Perched on the indentation of her opening scene’s first paragraph, The Woman watches as The Author of her story brings the rim of his 3 a.m. bourbon to his lips. At least, she likes to think her story fills the pages of his navy blue Moleskine journal, written in the black ink of the fountain pen his father gave him, the only acknowledgement The Author received for his dream of being a writer.
She wonders what it’s like to dream. Perhaps that’s what The Author is doing, standing alone in his living room, staring out the window. He doesn’t write her dreams if he ever imagines them, his audience would rather know what is happening to her in the reality of his creation rather than a world that will never exist outside of her.
But what is happening in her reality?
Robert, who last week was Daniel, is just a name on the corner of a dogged ear page, red lines severing him. The Woman is thankful it was sudden, that she didn’t hear his cries of pain as The Author cut him. She wonders why she remembers him. Perhaps it’s because his name sits in the corner of the page of her first scene. Or maybe The Author left one small trace of Robert on purpose, not ready to throw away one of his characters so easily.
Or maybe The Author enjoys striking their lives with the tip of a red pen.
Maybe that was Robert’s purpose.
She fears the same might happen to her, especially since The Author took the time to name Robert twice while she remains The Woman, a figure The Author sketches in between sentences.
She tells herself she is more than a definite article used to mark her gender. That The Author is in the process of creating her story, just taking time to mourn the loss of Robert. He was never a successful character. His only identifying trait was that he was her husband’s best friend. The Woman glances overhead at the sentences swallowing Robert, her sentences, forming paragraphs and pages and still she remains nameless.
Her husband even has a name, a physical description, dialogue. His name is Adam, always has been. He dreams of becoming a detective. Not like the ones he watches on television but the ones he reads about in his Noir novels he hoards in cardboard boxes. The Woman thinks her husband dreams with the noir filter on, flirting with femme fatales, shadows of the blinds leaving white and blank imprints on his face. The narrator of his story.
But he manages an independent bookstore, allowing her to hide between bookshelves to discover recipes and tricks to maintaining a stable home.
Why hasn’t The Author given her a job? At least, outside of what her name, or most obvious quality, suggests. She is more than capable of handling one. The Woman is creative enough to create snowmen made of marshmallows, Hershey Kiss children with graham cracker sleds playing on a mountain of white cake and frosting. She is mentally aware of her presence on the page with the ability to move freely within the bound pages of The Author’s journal. She exists, and doesn’t her existence mean she has a purpose? Desires? What is her motivation? How does she contribute to the plot?
The Woman skips ahead a few pages. Learns that she is shy, her mind constantly working to solve crosswords and riddles once the house smells of Snuggle’s Blue Sparkle dryer sheets and Lysol. Tells jokes her husband pretends to understand. She loves puzzles, especially when they are timed and eventually shares this love with Adam. Two chapters later and they are working on a book together, her creating puzzles that his detective persona must solve.
And Adam takes credit for all her ideas.
The Author writes a scene describing the time The Woman gave Adam a wool trenchcoat and matching fedora which he refused to take off even when it rained. When summer comes, Adam hides under the cover of trees, keeps the air-conditioning on high in their home and bookstore, causing the skin under her nails to turn purple. She uses the money Adam gives her, The Author deciding she is incapable of handling money, to buy him another trenchcoat, one that is water proof, and wonders if this is what love looks like to The Author.
Adam stops talking to her halfway through the draft which she doesn’t mind. The Author hasn’t written her dialogue in yet, just quotes surrounding single spaces of air.
The Woman wanders through the rest, skimming stake out scenes of Adam crouching behind dumpsters, pretending to be a customer in a diner, hiding behind a newspaper.
Adam interrogating someone in their basement.
Why didn’t she notice this before?
She reaches the final page of the first draft. Adam is gone, not like Robert, but his presence is missing from the page. The Woman is alone, staring at her reflection in the kitchen window, rim of her 3 a.m. glass of wine leaving her lips.
She can do better.
She can handle a world outside her kitchen.
A drink that’s not served in a glass whose neck you have to choke.
She can put on a fedora and trenchcoat and get into fights.
Narrate her own story while it rains, blinds leaving white and black imprints on her face.
The Woman wonders if Robert had these thoughts.
The Author returns to his seat, empty glass sweating remnants of leftover ice cubes. He picks up his pen, the red one, sharp tip cutting away at her scenes. Through her reflection in the window, her love of puzzles, her creativity, and everything she is. She runs, climbing over the sentences that make up her husband, seizing what remains of her life, her thoughts and feelings, wondering if they were ever hers.
K.B. Carle lives outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and earned her MFA from Spalding University’s Low-Residency program in Kentucky. When she is not exploring the realms of speculative, jazz, and historical fiction, K.B. avidly pursues misspelled words, botched plot lines, and rudimentary characters. Her work can be found in Fiction Southeast, The WomenArts Quarterly Journal, and FlashBack Fiction. For more information visit her at kbcarle.wordpress.
Artwork by: Kerrie O’Brien
Kerrie O’ Brien is a writer and photographer from Dublin. She works with 35mm film to give texture and authenticity to her work.