Tell A Tale in 500 Words
The Watched Pot By Annie Knox
When the door opened, she nearly dropped the spoon.
It had been clenched in her fist for the past ten minutes as she switched her wide-eyed gaze from the clock to the pan. A watched pot never boils, she had been told as a child, and now the phrase was floating through her brain on a thin trail of smoke that sounded like her mother's frail voice.
The water in the pan was only simmering and the pasta in there was hard. She was stifling a sob in her throat. With the thought of the belt sharp in her mind, the loud slam of the door had her flinching and the cooking spoon slipped in her grasp. Her heart stopped as she fumbled for it, spinning around to see he was there, home right on time. Her voice was high as she told him that dinner was cooking.
“You know it should already be done, doll.”
His voice rumbled and his shoulders rose; she was reminded of a documentary she'd watched in which a hulking polar bear had risen to its hind legs in the snow and born down on a baby seal. Her ribs tightened as phantom pain raced though them like a warning.
Her apology shook as it slipped through her lips. He moved closer and a million images overwhelmed her; the day they'd wed, families beaming and crying and her smiling as her heart raced in a mixture of love and joy and absolute terror. His face transformed with rage, his fist rising. Their hands tangled over a blanket. His foot swinging towards her face. The way he had held her as she cried over her mother's death. His ring cutting her lip. His smile. His frown.
He moved closer and she was the seal; tiny, blubbering, helpless. She saw her death; dying by his fist, the same way she'd lived. Her mother's voice trickled through again, a barely there voice asking if he was looking after her, sweetheart, is he taking care of you?
The pictures racing through her mind had her hands flexing around the handle of the metal spoon as he drew closer. She felt pains in her legs, her chest, her arms from where this had happened a million times before. She felt her arms lift and the spoon rose above her head and his mouth dropped in surprise as she lashed it down against his reaching hand, which recoiled like a snake as he drew back again.
“NO.” Her voice was firm. Her hands were steady. He stared in shock, fear. She was the bear, suddenly, moving with strength. He called after her as she moved to the door. The door that held the world on the other side.
“You were meant to look after me.” The air was filled with the weight of her words. “But I don't need you to. I'll look after myself.”
The door slammed shut behind her. The pasta in the pot boiled as he stood alone.
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