Adirondack, like the chair.
Alice was alone on her deck, looking out over the Yakima River. She was sitting on the Adirondack, the one from her father. And she was waiting. Waiting for her husband to come home. Waiting to hear what kind of bullshit excuse he would share with her this time.
She had tolerated a lot of his nonsense in the eighteen years they were married. She had given him two children and was an insufferably good wife when he hosted his parties for foreign dignitaries. And while she never considered herself a trophy, she knew how he thought of her. How Stephen viewed her in his arrogant blue eyes. Alice hated him, but not for the obvious reasons. She tolerated his bullshit because she had grown indifferent. But this… this was different. Not like the long business trips to Malta, or the skipped birthday parties for his kids because he couldn’t catch a flight home from Chicago. And not even because of the infidelity she knew about. No, those were not enough to make her hate him. Alice hated him because he tried to have her murdered.
He came home two hours after she had gone out onto the deck with her glass of port (now on her third). She heard him fumbling around in the kitchen before pulling the sliding glass door open and peeking his head out onto the deck. He looked shocked to see her. She knew he was.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, his face blank and white.
Alice moved in the Adirondack, turning to face him. She took a large swallow from her glass of port and smiled at him. “I live here, remember?”
Stephen looked out at the Yakima River. “So, how was your trip?” he asked unconvincingly.
“It’s not really my trip you want to talk about, is it?” she said.
He put his head down and disappeared into the kitchen. Alice knew he was grabbing a beer from the fridge. Whenever he was feeling any pressure, he retreated to the beer in the fridge. Ice cold, in a glass bottle. Moments later, he emerged onto the deck and sat in the adjoining Adirondack by Alice. He drank from his beer, not looking at Alice’s face, watching his shoes, as if they held an answer to why she was here. He set his beer on the large wooden armrest.
“Why would you be surprised to see me home, Stephen?”
He continued looking at his shoes.
He looked up at her, shocked by her sudden outburst. “Don’t make me say it, Alice.”
“You sonofabitch. You coward.” Alice slapped him across the face as he went for his beer, sending the green bottle flying over the rail of the deck. “You’re a fucking coward, Stephen.” She was calm now, collected. She took another sip of her port and then set the glass down on the large armrest of the Adirondack.
“How… how are you still alive?” Stephen asked, his hands shaking.
“I’m alive because you’re lousy at everything you do. You’re a terrible lover. A terrible husband. And you’re a terrible father!” She knew that the last part would sting him more than anything else. She knew his weakness was his two daughters. For as much as he had grown estranged from her, Alice knew that he adored his daughters, even if they didn’t necessarily share the sentiment. And for the briefest of moments, she felt sorry for him. But that emotion passed as quickly as it had come, and she slapped him again, hard. He bent over sideways when she struck him, holding his face.
“Look at me, you piece of shit. Look me in the eyes and explain why you would try to have me killed,” she stood over him now—glaring down at him—judging him.
He started crying, moving his hands from his face and staring up into the evening sky. “I needed money,” he said.
Alice moved into his space. “We have money!” She hit him across the face. And when he bent over trying to avoid her blows, she struck him across his neck and his back—pounding on him with her fists. She stopped and plopped back into the Adirondack. Alice grabbed her glass of port and gulped it down, waiting for his response. She knew without a doubt that she had damaged him far worse than anything he tried to do to her. She knew she had broken him of everything. His manhood was destroyed by calling him a lousy father. She had physically assaulted him, and now she would humiliate him. The only thing to do was wait for him to crack.
It took him several minutes to compose himself. He straightened up in the chair and ran both hands through his hair, inhaling deeply and then exhaling. “Where’s Toby?” Stephen asked.
It shocked Alice that this was the first thing out of his mouth after her tirade. And even though she never learned the name of the man who tried to kill her, she knew immediately who Toby was. Toby was the man who was hired by her husband to kill his wife. Priceless. Alice smirked. There would be a few more questions to ask. But she would wait. Watching him squirm was the very least she could do.
“Did you kill him?” Stephen asked, looking like a child being reprimanded for touching the crystal horses in an antique store.
Alice smirked again. “We have money, Stephen,” she said, calm. “So, why?”
Stephen stood up and began pacing on the deck. Overhead, a large cloud was growing heavy and gray. There would be rain, no doubt. “I’ve been in trouble for the past eight years,” he started.
Alice settled into her chair, wishing she had another glass of port.
Stephen continued. “Big trouble. With guys that don’t play around. Guys that don’t wait to get their money back. In an act of desperation, I took out a life insurance policy on you. Two million dollars, and then I would be clear.”
The first drops of rain splashed onto Alice’s arms. She looked up and saw that the whole sky was now covered in thick clouds, set to burst at any moment. But a little rain would not stop his confession. She intended to get the rest of it out of him. What she didn’t expect was what he told her next. And much like the heavy clouds overhead, her entire world was about to burst.