“Happy birthday,” you said, handing me the hastily wrapped package. You even managed a smile, though your tear stained cheeks suggested it had been another bad day. On a good day you now functioned almost normally, but there were still more bad days than good.

I went through the motions of opening the gift, trying to lift the mood with feigned excitement as to its contents.

“A pocketknife,” I said with genuine surprise. It seemed an odd choice, all things considered. You went to speak, then hesitated.

“I thought.”

You paused.

“It might come in handy in the garden.”

“It will, it really will,” I said, confused by the conflict of love and fear.

Slipping the knife into my pocket I put my arms around your whole body and held you tight, hoping this was a sign that we could finally move on.

Later that evening you ran yourself a warm bath, saying you needed some time alone before our dinner guests arrived. You were determined to give me a proper celebration, seeing as the last one ended so abruptly. I would have been happy to forget about my birthday, but somehow, to get through this one intact had become a pivotal part of the healing process. This evening, therefore, would be cathartic, if nothing else.

I decided to bring you a glass of wine, thinking it might help, but as I pushed open the bathroom door, forgetting for just a moment and expecting you to smile serenely as I entered, I sensed an altogether darker tranquillity. The room was still warm, the mirror still misted, and damn, that broken tap still needed fixing. But then I saw the rope, the kicked over stool, and despite the drip, dripping and the creaking beam above, it was your stunned silence that screamed the loudest. I remember thinking, in your beautiful, naked innocence, that you looked more peaceful than I would have imagined. With my pocketknife I cut the rope and laid you gently on the floor.

“You said it would come in handy,” I whispered, overcome with grief.

And as I swept the hair away from your eyes, I knew what I had to do.

The end

* this was written as my entry to a short story contest – it had to be less than 600 words and include the phrase “with my pocketknife”. I know it’s longer than my usual fifty words, but I thought I’d post it here anyway.