone out, the confidence had faded.
Instead of a sexy, self-assured woman, she’d acted like a puppy dog,
soaking up his attention, begging for his approval, practically
resting her chin in his lap and panting. And she supposed that was
how it had happened. What man wouldn’t be somewhat flattered by a
woman who adored him that way? So, they’d wound up dating without
really planning to. And they’d wound up married. And since then,
the dream had been more like a nightmare at times. Not always, but
Michelle slid into the chair opposite her husband at the table he
was seated at.
“Sorry I’m late. I—my—something came up.”
“No trouble. I used the extra time to finish up some things from
At least he wasn’t angry. But he didn’t put his Blackberry away,
either. Silently, Michelle studied the menu. She fought back tears
again. This night, of all nights, was the one she wished he would
notice that she had made an effort for him. Not that she looked
wonderful or anything; her eyes were still red, her face always
looked too fat when her hair was pulled back, and she wasn’t exactly
dressed up. But he could have lied, just once. She craved
acknowledgement, attention, just a little bit of praise. But Chris
never even looked up.
Until the waitress approached, that is. The tiny, blonde waitress,
with funky black glasses, the reddest of lips, and a brilliant smile
that must have cost her parents a billion dollars in braces and
whitening treatments. When she strutted up to the table, fruity
perfumed air surrounding her, his head snapped up and the charming
smile slid onto his face. Damn, Michelle hated that smile. It was
never aimed at her anymore. Never really had been, because she’d
As soon as the waitress walked away, Michelle launched into a
conversation about a catalog she’d received in the mail. Then she
switched to one about a movie she’d seen advertised, and then one
about a client at work. But she never got more than a cursory nod
as her husband’s eyes chased the waitress around the room. Finally,
she gave up and sank into silence, allowing her husband to
concentrate more fully on the tight black pants hugging the girl’s
rear and the low-cut sweater she wore that left very little to the
imagination. And when the girl came back to take their orders,
Michelle found herself ordering a full-sized entrée, along with soup
and salad and bread. An appetizer, too. She would have ordered
more, but it was too early to order dessert.
And that only depressed her more. She had ordered half the menu.
She found herself doing that a lot. Whenever she was feeling a
little down. Or insecure. Or nervous. Or lonely. And once in a
while when she was happy, too. To celebrate. Which was why none of
her pants fit right and her husband was so busy staring at a
seventeen-year-old hussy that he had forgotten she was even there.
But he would definitely remember she was there when he got the
When Michelle had finally finished eating, or at least had eaten as
much as humanly possible and asked the tiny little waitress to box
up the rest, Chris finally spoke to her. To tell her he had to run
back to the office for a while and would be home later. She cried
all the way home.
Once there, she went upstairs. She picked up all the clothes from
the floor and piled them on the bed, intending to put them away, but
once she had gotten that far, she lacked the energy. Instead, she
stripped off her clothes, pulled a long, sleeveless nightgown over
her head, collapsed onto the bed among the wrinkled clothing, and
fell almost instantly asleep.
Her sleep was filled with a million tiny dreams that brought back
every minute detail of every humiliating moment of her life. When
she finally pulled herself from sleep, stopped the dreams from
coming, the first thing she did was look at the clock. Shortly
after eleven. He had to be home by now. But was he? Michelle
listened carefully but heard nothing. Either he was hiding out in
the living room—there wasn’t actually room for him on the bed, she
supposed—or he was still out. Still working. Or not working, which
Michelle thought exponentially more likely. That damn waitress!
She got up to use the bathroom. The light was on when she swung
around the corner, and when she entered, her eyes focused on a sight
that brought back all the rage she had been holding inside all night
long. Her whole life, really. She couldn’t hold back any longer.
By the time she was inside the bathroom, her fists were swinging.
A few minutes later, she was back in the bedroom digging under the
bed. She came up with a long screwdriver and a hammer and quickly,
breathlessly, flew back into the bathroom. She stabbed and pounded
and struck for much longer than she actually needed to. The
bathroom was a mess when she finally stopped, slid to the floor in
tears, lay there among the broken pieces of her life.
After a very long time, maybe an hour or two or even three, she
forced herself to stand. Her knees were weak with the importance of
what she had just done. And with the heaviness of the task that
awaited her. She made her way down the stairs and into the pantry.
She noticed some blood on her nightgown, but there wasn’t time now
to do anything about it. She’d have to see to it later. She
grabbed an armful of plastic bags and slowly, painfully, she climbed
the stairs once again.
It took her another two hours to fill plastic bags. She couldn’t
work for very long without pausing to catch her breath, but she
wanted to be sure nothing was left behind. It struck her that she
was being very clinical, very emotionless, about the whole thing.
The only emotion she could seem to register, in fact, was pleasure
at the sound of rain on the window, thunder in the air. It seemed
Michelle piled the bags outside the bathroom door and got the mop
out of the closet. She scrubbed the bathroom until her knuckles
were bleeding again and every inch of the floor, every fixture,
shone. She turned the lights off and stood watching the bolts of
lightening reflecting on the shiny white surfaces for a few minutes
before she began the task of doing away with the evidence. It must
be a horrible thing she had done, she knew that, but it didn’t feel
horrible. It felt pretty damn good, actually.
The bags seemed heavy to her. She had purposely filled them only
part way, but they were still so heavy. She was so weak. She threw
them down the stairs and then began hauling them out into the woods
behind the house. It took a few trips to get them to the place she
would bury them, and then another trip to the shed by the house to
get a shovel.
But she had finally finished, and now she was back in her shiny,
clean bathroom, relaxing in a tub full of bubbles, still unable to
find any guilt within herself. She had simply done what it was time
All her life, even as a child. she had been told to step on the
scale every single day. If the number was bigger than the number
she’d seen the day before, she’d been deprived of cookies, cakes,
bread, everything but fruit and vegetables, until the number was
back down. Which it rarely was, because all the steady diet of
fruits and vegetables imposed on her by her judgmental mother did
was make her steal candy from the store down the street and hole up
in her room to eat it.
All her life, long before she was even old enough to care about men,
she had been told over and over again that if she didn’t keep that
number on the scale down to a reasonable level, no man would ever
love her. She had been told that she would be a failure as a woman,
would never have children, would never know sex, would never know
love, unless she stepped on that goddamn scale every day and kept
the number down .
Well, she was done now. She no longer cared about men, or sex, or
love. She had gotten a husband, regardless of the number on the
scale, that goddamn scale that was the first thing she saw every
time she walked into the bathroom. And if he had decided since then
that he’d rather be with a skinny little seventeen-year-old
waitress, that was his problem, not hers.
The number on the scale wasn’t her problem anymore.
She’d taken care of that by smashing it and burying it in the
backyard. And it had been well worth some bloody knuckles and muddy
And for better or worse, whenever he came home
and wherever he’d been in the meantime, Michelle couldn’t wait to
tell her husband what she’d done. It was, without a doubt, a
jubilantly dark and stormy night.