She knew this day would come. Don’t ask how, possibly just women’s intuition, but she had known. She had known even before she married him that it wouldn’t last. Why did she do it then? Good question. One she doesn’t have an answer for. He had been a player in high school, playa was how Marie was saying it. He had made promise after promise that he wasn’t that way anymore. She knew better. She had just been been waiting for confirmation, it came today.
Marie had called her while she was at work, frantic, “Gina you just have to be able to meet me after work. You aren’t going to believe what I heard today. Please just meet me at Jamesons at 5:30.” Reluctantly Gina had agreed. Now she was glad she had.
Jamesons was always crowded but tonight it seemed to be overflowing. The chatter was deafening, making it hard to hear her best friend. That’s what Marie was, her bestie since what? age 5? She had no doubts that what she was hearing was truth, after all Marie wouldn’t lie, would she? No, of course not. So she sat, listening as best she could. Her mind had drifted after Marie had told her the juiciest part of her story.
“So, I’m sitting in my office when that tramp, you know the one, all bleached out hair and her prissy little attitude?” I nod my agreement. “Well here she comes, boppin down the hallway and into my office all ‘Marie, Mr. Cromwell said that you need to get the TOK report out by 5 today.’ and I was like yeah whatever. So she’s goin on about the report and all of a sudden she goes ‘how do you know him?’ So I look up and she’s pointing to the picture of all of us at the lake, remember that weekend?” How could I forget it, that was the weekend Tom had proposed to me.
Marie, Greg (now her husband, back then just her steady man), Tom and I had all spent spring break our senior year at the lake. One night Tom takes me out in the boat for a midnight cruise around the water. We were cruisin along when he started feigning engine troubles. Me being me, I panicked. He was laughing as he dropped to one knee and popped the question. I didn’t hesitate, said yes and hugged him hard. That had been the best week of my life.
“Yes Marie, I remember. Can’t believe you still have that picture in your office, but I remember.” She gives me that snarky look I love and continues “ANYways….so she’s pointing at it right? And I said ‘who?’ and she says ‘Tommy, how do you know Tommy’ so you know me, quick with the comebacks, I say all nonchalont like ‘Oh we went to high school together, no bigs, how do YOU know Tommy?’ and you are never going to believe what she says to me…never.” She is silent, just staring at me. I guess I am supposed to be guessing at what she said.
“Ok, I give, what did she say?” I ask, thinking I already know what she is about to say. Again with the women’s intuition.
“She says…” dramatic pause “He’s my fiance’ and holds out her hand to show me the biggest rock I have ever seen. I mean seriously if you put our two rings together they would look like specks next to this thing on her hand…”
She continues on but I can’t focus on what she is saying. His fiance’? Seriously? I knew, okay suspected, he had a girl on the side, but a fiance’? What am I going to do? That seems to be the big question. I hear myself telling Marie that I don’t know but in reality…my mind is already racing. Thoughts are flooding back, images of things I had once looked up on the internet to be able to write his fucking thesis. What had it been on? Norse mythology. I had spent hours reading and compiling information on the subject, thinking to myself how irrelevant this information was to me and my life, and now look? It was going to come in handy. “So what are you going to do?” Marie’s impatient tone breaks my concentration. Startled back from my thoughts, I shake my head and repeat “I just don’t know.” We continue to chat while we finish our meals. I can tell she is worried, after all she just told me my husband has a fiance’.
My mind keeps going back to this one article and I can’t wait to get home and look for it. The waitress brings the check, which Marie insists on paying, and we head to the parking lot. “You sure you are going to be okay?” She has that tone in her voice again. “Yes love, I will be fine.” I know I’m not reacting like she thinks I should, I’m trying to but my mind has already calmed me and I’m not the hysterical mess she expected. “Really Marie, I am good. I just need to get home is all. I have some thinking to do before Tom gets home.” Reluctantly she says goodbye and gets in her Tahoe.
I wave goodbye from inside my own car. My thoughts going everywhere, looking for the box that is marked “college crap” that he stored somewhere once he had graduated. That is where I will find the article. I think the box is in the attic but my mind believes otherwise. It keeps showing me the box being under the stairs in the basement, in the closet in the guest room, everywhere but the attic. Makes no difference, the attic is the first place I’m headed.
The drive is fairly routine, I’ve made it thousands of times. This allows my mind to drift, trying desperately to recall that article. It was on Valkyries. They were the the ones who determined who died and who didn’t. They were the Norse form of Lady Justice. There had been one part though that was more urban legend than Norse mythology. There was a woman in the rural part of Moffat county, near the Utah border, that told of a Valkyrie that could be summoned. Most people said the woman was just “off in the head” and “you needn’t pay her any mind” but this was what Gina needed to find. She had been fascinated by it then, a fierce warrior that could be summoned? That sounded so cool to her barely 20 year old self. Now, half a dozen years later, it sounded like something she could really use, if it is true.
She pulled into the driveway, taking notice that the house was dark. She pushed the button for the garage door and held her breath, he just can’t be home, please don’t be home. The garage was empty save for the trash cans and their matching bicycles. This was good, she was going to be able to search for a bit. She parked her car and headed into the house, putting the door down as she went through the door into the kitchen. She tossed her purse onto the counter “Honey, you home?” she asked the empty house. She had learned long ago that just because it was dark and his car wasn’t there, that didn’t mean he wasn’t home. She had come home before, happy to be alone for a bit, only to be surprised by him hiding in her closet. That had been a bad night.
Her marriage to Tom had been rough, to say the least. He had become possessive and overbearing. He didn’t like when she went out with her friends. He would always accuse her of cheating on him. No matter what she did, he was never happy. She had fought with him, verbally, in the beginning, arguing her point, not wanting to back down. At first he would just laugh at her, call her stupid and walk away. Then he changed. He would smack her if she spoke back to him. Usually with his hand, sometimes he would use whatever object happened to be within his reach, pool cues, ball bats, even a mop. He threw a ceramic ashtray at her one time, he missed which sent her into a fit of laughter. That was the last time she laughed at him.
They both kept this part of their life together hidden from the outside world. No one would have believed her anyway, I mean come on he was Mr. Personality. Everyone loved Tom. He was smart, funny, charming and good looking. Even her own mother, who had seen the bruising, didn’t believe her that he had this dark malicious side. So she lived the double life. Outwardly they were the perfect couple, smiles and happiness abound. When they were alone at home it was anything but perfect. She didn’t know why. Why he had changed, why he insisted she was doing things she hadn’t even dreamed of, well unless dreams of Brad Pitt counted. She smiled to herself at the thought. Yes dear I am cheating on you, every night with Brad Pitt. She giggled out loud.
Once she had made sure he wasn’t home, she headed to the attic. Even with the lights on it was hard to see. The dimly lit cramped space was a maze of junk. Boxes that housed the lives they both had lived before they became husband and wife. Old furniture covered in sheets, toys that had been saved for when they had kids of their own. Another chuckle at that thought. He had told her, in no uncertain terms, that they would not be having children together. “Can’t have you getting all fat and shit. I mean seriously Gina, look at you, you won’t exercise now. What are going to do, blow up like the Michelin Man then stay that way? Not as my wife you won’t.” He was right about one thing, she didn’t exercise, never had. At 5’8″ tall she only weighed 120 pounds. She was thin, too thin depending on who you asked, so what was the point in exercise? Besides it’s not like she eats a lot, he makes sure of that.
She hated the attic, holder of broken dreams and promises. Every time she came up here it was a reminder of what hadn’t been, what wouldn’t be. She needed to quit dwelling on these things and focus. The stack of boxes were behind an old Barbie Dream house. A plaything from her childhood. Now doomed to be nothing more than a den for spiders. She made her way around it, careful not to touch it. He would notice the clean spot where her pant leg would rub off the dust. That was his way. He kept a mental log of everything, where it was, how it was positioned and if he noticed anything even slightly out of place, she would wear the marks of his displeasure.
She scanned the boxes, looking for her handwriting and the words “College Crap”. He had been so angry when she had labeled it. “Are you calling my stuff crap? Like you have anything of any value in these damn boxes.” That was the beginning of the argument that sent the ashtray flying. Why must these memories come flooding back? Why can’t I just find…oh, there it is. On the bottom, of course, was the box she wanted. Carefully she removed the two that were on top of it, making sure to grab them at the bottom so she didn’t leave marks in the dust that was on top. She lifted the flaps, they weren’t taped, just crisscrossed in that manner which you use for boxes when tape isn’t available. This was it, she could hardly contain her excitement.
She sat down and pulled the box to her. Not thinking about the disturbance to the dust on the floor. She began rummaging through the old papers. Close to the bottom she found the folder she needed. Bright blue with the words Norse Mythology written in his impeccable hand. She pulled it out and began to flip through it’s contents. The paper she had typed for him, all the reference materials she had spent hours finding, the pictures she had copied for him. Exactly what had he done? Nothing besides put in the folder, label it and turn it in. She should be the one with the degree. She did all his damn work for those 5 years. He just basked in the spotlight. Graduating with top honors on her hard work. Get it together Gina, you don’t want him coming home and catching you up here. No, that would be bad, very bad. At the back of the folder was a section labeled “Modern Folklore” this is where it would be. She snatched the pages out, rolled them up and stuck them into her back pocket. She had to get the boxes back in place and get downstairs before he got home.
Sitting at her desk, pages splayed out before her, she was more at ease. At least from here, her back to the wall, she could see the entire room. There was no way he could sneak up on her and discover what she was doing. She took a long drag off her cigarette, snuffed it out in what was now her favorite ashtray (yes the flying one) and began to flip through the pages. About halfway through she found it. The woman, barely any teeth in her mouth, smiling ear to ear, holding her “proof” that the Valkyrie was real. It was a card, bigger than a business card but not quite the size if a postcard, with a picture on one side and ancient words on the other. The words resembled German, which she could speak, but they were not quite right. Someone had taken a closeup of the writing and it was good enough to be able to read from.
Headlights splash across the wall, her warning that he is home. Damn is she glad she positioned her desk here. Hiding the pages in her desk, she hopes he won’t look in here anytime soon, she cleans up her mess and heads to the kitchen. That is where he expects to be greeted.
Their night was fairly uneventful. He seemed to have no knowledge of her dinner with Marie, nor her new knowledge of his “fiance’”. They don’t eat together on Wednesdays, so that was a plus. If you asked him, he was in planning meetings on Wednesday nights. If you asked the bimbo from Marie’s office, that was the only night he didn’t have to work late at the office. They watched some television, made the usual small talk about how each others day had been, then headed to bed. The relief of knowing that, at least for tonight, he has no clue what she is planning, helped her sleep like a baby.
Morning comes too soon, as it always seems to do, and it’s time to make his breakfast. She is standing at the stove when he slips in behind her. “What were you doing in the attic last night?” He breathes into her ear. She can only hope he doesn’t feel her body tighten at the fear of being caught. “I just went up to look at some of my old toys. I really wish you would talk to me about having children.” That usually does the trick. It works today too. “Now Gina you know…” she stops listening once she realizes he isn’t going to fly into a rage. She doesn’t care about his problems with them having kids, just that he doesn’t figure out she is lying through her teeth. He eats his meal, making rude comments about her cooking and her desire to have kids, then heads for the garage. A kiss on the forehead, like she is some dimwitted little girl, and his morning mantra “Be a good girl while I’m at work today”, as he gets into his car. She waves goodbye to him as the door slowly comes down.
She practically runs to her desk. Sure he has been going through it and found her stash. Her fear was silenced when she found her papers right where she had left them. Taking a deep breath she sits down and begins reading the article about the woman with the card.
The article had come from one of those trash magazines, you know the type, “Aliens took my baby” headlines and all manner of absurdities are printed in them. Something about this woman though, the serious look in her eyes, you could just tell she believes what she is saying. Her name was Wanda, last name withheld, and she claimed to be of Nordic decent. The card had been in her family for generations. That was one of the odd points because the card looked brand new. Her “Nana” had given it to her when she was just a young girl. “Nana” had told her the story of the Valkyries and about one in particular.
Seems this one Valkyrie had fallen from the graces of the Gods. Her crime was unknown but her punishment, well that was where the folklore came into play. When the Gods had found out about her indiscretion she was banished. Sent to live among the mortals, never to set foot in Valhalla again. She spent years trying to get back on the good side of the Gods, wanting desperately to return to her home. She was not successful. She spiraled into darkness, some say she went mad, always cursing the Gods and what they had done to her. Somewhere around the turn of the twentieth century was when she became what she is now, a vigilante. Using the power she had not for the Gods justice but for her own. If you are willing to pay her price, she will come and administer her new twisted brand of justice.
Looking out the window at her suburban hell, Gina contemplated what the price for killing a man would be. She was smiling like a Cheshire cat when the phone rang, making her jump. The caller ID read Cushman and Assoc, great it’s Tom. She got it on the third ring, can’t have him thinking she’s not home. “Yes dear, what do you need?” Trying her best to sound pleasant. He started rambling about some account “investors pissed, deadline not met” blah blah blah. The basic premise? He won’t be home until late and she needn’t wait up for him. Two days ago she wouldn’t have thought anything of this but after last night, he may as well have been saying “I need some time away from you so I’m going to the bimbo’s house, get my dick sucked proper, then I’ll be home to you.” She said the right things “Oh how awful” “I sure will miss you” it made her stomach turn just to say these things now. They said goodbye and she placed the phone back on it’s cradle. This was going to be a great day after all.
She shook the mouse, waking up her Dell desktop, and went to Google search. She knew that it would take the better part of the day and now that he wouldn’t be home until late she knew what had to be done. God bless the modern miracle that is MapQuest. She input her address and then the small town in Moffat County. It was almost a 2 hour drive but hey, if it means no more living fear, it will be well worth it.
Printed directions on the seat beside her, Pepsi in the cup holder, she backs out of her driveway and heads west toward Moffat County. The radio was playing Hotel California by the Eagles, one her all time favs. She began to sing along as she navigated her way to the highway and what very well may be her freedom.
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