In the Stillness
Author:Andrea Randall

Today in the bathroom, I ignore the window. I’m staring at a tampon box full of razors. I need to empty the trash. A frustrated growl escapes my throat as I dump the tampon box into the bin. You’re better than this. I tie off the bag and take it to the dumpster; the echo of the lid slamming against the metal sounds like the telltale heart. I’m suddenly thankful that tomorrow is garbage day, and I just have to make it through the night without thinking about those tiny metal teeth laying in waste at the bottom of the dumpster.


I race back up to our apartment and call Eric. Despite how I feel about him these days, his voice will remind me that this isn’t 2002, and I’m not about to make one of the biggest mistakes of my life.


“Hello? Everything okay?”


I never call Eric at work these days, it’s my fault he thinks something’s wrong.


“Just,” I clear my throat, “checking in to see what time you’ll be home tonight . . . since you went in so early.”




“Eric?” I press.


“I’ll try to be home for dinner, Nat.”


“Jesus, Eric, you didn’t see the boys after breakfast yesterday and you haven’t seen them yet today. When do they get you?”


When do I get a break?


He sighs. “I’m sorry. You’re right, I’ll be home before dinner.”


“Thank you.”


“They’re at school this morning, right?” He says this like, why are you so stressed? You have four hours to yourself, lady.


“Yes, they are. Now I get to go grocery shopping and clean the apartment.” I hope he can hear my eye-roll. “What do you want for dinner?”


“Surprise me. You’re a great mom, you know that?” He says things like this when he feels bad that my entire identity has morphed into something he knows damn well I never wanted. He’s assuring me that I’m doing it well—this thing I hate doing.


Mom—the most four-letter three-letter word I know.






Chapter 3






Eric never made it home for dinner last night. The fight was epic, and I made him sleep on the couch. It scared me how much I thought about those razors in the dumpster. Just two times and it’s become the first thing I think about when the dark side takes over. I sobbed into my pillow all night while Eric snoozed down the hall.


“Baby, wake up.” Eric kisses my forehead. I grumble. “Listen, I’m really sorry about last night. I took today off. I want you to get out of the house and do something for yourself today.”


Silently, I resent the implication that he’s “allowing” me to go off by myself for the day. I sit up, smile, and kiss him on the lips. He wraps his hand around the back of my neck in an attempt to deepen the kiss. I let him. It’s been so long since I’ve had a day alone—a whole day.


After I shower, I find him and the boys in the kitchen, dumping sprinkles onto bubbling pancakes.


“Mommy look! Daddy let us put sprinkles on our pancakes!” Max points excitedly to the griddle.


“Mmm,” I kiss his little cheek, “those look delicious. Have fun today, boys.” I kiss them all on the head, Eric included, before heading to the door.


“Where you off to today?” Eric puts plates on the table, situates the boys, and meets me at the door.


I shrug. “I’m going to drive around for a while. Maybe grab some lunch.”


He tucks a strand of hair behind my ear. “Are you gonna call Tosha?”


“She’s still at a conference in L.A., I think. I’ll keep myself occupied, don’t worry.”


Ten minutes later I’m on my knees in front of Lucas Fisher’s grave at the edge of the huge Catholic cemetery with tears pouring down my face.


I shouldn’t be here. At all. The last time I was here was about three days before my parents pulled me out of school for a year. I screamed at him—I screamed at a grave. Today, I’m not screaming. I’m just . . . remembering. Remembering how this all really started.




Ryker and I had been together for about four months by September of 2001. He was enrolled at Amherst College and we met at a concert on the Amherst common at the end of our freshman year. He was wearing a grey t-shirt with “National Guard” in black block letters across his toned chest. At a height I placed around 6’5”, he was so striking, I had to sway my tipsy self over to him and say “hi.” He had a blonde buzz-cut that let me see the tight muscles in his neck each time he tilted his head.


“I’m Natalie,” I giggled, “you’re cute.”


I watched the heat wrap around the back of his neck and up to his cheeks. “Thanks. I’m Ryker Manning. You’re hot.”


“National Guard, huh?” I pressed my palms onto his pecs. I was more forward, then.


“National Guard.” He grinned, grabbed my wrists, and pulled me into a kiss. Just like that. Four seconds after meeting Ryker Manning, I was standing on the common kissing him.


“Who’s your friend, dude?” A slightly shorter guy stepped to Ryker’s side.


“This is my new friend, Natalie.” Ryker laughed, “Natalie, this is my best friend, Lucas.”