The Lesson

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6:15 a.m. Better call in a sick day, Molly thought as she stared at her reflection. No amount of concealer was going to cover up that bruise. She smiled, thinking of the light-hearted responses she’d give to her coworkers if she did go in. Oh, I’m fine, but you should see the other guy.
5:15 a.m. I bet Clorox would never make a commercial for this use, she thought and laughed to herself. She stood up from the basement floor and wadded up the bloody wipe in her fist as she looked around. She put her hands on her hips and nodded. Everything looked just fine, like nothing had ever happened. Great! She began to hum “You are my Sunshine,” Jeremy’s favorite tune. Molly couldn’t wait to pick him up after school and ask him how his night at his dad’s went. She threw the disinfecting wipe into the trash bag, on top of 74 other wipes – she had used exactly one container – her entire collection of shop towels, one beautiful, silk-trimmed hand towel, and her nightgown from that night. She frowned. “It was Calvin Klein, you bastard,” she said, and knotted the bag loops together.
3:45 a.m. It was exhilarating to have absolutely no fear whatsoever. Molly had realized that the odds of her being caught were practically zero at this point. Now that she was here, at the final moments, she also knew that nothing else could happen to her tonight. The odds were just impossibly low. So, although she was in an area of the woods where, creepily enough, both wild dogs and meth heads liked to hang out, she figured the chances that she’d run into either after the kind of night she’d had were damn near impossible.
She smiled as she reached into the bag for another piece. Hm, what was it this time? Not as squishy as the last one. She pulled it out and examined it in the moonlight. Ah. A shin bone. She pulled her arm back and then let the leg sail through the air. It flew thirty feet before plummeting into the river below. Good, she thought. She had made sure to inspect the body for tattoos and weird moles. The tips of his fingers and his teeth she’d left scattered in the woods as she made her way to the river.
Molly reached into the bag, and pulled out the last piece. A chunk of spinal column. She stared down at it for a moment. She felt like words ought to be spoken, like she ought to say something. Anything. Finally she muttered, “You deserved it,” and flung the bones into space.
1:00 a.m. “Look, you need to know that you brought this on yourself,” she whispered into his ear. “I certainly didn’t choose this fate for you. You could be at home asleep right now, you know? Tomorrow could be a whole new day for you.
“But no. You chose to come here tonight and now look at yourself.” Molly sighed. “I’m going to give you ten seconds to say a prayer or whatever you want to do, and then I’m going to drive this knife into your heart. I know you’re scared, but it will only hurt for a moment, and then it will be over. Okay? Go.” She straightened up and began to count out loud. The man moaned and shook his head from side to side. “10…9…8…shh…make your peace…6…5…you should be praying, you know…3…2…1!” Molly raised the chef’s knife high in the air. The man screamed against the gag, and then abruptly became silent.
11:30 p.m. “Hey. Hey you. Wake up. Wake up, goddamnit!” She slapped him as hard as she could across the face. Ooh, that felt good. She slapped him again, across the other cheek. Again. Again. When her palms started to sting, she raked her nails down his cheeks. They barely broke the skin. She did it again, harder. Blood started to run. The man was crying now. He said something, but the washcloth in his mouth muffled the sound.
“Hm?” she said. “Oh, did you want to say something? An apology, maybe? Gee, I’m sorry, but I think I’m past the point of forgiveness tonight. Actually, I’m way, way past that point. In fact,” she paused to gather the hammer from the work bench, “I’m really looking forward to this. You’ve awakened a strength inside me that I’d forgotten I even had.” She swung the hammer through the air and slammed it into his shoulder. She heard the bone crack and the man screamed, but she ignored him and began to speak again.
“You men. You look at me and you think I’m just some weak, stupid, useless bitch, don’t you? Well, you’re wrong. You are all wrong. I am strong, and I am powerful, and I’m not going to let you underestimate me anymore.” She reached for his hand and splayed his fingers on the table. The man’s hand shook involuntarily. “Look at that,” she mused. “I know you have no control over your arm anymore, and yet your body is still trying to save itself. Amazing. Well, let me tell you something while you still have the ears and the mind to hear me.” She leaned down to his face. “I have a full toolkit here in my basement. Including – look over there – an axe! My husband left it for me after he moved out. ‘Just in case,’ he said. Most of the stuff I’ve never even used, not even the screwdriver!” She laughed. “Well, I’m going to get some use out of that screwdriver tonight. You just lay there and think about all the possibilities, okay?” Then she stood up and quickly went to work crushing his hand bones into pulp.
10:15 p.m. Something heavy landed on her stomach, knocking all the wind from her lungs and jarring her from her sleep. At the same time, a sweaty hand clamped over her mouth and she felt cold, sharp metal pressing against the hollow under her jaw. She tried to scream, but instantly the hand disappeared from her mouth and a heavy fist slammed into her cheekbone. Molly’s head whipped to the side and everything went black for a minute. She came to a few moments later, gasping for breath. Her nightgown had been shoved up around her breasts and in the dim light of her bedroom, she saw a man hurriedly removing his pants. She groaned once, and then her eyes rolled up in her skull and she blacked out again.
The next thing she knew, she was choking on bile. She turned her head to the left and vomit spewed onto her side table. “Ah, man, that’s sick!” cried the man and he jumped off of her. He began shaking his hand and small chunks of Molly’s dinner flew off and splattered on the wallpaper. He spun around and headed into the bathroom on the other side of the wall. Molly heard him rummaging through her cabinets and then the faucet squeaked on.
Silently she pulled herself from her bed. Warm saliva dribbled from her lips and something wet ran down her legs. She crouched down and carefully pulled the maple wood baseball bat from under her bed. The faucet turned off. She quickly stood up, then fought to stay conscious against a wave of dizziness. She swayed as she tip-toed to the bathroom door and placed the bat on her shoulder. Her knees shook as she pressed her back up against the wall, held her breath, and waited. The man re-appeared, drying his hands on her towel. The one with her goddamned monogram on it!
She swung the bat low and collided with his crotch. He sank to his knees and moaned. “Uuunngh.” His knife flew across the carpet. Molly quickly brought the bat down again across the back of his skull and the man toppled over and then was still.
She raised the bat again and panted, waiting for him to move, but he did not. Never taking her eyes from him, she side-stepped over to her night stand and fumbled for her cell-phone. She pushed the On button, but her fingers were shaking so badly she couldn’t navigate to the number pad. She dropped the phone on the floor. “No!” she gasped and bent down to pick it up. The man muttered something.
“Bitch.”
She stopped. She stood up and with the back of her hand, wiped a smear of vomit from her cheek. Was she really about to call the police? To have another man come and save her from this one? Molly gently touched her throbbing cheekbone and cringed. The skin was tender and had begun to swell. She looked down at the cell phone in her hand. Her hand wasn’t shaking anymore. No. She could handle this on her own.
She looked at the man. His eyes were still closed. His shirt was on, but his pants were not. She felt an ember of rage ignite in her belly. Then the ember quickly became an icy coolness and a strange feeling shot through her entire body. She felt it in her legs as she walked towards the man. She felt it in her arms as she tightened her grip on the bat. She hadn’t felt this sensation in a long, long time.
It was power.
5:30 p.m. “Be good for Dad, ok?” she said as she kissed Jeremy’s head one last time.
“Yeah, Mom. I will be, duh!” Jeremy said as he clicked his seat belt into place.
“Are you sure your belt’s on right? Did you hear it click?” she asked.
“Yeah, Mom. It clicked.”
“Okay, I’ll pick you up from school tomorrow. I love you! Be good!”
From the front seat, David turned around and asked, “So, Molly, you doing all right?”
She shrugged and smiled. “Oh, you know. Could be better, I guess, but I’m managing.”
He nodded. “Do you need anything done around the house? I can still come by and mow the lawn for you, or clean the gutters, or whatever you need doing. I know it’s got to be weird for you, you know, since I’m pretty sure you never so much as got on a step ladder before. Haha.”
She winced and waved him off. “No, no, no. I’m fine, really. I’m handling it. In fact, I just had some men come by earlier today and remove that old tree stump from the back. The one thing I can’t do by myself.”
“The one thing.” He rolled his eyes. “Right. Okay, but really. I can fix that crack in the sidewalk for you, or get someone to clean out the chimney–”
Molly threw up her hands. “I can take care of myself, David. Really. I lived alone for many years before you, and I’ll be fine living alone after you, too.”
He gave her a half-smile. “Yeah, we’ll see. Okay then. Well, just call if you break a nail or something.”
Molly stuck her hands in her back pockets. “Will do.” She bent down to smile at Jeremy through the window. “Bye, Sweetie. Love you!”
“Love you, too, Mom. See you later!”
The car pulled away from the curb and left her alone in her front yard. She waved until it was out of sight, turned around to go inside, and tripped over the cracked sidewalk. She landed hard on her knees and palms, her ass in the air facing the street. At that exact moment, she heard a car drive by behind her and the cruel sound of teenage boys laughing. “Ha ha! Did you see that bitch trip?” one of them said, and then the car was gone. With tears burning in her eyes, Molly jumped up and ran inside her house, then slammed the door as hard as she could behind her.
11:30 a.m. He watched her through the window as she sat at her kitchen table, laptop propped open in front of her, a cup of coffee in one hand. He squinted and saw she was watching a cat video. A cat video. How fucking typical. He clenched his fists and felt his veins pop out on his arms. After they were done grinding down the stump in her backyard, he was going to go to the gym. He had some steam to blow off.
“Hey Eric! Get your head out of that lady’s business and focus, man!” called Josh. Eric turned and glared. “What are you doing, man? We got work back here. Stop staring at the blonde and do something, would you?”
Eric cracked his knuckles and turned back around. All these blonde suburban women, all the same. He’d noticed the BMW in the driveway when they arrived. The pink rose bushes in the front yard. The new 4K Ultra TV hanging in her living room in full view. His blood started to boil. They were all the same. Stupid, useless women who demanded everything and worked for nothing. Maybe someone should teach this bitch a lesson. Maybe that someone was him.