A Silver Anniversary
“Why the hell is the radio playing at seven thirty in the morning?!” Frank screamed, pulling the sheets over his head.
Celeste didn’t answer him.
In fact, Frank couldn’t even hear her breathing.
He sat up, hope racing through him.
Celeste wasn’t dead, just up and about somewhere in the house. Frank inhaled, smelled the stench of his oxfords and felt the heat of the room. Muted sunlight drifted in through the open curtains, the bedroom spotlessly clean save for the trail of clothes he had left the night before. He could hear the radio playing on the first floor.
Frank swung his large fat legs over the side of the bed and stretched.
The radio’s playing, he thought in amazement.
He had told her never to play that thing when he was home. Cheerfully Frank stood up, grabbing his bathrobe from the closet and pulling it over his fat frame. Now he had an excuse to hit her. Normally, Celeste never gave him one.
But today, today seemed different. Frank could feel it.
Feels like a good day, he thought, rubbing his hands together. Whistling he put on his slippers, ran his hands through his balding hair, and headed out of the bedroom.
Halfway down the stairs Frank paused.
The smell of roses and mothballs hung in the air.
Frowning, Frank continued on his way, stopping beside the door into the den.
It isn’t the radio, he thought, it’s the record, player.
Over the speakers came the sound of Mick Jagger singing about how all of his love was in vain.
Frank’s frown deepened. I’m really going to have to work up a sweat.
Slow steps brought him to the kitchen, where his breath hissed out in amazement.
Hundreds of white candles burned on every available surface. The smell of roses washed over him, accompanied by a sharp, piercing chill. Black cloth hung over the windows as well as the door to the living room. Celeste stood at the sink wearing her wedding gown. The fabric was held together precariously by safety pins. She washed something, humming along with the Stones, her back to Frank. On the table, a crystal vase housed two dozen long dead roses in cloudy water.
Frank surveyed the scene before him, shaking his head. Maybe I can get her committed.
“Good morning, Frank,” Celeste said. She kept her back to him, still scrubbing away.
“What the hell are you doing?” he demanded. He cracked his knuckles, anticipating the first blow.
“Washing the frying pan,” she answered.
“I don’t see my breakfast on the table, Celeste.”
“And you won’t.”
Frank blinked, opened his mouth several times then managed to ask, “What?”
“I said, ‘And you won’t.’ Are you going deaf?” she asked sweetly, “Or has the fat finally seeped into your ears?”
Frank shook his head in disbelief. “You can’t be talking to me.”
“But I am.”
“I’m going to.”
Celeste didn’t let him finish. “Go, Frank. Get out. Now while I’m giving you the chance.”
“The hell I will,” he snapped. “This is my house. What I say goes. Now get out of that damned dress, get those candles out of here, turn off that music, and cook me some damned breakfast!”
He raised a foot to step in.
“Don’t,” she said coldly, straightening up. “Do not step into my kitchen, Frank, because you will never, never leave it alive. Do you understand me, Frank?”
Frank brought his foot back to the carpet of the hall, eyeing the tile of the kitchen.
“Do you know what I cooked this morning while you lay sweating in that bed?” she asked, draining the water from the sink.
Frank, stunned, remained silent.
“I cooked up something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a coin in my shoe,” she said, laughing. “And do you know what I thought of? I’ll tell you, Frank, what I thought of. I thought, and none too fondly, of the many times you’ve beaten me, raped me, and all of the other pleasantries you’ve seen fit to bestow upon me.”
“You’ve been talking to that women’s shelter, haven’t you?” he snarled.
“No,” Celeste smiled, turning around to face him. “I found an old cure-all in my great-grandmother’s cookbook.”
Frank gasped and clutched his chest, a shooting pain lancing through him.
“Oh no, Frank,” she whispered. “You won’t get away that easily.”
She walked forward and helped him into the kitchen, easing him into his chair. He sucked desperately for breath.
“This isn’t right,” he hissed, looking at her fearfully.
“What?” she asked.
Celeste no longer wore the haggard mask of twenty years of fear and overeating. The gray had vanished from her soft brown hair. Her straight back, free from its previous hunch, no longer revealed her years of physical suffering. Fingers were no longer twisted with arthritis. Her breasts, absent of the sagging of age, stood with the vitality of youth.
I don’t know her, Frank thought.
Celeste stood with pride, her hazel eyes shining. Her lips, full and red, smiled playfully, her face now well-defined and attractive. On her flat stomach she splayed her thin, graceful fingers. Celeste wore an expression of satisfaction and pleasure.
Smiling, she stepped back to the sink and took up the large black cast-iron frying pan. She dried it with a red checkered dishtowel.
“I found that cookbook this morning, cleaning out the basement like you told me to do. And there was the recipe, the first one I opened to. I can’t really describe it, Frank, but I knew it would do what I wanted. What I needed it to do.
“I found the candles from my sweet sixteen and had something old,” she said, smiling. “I peeled a scab off of my forehead, supplied by one of your more recent displays of affection, and I had something new. I took a lock of what little hair you have left and had something borrowed. The coin,” she said and tapped her right foot, “is a wheat penny.
“And the something blue,” she said, winking, “that’s the secret part. The special part.
“I cooked it up in wine and roses, dear Frank, and this is what occurred.” She motioned to herself with the frying pan. “What do you think?”
“I think that I’m still dreaming,” he whispered.
“Good dream or bad dream, Frank?” she asked.
“Well,” she said, grinning, “we can’t have you sitting on the fence like that.”
She blew him a kiss.
From the crystal vase the roses leaped, thorns biting into his ample flesh as the stems bound him, hand and foot, to the chair. As he opened his mouth to scream buds plunged in, gagging him.
“There,” she said, leaning back against the counter-top. “All set to go, aren’t you, Frank.”
Frank whimpered, praying that he could wake up and beat the hell out of her right there in bed.
But he did not wake up, and he did not hit her. He sat in the chair, tied down by roses.
Celeste hummed along with “The Midnight Rambler” as it came across the speakers. Finishing with the pan she set it down on the stove, dropping the dish towel into the sink. She walked by Frank, patting him on the head as she left the kitchen. A few minutes later she returned with an armload of old newspapers.
“You know,” she said as she knelt down beside him, “tomorrow’s our twenty-fifth anniversary. Our silver anniversary. Not that you’ll see it.”
Celeste laughed, spreading the papers out around him on the kitchen floor.
“Blood is so hard to clean off between the tiles.” She stood and pinched his cheek playfully.
Celeste walked back to the counter, opening a drawer and pulling out a box of black plastic trash bags. She took the cleaver down off of its hook.
“You know,” she said, turning to face him, “I feel really good about myself, Frank.”
She set the bags and the cleaver on the table.
“It’s too bad. This is what I looked like when I was sixteen. You missed out.” She cocked her head to one side and patted her behind, giggling.
“Oh God, Frank! I am so happy! I’m going into Boston for the day, and then I’m taking a train to, well, anywhere. I’ve got the bank card, and there’s an old friend out west who’ll give me a hand getting re-settled.”
Frank listened in fear, pain dancing along the fatty flesh of his arms and legs. He threw up into the roses, and was forced to swallow the burning bile.
Celeste’s eyes blazed in the candlelight. “I had so many dreams, Frank, and I smothered them for twenty-five years. But not anymore.”
She smiled. “I suppose that you’re wondering what I’m going to do.”
Frank nodded painfully.
“Well, Frank, when I remembered all of your gentle caresses this morning, I realized you hit me the most over meals. ‘It’s not cooked enough!’ Whack! ‘It’s cooked too much!’ Whack! ‘It’s cooked!’ Whack!” Celeste grinned. “Get the picture, Frank?”
She lifted the frying pan up off of the stove, holding it pensively as if testing the weight. She nodded in satisfaction. “Yes, I think that this will do. Quite nicely actually.”
Moving her hips suggestively, Celeste walked forward, swinging the pan from left to right. Stopping inches away from him Celeste’s smile fell off of her face. She lifted the pan up into a batter’s position.
“I know that it’s not silver, Frank,” she whispered, “but we’ll work with what we’ve got.”
The pan came crashing down.