“When do you think the next hayride will start? I don’t think I can last all day without my shades. The sun is brutal.”
Nathan shoots me a glance that comes off as a warning but I fuss accordingly.
“Nate, you have sunglasses on. I am not trying to whine but we are going to be outside all day and the sun is bright.”
His mouth is a line, red in parts, teeth white and clean. And when he leans in I startle because I wasn’t used to smelling the sun on him.
“All day long you have been bitching, Amy. You didn’t like your outfit, the traffic was bad, the admission price was too steep.”
Nate is right – concerning the bitching, Nate was right. As the complaints tumbled out of my mouth, I did my best to bite them back but couldn’t stop myself. We agreed to go to the pumpkin patch because Nathan wanted to get out of the house. We fight nonstop in that house and maybe a handful of apples would remind us why we spent the last seven years together. Maybe the promise of cider would entice forgiveness. Maybe, if we find just the right pumpkin, Nathan will forget about the affair and I can pretend it never happened.
When he found out, all Nathan wanted was the gory details. This man that never noticed a new dress or haircut was suddenly obsessed with the tiny particulars. Who kissed who first? Where did we have sex for this first time? Was the term “love” tossed around and if so, to what extent? Now Nathan wanted the sunshine. As if the warm light would seep into the darker parts of his mind and undo all I had broken.
“If I give you my sunglasses will you stop complaining?”
I dismiss the idea and nod towards the tractor pulling a large wagon filled with barrels of hay that act as seats. We laugh when we climb onto our seats, we laugh as we bounce over uneven dirt roads. He kisses me when people aren’t looking and I squeeze his hand whenever the tractor makes a sharp turn. Eventually we pull up to a corn maze and file out into the field.
“Amy, I am happy right now.”
I believe him and before I can respond, the sun disappears. It happens so suddenly that I have to catch my breath as my heart was now located somewhere deep inside my throat. My laughter is nervous.
“Jesus. That was weird, no?”
And like a movie, clouds roll in, each one darker than the next. Nathan removes his sunglasses to study the change in skyline.
“Nate, should we stay here in case it rains?”
The tractor is long gone, off sputtering around the grounds to cart more people around.
“Let’s go into the maze, Amy. A little rain won’t kill us.”
His smile is more familiar and I am beginning to trust it. For months, his smile was sarcastic and sharp – a sweet appetizer before a string of crippling insults. But today he was so warm and present. The weather left me anxious, but I eventually start on the maze’s path. Around us, people chase each other. They laugh, some sing. We turn a corner and I point towards a scarecrow that has been propped up with wooden boards.
“These things have always freaked me out.”
I touch the flannel of the scarecrow’s shirt; I examine the detail of the decoration’s face. When I reach for Nathan’s hand, I come up short.
He is gone and I gasp, attempting to laugh but discover fear inside my lungs instead.
“Come on. Don’t be a jag.”
The corn field is quiet now, save the wind and the pressure of the darkening sky. I imagine the rows upon rows of corn multiplying, threatening to swallow me whole and I am breathing heavy, fighting back tears.
“Nate! Nate, where are you?!”
I pace around the scarecrow now, too afraid to leave the spot where I last saw Nathan. My cellphone is in the car, located conveniently beside my sunglasses. The sky doesn’t pour, but threatens to. Nerves lead me towards the entrance, hoping to find assistance but I am easily lost. Ahead, the outline of a barn can be made so I scramble towards it but the faster I run, the further it seems to appear.
My eyes are wet with hot, quick tears and isn’t until the wind slows that I am aware that someone is following me. Too afraid to look, I push through the maze, wincing as the stalks slap my cheeks, arms and throat. I am panting now and no closer to the barn or exit than when I started.
“He buried you, Amy.”
I spin on a heel to locate the voice.
“Who is that?!”
“Amy, he buried you. He slit your throat, Amy!”
It is a dark voice, colored in blacks and reds. My hands cover my ears to block it out. While I sink to the ground, I am aware that passing out is entirely possible.
“Amy, he buried you and then he buried himself.”
I call out for my husband, but my voice is quiet, soft and warm. I don’t realize I am bleeding until I touch my throat. My mouth opens and closes but the screams remain locked somewhere inside my lungs and chest. And as I lay back, I feel the sharp edges of the corn stalks on the back of my neck, the blood spilling from my throat soaking the gold husks. A group of teenagers move past me now, stepping on my spleen and pelvis, one smashing my face towards the ground.
“Did you guys hear about that guy that killed his wife here last fall?”
Blood traps in my throat and I struggle to breath. I do not understand how they step over me without helping, but my mouth erupts with blood each time I try to scream.
“My stepdad found the bodies. The maniac dressed up like a scarecrow and slit her throat. Hung himself in the barn shortly after.”
I can feel myself fade away. The group carries on their walk and I disappear completely, blacking in and out of consciousness.
“I guess they see her walking the maze all the time. Same time of the day, every day.”
I am gone now, surrendering to the light. I dissolve only to wake in the car as Nate throws the car in park.
“See. Traffic wasn’t that bad, Amy.”
I grin at the sight of the pumpkin patch’s welcoming sign. I am so excited to be out of the car that I leave my sunglasses and cellphone on the dash.
“Today will be good, Nate. I feel it.”
Patricia Doody is a thirty-something born and raised Chicago. Her bills are paid working in the city; her spirit is achieved through writing. A fierce advocate of mental health awareness, Patricia is ecstatic this essay debuts as her first published work. Additional creativity can be found at http://pattycakes80.wordpress.com/.