Happy Never-Again

“Happy never-again to you…”  

It was a mangled version, like Marilyn’s, “Happy birthday, Mr. President…”

Shocking.  Just shocking.

It was amazing how calm she was.  She’d read Safe Haven.  She should be afraid.  Afraid of that one thing that would be the tip-off.  Like cherry pie.

Maybe it was adrenalin. Maybe is was simply that bizarre one-line chorus winding through her mind again and again and again until there was nothing else that could enter.

Maybe she was just going absolutely mad. 

Or maybe for once in her life she was perfectly sane. Smart even.

If there was any reward for sticking it out this long, or for bearing the extra few cuts and bruises of these past six months, it was that she knew him thoroughly and she orchestrated so very carefully knowing his expectations, his mood shifts. 

How closely she had watched them over the years, at first in an attempt to nip the painful havoc in the bud. Then to try to avoid him. To steel herself. To hide.

It made sense. Like a gunshot during a fireworks display. 

Everyone would come.  Everyone would be here. Even her friends, what few he allowed her to have. So many the house would be packed to the hilt. Who would ever notice where she was, what she was doing? She had planned the slide show, a nice bit of darkness for extra protection.  She had planned the toast from all of his co-workers and she had planned that his narcissistic personality would shove her into the background until he was good and ready to come down off the high that being the center of attention gave him.

Of course coming down off of a high came with the anger. He would find something jarring, some way she had been at fault. Probably that she’d spent too much without permission.  The catering cost a pretty penny.  That in itself made her grin.

The definitive pattern could not be altered. It always found her.  But his habits could be used. For the first time.  And the last…

“Happy never-again to you…” 

Her boxes had been sent to the shelter, mostly clothes. There were no memories worth keeping.  Her small suitcase and purse were the cinched in the trash bag thrown into trashcan outside the kitchen door. Money was divided between them and the envelope tucked into her cookbook behind the recipe for amaretto cheesecake. She had made his favorite, and she sure didn’t have to borrow the recipe or the ingredients from a neighbor.  No, she would leave the cookbook on the counter. Open to that page. Snatch the envelope from it, last thing.

She would be among the crowd hiding in the dark when he arrived.  Yes she would be at the front. Clapping, beaming, yelling “Surprise!” And kissing him–goodbye–on the cheek, giving him a farewell hug.

She would turn to the crowd and say, “Let’s get this party started!” 

“Happy never-again to me.”

————————-

Prompt from The Daily Writer by Fred White, page 84.

Write a story about a woman who decides to host a surprise birthday party for her abusive husband. What kind of surprise do you suppose she has in mind?

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