Short Story: The House

This whole day has been a blur. I’m not entirely sure how I got here. I have spent my entire life doing the right things like supporting my family, working long hard hours on the job, and going to church every Sunday. Even with all this, I managed to lose it all. Now I am in the one place that I never thought I would be, a jail cell.
A small town jail cell that looks nothing like what we see on television. They never talk about the smell on Barney Miller. This stale moist smell as if someone barely cleaned the urine from the floor. I just stare at this stone floor because I don’t want to look up. I don’t want to see the other people who may be here. These are the people I thought I would never be in the room with, much less sharing a prison.
I cannot help the tears from my eyes. I lost everything that defines me and all I was trying to do was stay one step ahead of this marriage.  Marcia! I can’t event think about what has happen between us. As much as I try to bury my head in between my hands, I will never be able to hide from myself.
All I wanted to do was to get rid of this house! This god-forsaken house that we bought 5 years ago thinking that it could be our summer cottage, when in reality, it became the bane of my existence. A virtual money pit that seemed to turn my marriage upside down, I only blame myself for all of this. It was my idea to buy it. I wanted to have a place that Marcia and I can spend time away from everything and everyone.
It was no secret that our marriage was in trouble even then.  I thought that the incredible amounts of money I brought home every paycheck would have kept her happy. I was a true company guy. When there was a conference to go to, I was there. When clients needed to be entertained, I was the one to make sure they were taken care of. I was good at my job and I loved every minute of it. But, I knew that I was barely home and she missed me (or so I thought).
This house was my solution to our marriage. I figured we could spend quality time together and reinvigorate the passion we once had. I thought she would be surprised when I told her I bought it, but something didn’t sit well with me about her reaction. I thought she would be happy but she complained about the money and not including her in the decision. Hide sight being 20/20, she was right. Had I knew then what I know now, I would have realized that my marriage was already over.
I knew the house was going to be something that needed to be fixed. I thought we could do that as a family. Andrew, my dear son (I can only imagine what he thinks of me now), would have helped us.  But, things just fell apart just about a year after I bought that house. I lost my job. The company I worked for was one of those places that people love to talk about. When ‘we’ received a bailout, it didn’t mean ‘me’ or ‘us’. I was laid off like thousands of people.
I could not find a job and had two mortgages. Marcia, who was a stay at home mother, could not stand my presence. Always agitated that I didn’t have a job and the money we saved was evaporating quickly. The house would always be brought up and became a wedge between us. I didn’t tell her that I knew the real reason she was angry with me being home all the time. I found out a week after I got laid off that she was fucking my co-worker, Jeff.  I woke up late one morning while she was out on her run. She left her phone on the kitchen table. I had no intention on looking through her phone but when she got a text message, out of habit I just looked at the screen. He texted her about possibly meeting that weekend, I was stunned.
I looked through rest of her messages hoping and praying I was wrong. There were hundreds of messages, dirty messages. I felt numb. Maybe it was the depression of losing my job but I simply left to work on that house. I had this idea that I would spend the rest of what we had to fix it up. I worked on the house everyday and she hated me for it. I did look for a job when she wasn’t around, I would send resumes out as often as I could. I had a few interviews here and there, but it turns out they were not hiring a man in his mid 40’s with tons of experience.
I spent four years fixing that house to what I wanted it to be. I replaced the roof. I rebuilt the chimney and replaced all the windows. I installed a brand new furnace and redid that entire kitchen myself. All the while, my beautiful wife of fourteen years was committing adultery. This was going to be the house I lived in. I was going to leave her when I was ready, when I finally got a job. Of course she had no problem finding a job.  
Sure, we had many fights during these past few years but we decided to stay together for Andrew’s sake. He is a freshman at Syracuse University and we didn’t want him to worry about us. Thank god he is such a smart kid. He was awarded a full academic scholarship. He is majoring in Forensic Science.
Yesterday I found out I got a job. Nothing spectacular, but it is a second chance. I would be able to finally handle things and eventually start the divorce process. I went to that house to install some light fixtures in the living room when I saw it, a small earring on the futon. She had been there! I left a spare set of keys with Andrew but he is away at college. She must have gotten them from his room. Why would she be here?
I was so angry. I will not let her take this way from me! I cannot have her screwing this man in my house. I worked too hard for this. So, I plotted to do the only thing I could do.
I walked out onto the deck and grabbed the bottle of lighter fluid that I used for the brand new charcoal grill I bought. I sprayed lighter fluid everywhere. I was not going to let this woman do this to me. I am not going to live in another place where she has fucked her lover. I just had this house appraised and I will just collect the insurance on it.  I empty the bottle and jump into my car. I have every intention on lighting this house in the morning while she on her morning run.
The drive is a good 40 minutes coming and going. I wipe the bottle clean and put in the trunk of her car. She will get blamed for arson and I will be free of her. Divorce will be an easy thing after that.
I woke up early this morning from my peaceful slumber on the couch and I noticed that her car is gone. Today is Saturday and it is way too early for Marcia to go for her run. There is a knock on the door. I open it and there is the County Sheriff. “Mr. Stephens?” he asks. I nod my head and ask him what is going on. “There has been a fire and I am afraid we found your wife…and another gentlemen, dead”
The rest of today was a blur. I was arrested for suspicion of Arson. They take me in for preliminary questioning. Where were you last night? I was home. Did you know your wife was committing Adultery? I had no idea, officer! The fire department found traces of lighter fluid all over the house, how do you suppose that got there? My wife was jealous that I spent all my time and our money fixing up the house. I have no idea how it got there. I just finished renovating it.
My day was spent answering question after question. It was pretty much over for me. I begin to sob and say how I cannot believe my wife is dead much less that she had a lover! The tears were real, but my words weren’t. This was the first time I admitted to myself that Marcia really did not love me. But, now what? I’m not even sure how the fire started!
So, now I sit here waiting for my fate. I never asked for a lawyer because, technically, I really didn’t set that fire. I hear the jail cell open. “Mr. Stephens, you are free to go. The evidence shows that your wife died trying to set the fire. We found that a cigarette was the initial cause of the blaze. Did your wife smoke?”
Marcia was never a smoker and neither was Jeff. “Yes, my wife smoked. It was a nasty habit.” I walk out of that jailhouse knowing that I have lied for the final time.
The only person I know who smoked, was Andrew. 

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One thought on “Short Story: The House

  1. Do you have more of these short stories? It feels like I am reading about real characters. I like that I could get to know them in such a short story. Well done!

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