Because she was big into symbolism, Freda Oritz cooked an omelette in her ex-lover's blood. Such an act had everything you could want: it could be a sacrifice to cleanse the aberration of the failed relationship, the egg could represent the cycle of life-death-and-life-again, the act of consuming said blood-soaked egg was the physical manifestation of completely eradicating Justin from her emotional memory, and finally, it could be a healthy meal - a mushroom and spinach omelette - to boot.
It wasn't clear sailing, however. Blood was a rather poor cooking choice because of coagulation, so it was really a couple teaspoons of Justin Metcalfe's blood mixed with vegetable oil. Since this decision to fire up the stove was more impulsive than calculated, she had to make do with whatever was in the fridge, and if she was in a calmer state of mind she might have decided that the spinach was a bit too brown and the film on the mushrooms meant tossing them out to be safe rather than sorry.
But the real problem was focus. She had put back over half a bottle of Argentinean malbec in the last forty minutes and her head was starting to feel a bit heavy. In fact, flipping the slowly thickening patty of aborted chick, almost rotten vegetables and the reddish hue of Justin's life force was losing its appeal at an exponential rate.
Freda was playing the role of the spurned woman, the jilted lover, who was now entering the lost weekend. Only after a period of penance - whether a hangover tomorrow morning or perhaps six months in a nunnery - can she emerge healed, stronger, more self-assured, ready to love again.
But did she really love Justin Metcalfe in the first place? She would say she was in the process of failing in love with him. Moving towards a moment where she could picture a long life by his side, complaining about their respective jobs and telling their 1.5 children that they better finish everything on their plate if they wanted ice cream for dessert. Everything was in a holding pattern, which made Freda think of airplanes circling a busy airport.
And she couldn't help but grin as she almost dropped the spatula, realizing that their plane ran out of gas and crashed in a farmer's field a mile before the runway started.
An hour ago Freda was checking something on her tablet, sitting on the barstools at the kitchen counter. Suddenly Justin came in bleeding from the porch, holding his dripping red forearm, swearing and requesting help. She looked up and immediately started walking towards him.
"Oh god, what happened?"
"Stupid...I left the pipe saw in the wrong place...get some-"
"Cloths, paper towels. Just sit right there. Keep the pressure on. Raise your arm, elevate."
As she quickly grabbed the most basic items from the oven handle and from beside the sink she watched Justin dizzily sit down, a very steady trail of blood leading back towards the front door.
Freda found herself counting the sheets of paper towel and getting stuck on whether six or seven would be enough, and when she finally realized how ridiculous a quandary it was, she looked over at Justin expecting him to be giving her almost a reproachful look, but instead he seemed lost in the three inch gash in his arm, crimson pouring out of it like a faucet.
"Justin...", she began breathlessly, holding up the cloth and paper towels like they were sacred objects with divine powers that could perform miracles.
"Heavy...", he responded, which somehow broke her own stupor, pushing her into disaster mode. Holding the sheets against the wound, then making a quick tie above the elbow with the cloth. She reminded him to keep pressure on it and elevate, then rushed up the stairs and into the bathroom for the medical kit.
Freda wondered if they should call 911. Justin would probably not be interested. The last time they had a medical emergency - a terrible bout of food poisoning - they ended up dealing with the problem themselves - expelling their stomachs' contents from every orifice - in the hospital waiting room's bathroom, before a single nurse or doctor called their name. After that Justin promised her that unless one of them was clearly dying, there would be no point in getting the hospital involved.
As she stomped back down the stairs, Freda was ready to classify this as a grey area. If Justin looks like he's about to pass out...
"Freda...", he calls, before she rounds the corner and can look him over.
"I need to tell you that-"
"Oh, geez, look at the size of that puddle at your feet. Are you sure you're okay? Do you feel like you're going to pass out? Are you dizzy at all? Lightheaded?"
Freda had already cracked open the kit and beginning to unspool the tenser bandage roll as she continued.
"Tell me if you feel like you're going to faint. I mean, we don't have to go to the hospital or anything right now if you feel all right, but I think you might need stitches at one point."
And then he was silent and stared off at the stove for a moment, as if the iron skillet he washed everyday was the most interesting thing in the world. At first Freda thought he was he trying to take it easy, stay calm, and let her swab the wound with an alcohol-soaked towelette before starting the wrapping of the bandages.
A ritual. Something they were doing together.
But it changed slightly. She wanted to chalk up the feeling that he was miles away to the blood loss, but it wasn't taking. So she kept tending to his wounds and waited for him to say something.
No dice. It was an awkward silence until she broke it.
"Just hold still another minute. Don't move your arm at all. Anyway, sorry, you were saying something?"
"Freda, I... I don't think this is working out."
She caught herself just in time from saying, "then you can put on your own bandages", but correctly interpreting his words meant that she had frozen in place, her right hand holding his forearm, her left still pulling on the tenser bandage, as if she would now be tightening it for all eternity.
“What do you mean?”
And she felt like an idiot for saying that because she knew what he meant, but she needed more information right away to properly process this sudden news.
“I haven't felt like... it's been working the way I thought it would. It's... hard to explain...especially now...”
She caught herself yet again, this time from saying “are you sure it's not the blood loss?”, because she was a serious person and this was a serious conversation and she wasn't going to play the role of the tear-stricken-I-can-change-damsel-in-suddenly-renewed-distress. She also had to jettison the knee-jerk “are you serious?” question. Freda must have been silent for a while, because Justin spoke again.
“So...um...that's what I wanted to say.”
“How long have you felt this way?”
“Well I mean it's not like there was any one day or thing, it just...over a couple weeks I started wondering this...about us...”
This time she dumped any concerns and threw her cards on the now creaking table.
“Is it someone else?”
“I think so.”
Which resulted in:
“You think so?”
We can skip the boiling over shouting match that carefully mixed harsh accusations and unbelievable apologies, give barely a glance to Justin marching over his own blood and out the door and move right to the food that Freda is half-tending over in her now otherwise empty home.
Rushing through the wine results in the kind of thoughts that dribble out audibly in mumbles and sighs, in not quite sentences with exaggerations surrounding tiny kernels of truth.
Something wasn't enough. Something was lacking. When they were together there was a void always in the corner that neither of them could fill with word, deed, or feeling.
The difference was how they approached it. Freda saw it as the natural challenge to all relationships. You had to feed this endless abyss with everything you could find, and in the act of trying to make this 'lack' go away, you find each other, and that what true love is.
Justin saw it as a problem that could never be fixed and so to hell with it.
At this point Freda will freely admit that she is not going to be the most impartial assessor of Justin Metcalfe's actions.
She is clinging to her first fully formed thought, however, after Justin stomped out:
You have to be a real prick to break up with someone while they're applying a tourniquet to your arm.
Freda wasn't that drunk when she started to clean up the bloody trail of Justin Metcalfe, and the inspiration for his plasma to be something greater than an unpleasant chore can't be totally blamed on the next glass, either.
She wrung out the three paper towels over a mixing bowl, surprised and pleased with the result. No reason to worry about dirt. Freda kept an impeccably clean kitchen, with quick daily sweeps, dusts and mops in the morning. For her, when it came to the kitchen, being called anal-retentive is almost a compliment.
She grabbed a whisk and between rushing to the fridge to see what her options were, continued to beat the blood to keep it from coagulating.
Part of having a clean kitchen came from having an empty fridge. Hence the second rate additions to the eggs (she at least kept a fresh carton of those).
If the wine was corked she might not have bothered in the first place due to the effort, but a screw top cap meant she was filling her coffee mug with impunity.
Freda comforted herself with platitudes, the types of encouraging words she knew she would be hearing by the truckload as she slowly informed her friends and co-workers about the jerk that shuffled out of her life after she very nearly saved his.
More fish in the sea. I knew he wasn't right for you. Remember that time he said so-and-so but really did this-and-that? You're better off without him.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
There was more.
There was always more.
Except for this. This is the last of him.
Sizzling up for my own-
Inspiration hit her like brick. Why stop at blood? Why not throw everything Justin into the skillet? Photographs, papers, anything that could sizzle and burn. Obviously the notion of eating the omelette is going be dashed against the rocks, but that's what pizza delivery is for. Let's take a step back from cannibalism and into an activity that is slightly healthier from a headspace point of view. This was actually something she could tell her friends she did. A makeshift bonfire is more acceptable than a Justin Metcalfe blood omelette.
Freda rushes out of the kitchen and climbs the stars like a five-year-old, hands on the steps for added support.
From her bedroom she pilfers the easy stuff. The photographs, the Sophie Kinsella book he bought her thinking she'd like it, small wooden animal carvings, the plastic whatever, the evidence of them taking a candle making class, and, for the rather practical reason that seems ridiculous now, a shoebox full of receipts that they were going to use to do their taxes together.
Freda barrels back down the stairs and stands over the ex-meal, dropping these items into the skillet with as much professionalism as she could muster up at the moment, treating the pictures and trinkets like parts of a recipe.
Black smoke belched from the photographs, the candles turned into a waxy blob atop the omelette, and the wooden figurines quietly burned where they lay.
Freda did an admirable job at keeping her laughter as non-maniacal as possible. After pushing the items around a bit more, she put down the spatula and sashayed over to the counter for a victory mug of wine.
Unfortunately her fingers grazed the bottle in such a way that she pushed it over and it tumbled to the floor yet thanks to a quick but painful interception by her foot it didn't break but clanged and rolled along the floor, spewing generous helpings of red across the hardwood, covering up the last bits of evidence that proved Justin bled out like a stuck pig right here on this very spot.
Freda watched it happen and swore and sighed exhaustively when the bottle finished throwing up. She walked to the laundry room and only then remembered that the mop was in the second bathroom.
Tiredness was setting in as she climbed the stairs, followed closely by general uncertainty and second guessing.
“Please help me”, she whispered to the steps at the halfway point.
She took a deep breath at the top of the stairs, stared into the bathroom mirror for much too long, drudgingly grabbed the mop and filled the bucket hiding under the sink via the bathtub, and when she finally returned to the main floor she was greeted with billowing black smoke from the kitchen.
This time her profanity was much more energetic, and it paired well with the smoke alarm, which began screaming seconds later.
It would be an exaggeration to say that the fire was raging out of control, but Freda dug her phone out of her pocket and made a dazed emergency call anyway.
After hanging up she remembered that she had a bucket of water beside her and quickly threw it on the stove, thinking only a split second later about how grease fires thrive on h2o.
Not an issue. The fire immediately shrank to nothing but a charred simmer in the ruined skillet.
As her breath came back to normal Freda tentatively stepped closer to her former stove and oven. There was only blackened nothing in the pan. Nary a hint of Justin anywhere. He went up in the flames that she'd already forgotten about.
Nearby cupboards were singed and a lot of paint peeled, but it still seemed to be a do-it-yourself fixer upper. She could do without the current smell, though.
She tried to remember what sort of fire insurance coverage she had.
Freda ran upstairs and downed three glass of water, then did her lips, lashes, and put on a dress for the fire department.
|Be careful what you bitch for|