In the Stillness
Author:Andrea Randall

“Stupid cat.” I shrug and tug my arm away.

 

“Maybe we should get rid of her, that’s the second time this month she’s torn your arm up.” He kisses my cheek, right by my ear. For a second, I remember what it felt like the first time he did that. Then I remember everything that happened after that kiss.

 

“It’s fine.” I shake my head and pull away. “I tried to give her a bath, serves me right.”

 

Eric laughs just under his breath. “Want some wine?”

 

“Badly.”

 

Well, that was easy.

 

Eric slides me a glass of white. I hate white. “What were the boys up to today?”

 

That doesn’t stop me from drinking it. “What happens after graduation?” I ignore his request for information on our children.

 

“What do you mean?” He sits back against the couch.

 

“I mean a job, Eric. It’s been a long time—”

 

“Oh Jesus, Nat, not this again.” He rolls his eyes and walks back into the kitchen. “How many times do we have to go over this? I would have been done two years ago—”

 

“Yeah, I know. Trust me, I know. You would have been done two years ago if we hadn’t had twins in the middle of everything. You graciously demoted yourself to a part-time student while I became a full-time mom.” I swallow the rest of my wine and walk to the kitchen to pour another glass. “Do you want my list about how the last two years would have gone? Screw that, do you want to know how the last four years would have gone?”

 

“Enlighten me, please.” Eric holds out his hands, as if to give me the floor. We’re speaking in whisper-yells to avoid waking the identical monsters down the hall.

 

“You’re the one who wanted them, Eric. You’re the one who begged me to keep them, to pull out of that parking lot and come home.” He winces under my tone, but I continue, “Yet, somehow, I leave my degree program to raise them, while you play mad scientist in Goessmann.” I point out the window in the general direction of campus.

 

Eric bows his head, placing his hands on his hips while he takes a careful breath. When he looks up, his face is a mess of exhaustion. We’ve had this argument almost every single day for the last two years. For every single minute of the last two years since he returned as a full-time student, I’ve hated him. I’ve said it, too—I hate you. But he just thinks I’m crazy or stressed when I say it. I am. And it’s because of him.

 

It’s because of him and his assertion of “the right thing to do” that I find myself staring past his jet black hair that needs to be cut, past the athletic physique that makes him stand out amongst his colleagues like he’s just there to pretty up the department, and find myself fantasizing about those little blades twenty-five feet away in the bathroom. Hidden in an empty tampon box.

 

*

 

I didn’t always hate him. In fact, the first time we met it was something else entirely. In April 2005 I was preparing to graduate from Mount Holyoke College. South Hadley, Massachusetts had provided a picturesque existence for me over the previous four years. I’d only applied to UMass Amherst for graduate programs; I was more than academically qualified, and their anthropology program was great, but I really just wanted to call this place “home” for a while longer.

 

“Yo, Natalie, over here.” Tosha waved from the front of the Odyssey Bookstore, where she was cashing out. I was glad that UMass was only a short drive because I loved that bookstore.

 

I approached Tosha’s petite frame as she tried to sell some of her textbooks. “Did they take anything back?”

 

“Just the novels,” she shrugged, “it’s something.” Tosha threw her curly blonde hair into a ponytail while she waited for the cashier.

 

“You want to go to Antonio’s for lunch?”

 

Tosha shrugged. “All the way in Amherst?”

 

“All the way?” I laughed. “It’s just a few miles. You act like 116 is a fortress.” I joked about the stretch of road that separates our campus from Amherst College, UMass, and Hampshire College.

 

“It ought to be.” She rolled her eyes. Tosha was a snob, but I loved her anyway. She was irritated that Mount Holyoke wasn’t exclusively women, as it had been in the past, and really wished that it could be an island all its own. “Let’s go, though, their pizza is too good to turn down—even if we have to slum it with ZooMass.”

 

I laughed and kicked her as we left the bookstore.

 

Twenty minutes later we were sitting at the bar in the window of Antonio’s. The place was tiny and usually standing-room only, but damn they made good pizza.

 

“Fluid Mechanics?” Tosha scoffed as she drank her soda.

 

I looked around. “What the hell?”

 

“That pretty face down there with the UMass t-shirt.” She nodded to the benches just across the sidewalk and down a bit. “He’s reading a fluid mechanics book . . . outside in the sun . . .”