Willa’s front door burst open with a crack, and light flooded in, shoving the darkness back. A bright white light and behind that, blue and red and blue and red that whirled around and around endlessly. Willa stared at these lights with doe eyes and a tilt of her head but understood the colors only when the overwhelming deafness left her ears and was replaced with a wee-woo, wee-woo, wee-woo.
They were police cars. And the men with their bright lights, they were policemen. But why are there police in my house? Willa thought.
There were three in total, each with a pitch-black gun in one hand and a flashlight in the other. One stayed in front of her while the other two began to slowly circle around Willa like a lion circles its prey.
“What are you doing here?” she asked out loud this time in a monotonous and quiet voice.
“Put your hands where I can see them,” was the Lion’s only reply.
“I said, hands where I can see them!”
Willa’s hands shot up to frame either side of her face, touching the long strands of hair that curled this way and that around her head. Her heart was trying to break free of her chest. Or was her heart in her ears? It was so loud that Willa was certain that if she turned her head, she would see one of the Lions holding a warm, beating heart out to her. Wait, is that really a lion to my left? Willa thought. I thought they were policemen.
Willa ticked her head one degree to her left, half wanting to confirm that it was a policeman circling her and not, in fact, a bloodthirsty lion, and half wanting to see if there really was a beating heart being held out to her.
Willa’s investigation of the policeman was cut short when she caught a glimpse of her hand. It was red. She wiggled her fingers and then spread them out wide like a starfish before closing them again. The red had glued some of the little strands of Willa’s hair to her hands. It was sticky. And drippy, Willa noticed. Some of the red had run down her arm and was dripping off her elbow and onto the floor. The red was vibrant against Willa’s pale skin.
Where is this coming from? Willa brought her hand up to her nose and inhaled. The red was a little tangy, metallic but otherwise odorless.
“Stop moving!” the Lion roared at Willa, taking a step closer to her.
No. Not a lion, a policeman, Willa reminded herself. She dutifully moved her hand back to framing her face but swiveled her gaze around the room. These policemen are very tall. Maybe they’re giants? Or maybe I am just very small? She looked down at her legs to determine whether, in fact, she was the short one, but she noticed she was kneeling. That makes sense.
Her eyes flicked a little to the right. There was more red around her right leg. A puddle of it. So much. Where is it coming from? Willa mused again.
Suddenly the policeman that had circled around her left side latched on to her arm and wrenched it behind her back. Willa yelped at the pain and tried to twist her body to compensate for the policeman’s pulling. With her body tilted, Willa could finally see what lay to her left. A body, unmoving. Surrounded by a pool of red.
Is he dead? Willa asked herself. The red must be coming from him. He’s covered. Why would he be covered in red? Was he painting? Willa furrowed her brow and stared harder at the man, as if her gaze could force his body to spill his secrets.
The policeman twisted her other arm behind her back, and then her wrists were encased in something cold and slightly heavy. Ah, it must be blood. That would explain why he is dead; all his blood is on the outside.
The policeman tugged on Willa’s arms, forcing her to stand. Once her feet were firmly planted on the floor, she finally got a look at the man’s face. It was her husband. Willa’s scream punched through her eardrums. It lodged itself in her brain, where it remained trapped, echoing in her skull.
“I’m home, sweetheart!” Willa closed the front door with her heel and, cutting through the dining room, walked into the kitchen, dumping an armful of grocery bags onto the counter. Once her arms were empty, Willa swiped her hands over her chignon, tucking away stray hairs that didn’t exist. She turned toward the living room, visible from the kitchen, to look at Richard, her husband.
“Took you long enough. I’ve been home for an hour already,” Richard hollered. He was in the living room, reclining in a chair and watching a football game. He took a long swig from the drink he clutched and scratched at his slightly rounded belly.
“I stopped at the grocery store on my way home from work. The lines were horrendous.” Willa put on an apron and grabbed a wooden spoon.
“I don’t like having to wait for my dinner.”
Then you could make dinner yourself, Willa thought. But out loud she said, “I’m sorry, but I needed to get some more hamburger or else I wouldn’t be able to make spaghetti tonight.” She had opened the package of ground beef and was pushing it into a large saucepan with the spoon.
“Well, you could have made something else.”
“And you could’ve gotten the hamburger last night like I had asked!” Willa placed her fists on the counter, one holding the spoon and the other holding the empty container. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath. She heard the leg rest of the recliner being pushed down and felt Richard come to hover over her left shoulder.
“I’m sorry, honey.” He placed his hands on her shoulders and pressed a kiss to her temple. His hair fell in clumps around his head from the gel he had used that morning to make it look neat. It tickled Willa’s face. “It was a long day at work yesterday and, like I told you, I just forgot.”
“I work too, Richard. Some help would be appreciated.”
“I know. I’ll remember next time.” Richard moved away from Willa and cracked open the fridge, bringing out another drink. Willa watched him pop the tab and slurp his drink loudly as he shuffled back to the living room.
Life would be so much nicer without him in it, right? Willa shook her head and turned back to the stove. No, what a ridiculous thought.
When dinner was prepared, Willa called Richard to the table to eat.
“How was work?” Willa twirled some noodles around her fork.
“It was good.” Richard shoveled a forkful of noodles into his mouth, slurping loudly. He watched the remainder of his football game on his phone, not even bothering to look at Willa.
“Did anything interesting happen at the office today?”
“How’s Daniel? It’s been a while since I’ve heard anything about him.”
“We should have him over for dinner sometime soon. We never have people over anymore.” Because of Richard. Willa clenched her butter knife. Wouldn’t life be better without him? Willa set her knife down with a clatter. Richard glanced up and gave Willa a sideways glance before looking back at his phone.
Where did that thought even come from? Richard is a little apathetic sometimes, but I certainly couldn’t kill him. Ridiculous.
“…bringing him up?”
“What?” Willa jerked her head to look at Richard, who had stopped eating and watching his game.
“I said, why do you keep bringing him up?”
“Daniel. Who else?”
“He’s your coworker and your friend. I just thought it would be nice to have him over for dinner.”
“If you want people over, then you can invite your friends over.”
“What’s wrong with having Daniel over?”
“I don’t like how you keep bringing up another guy!” Richard banged his fist on the table. Willa jumped.
“I don’t see the problem here. I’m just trying to have a conversation with you. Why do you have to latch on to the fact that I brought up one of your friends?”
“Whatever.” Richard shoved his chair back from the table. “I’m going to head to bed. I’m working late at the office tomorrow, so don’t start making dinner right when you get home.”
Richard stomped away from the table, leaving his plate for Willa to clean up after him.
Whatever happened to the man I loved? Willa thought.
The next night, Willa waited an hour before making dinner. She made honey-glazed baked ham. “Honey ham for my honey husband,” she used to say.
When it was ready, she brought everything to the dining room table, placing the ham and the carving knife right in the center. Then she sat down. And waited. With each passing minute, Willa’s rage began to tick higher and higher.
Once half an hour had passed, Willa pushed away from the table with a protesting screech from her chair and stomped to the bedroom, where she had left her phone. She smashed out a text to Richard asking him where he was. As soon as she had sent the text, she heard a corresponding ding from the other side of the bed.
Of course, he left his phone at home. How stupid.
She stomped over to Richard’s nightstand, unsure of what she was going to do. Throw it at a wall? Try and use telepathy to send a text to Richard?
On the phone’s lock screen were several text messages, not just the one from Willa. She began to read the texts, but one of them made her blood run cold.
“I had fun tonight,” it read. Willa’s heart began to pound in her ears. She unlocked the phone to investigate more.
The text was sent by someone named Lauren, and it was not the only text. There were many texts sent back and forth between Richard and Lauren, but it was the most recent conversation that had caught Willa’s eye. It began with a text from Lauren, sent yesterday, asking Richard to come over.
Willa clenched the phone and let out a shaky breath. Just then, she heard a car door slam from outside. Then Richard opened the front door. He was speaking, but the pounding in Willa’s ears drowned out all noise.
She exited the bedroom and walked toward the dining room in a trance. She passed by the ham next to the carving knife. She gripped the wooden handle. It felt heavier in her grip than when she had placed it on the table.
Richard had hung up his coat and kicked off his shoes, leaving them where he always left them. On the floor. He’s a cheater, Willa’s thoughts whispered to her. You’re better off without him, they persuaded. Kill him, kill him, kill him, they chanted, growing louder and louder until they were deafening.
Willa looked at the knife in her hand and saw her reflection. Her reflection spoke to her. “Do it.” Her eyes widened. Somewhere deep inside her another—smaller, quieter—voice whispered, “Don’t,” but the first voice was stronger, louder.
She plunged the knife into the middle of Richard’s chest. She held on for a few seconds, watching Richard sputter and then slump to the ground when she let go. What have I done?
Blood pooled onto the floor around Richard, and a shaking Willa frantically tried to scoop it back inside him. Her hair had come loose from her chignon, and strands of it fell in front of her eyes.
“This is fine. This is fine. Everything’s fine. It’s all in your head.” Willa began to whisper to herself.
When the life had long since drained out of Richard’s body, Willa sat on her knees, rocking back and forth, rubbing her bloodied hands atop her pants, up and down, up and down.
“I had to do it,” she told herself. “The voice, it told me to do it. I had to do it. The voice, it told me to do it.” Willa repeated to herself until she couldn’t remember what it was that she had to do.
This was how the police found her.
“What’s she in here for?” Two police officers stood facing a rectangle of two-way glass. One the other side of the glass sat Willa, hands between her knees, her gaze fixed on the wall in front of her.
“Lady murdered her husband.”
“Yikes. What do you think? Gonna be a cut-and-dry case?”
“I don’t know, Bobby. Lady’s been mumbling to herself ever since we got her into custody.”
“Gonna have a psych look at her?”
“I think so. Investigators found the husband’s phone on scene. Evidence of infidelity. I think the wife found out, and then she went, you know.” The police officer swirled his finger in a circle next to his ear.
“Man. That’s rough. I don’t know whether to feel bad for her or not.”
“I mean, I feel bad for her, but, man, you should never resort to murder. Be rational. Get a divorce.”
“Yeah, you can say that again.” They clinked coffee mugs and then took a sip, still looking at Willa.
“I had to do it. The voice, it told me to do it,” she continued to mumble.