Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Breathe (08/19/10)
By Robyn Burke
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Bart carefully observed his wife. She’d been on the phone when he’d come in; whoever she’d been talking to had gotten an earful. What Kyra was pontificating on was nonsense as far as Bart could tell. That was how it was with Kyra these days. It was all in her mind. He had no idea how to deal with this and he took a deep breath.
"Have you seen my truck keys?”
She whirled around from where she stood, He realized suddenly, she had been having a conversation with no one. The hair on the back of his neck prickled.
Her blank stare prompted him to repeat the question and then her expression warned him that all-hell was about to break loose. He reflexively stepped back.
She came at him screeching, her long nails raking the air. Her language was littered with explosive words and he grappled with her flailing arms even as he grappled with his own emotions. He loved her even as he watched the Kyra he’d pledged to stand by in good times and bad, disappear a little more each day.
Bart didn’t know much about mental illness, but he suspected Kyra's spiraling behavior had to be connected to something far beyond their control. His arms wrapped tightly around her, he tried to whisper soothing words but her incensed writhing cut him off. He let go and stepped back. Shrugged helpless as she heaved and panted.
How did things get so messed up? In the privacy of the bedroom he held up discarded jeans hoping to shake loose the missing keys. He thought the keys were not all that was lost. When he’d first met Kyra he’d been bewitched by her passion for life. Sure, she was a little over the top sometimes but he’d figured that was just part of her artistic nature.
Their son was waiting for him. Bart had to find those keys, darn it! Just eight years old, Joey was operating his first lemonade stand at the gas station down the street but it was quitting time. Bart needed to move his truck over there to break down the equipment and haul it away. Distracted by the sounds of Kyra slamming things around downstairs, Bart stood, hands on hips and forced himself to breathe and think calmly.
He had to go back downstairs. Had to deal with Kyra. His patience was running thin. Count to ten, Bart thought, Count to one hundred if need be.
He went methodically through the basket where the assortment of other keys were. The truck keys were simply not there. He heard Kyra's low chuckle and he turned to see her slip back into the shadows of the hallway. He thought he heard a tinkling sound and realized it was a key chain rattling. Swearing under his breath, he followed her.
In the hallway they faced off. Kyra’s face contorted in a grotesque smile as she held her hands behind her back. Bart felt the pressure rising in his chest. Don’t lose it old boy, he thought, no matter how crazy she gets, you have got to stay calm. Breathe, just breathe.
“Kyra, do you have my keys?”
He couldn’t explain his wife’s behavior. He would never understand this intense wind that swept over her and turned her into a tornado. It broke his heart yet he was powerless to change things.
She dangled the keys, mockingly. As he reached, she whisked them away, her laughter falling around him like splintering glass. As he tried to reason with her, the 101 other times rose up in him, swelling, until he thought he’d burst. Her continued expletives, clouded his judgment until all he could think of was doing something—anything –to snap her out of this, to bring her to her senses. Without fully rationalizing it, he slapped her.
Frozen for a brief second, Bart successfully garnered his keys. Without another word, he swung on his heels and left.
With a stone in his gut, Bart dismantled Joey’s lemonade stand and in silence they drove home. In the driveway was a police cruiser. Two deputies flanked Kyra. The stone grew heavier.
Just breathe, Bart counseled himself, just breathe.
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