The bridge – naturally carved of stone by the elements – stood at least a hundred feet above the river. Peering over the cold railings that lined its walkway, Ellie tried to imagine what it would be like to fall from such a height and smack into the water below. She was sure it would be fatal.
Her husband was just ahead of her, not far. There was another group of tourists close behind – four women in their fifties – but she didn’t care. Last night had made it clear to her what needed to be done. Brian wasn’t going to slap her around any longer, leaving her bruised and scarred (inside and out). It was time that she took her stand.
He was oblivious, as usual. He kept five paces ahead of her; just as he did everywhere they went. Like she was the help or something. Like she didn’t deserve to be at his side. There was no love between them. Never had been. She married for the security, he married for the pussy. And when she didn’t give it up, he forced himself into her, often violently.
The big house, endless credit cards, and maids were no longer worth it. She couldn’t believe she had gone so long with him; six horrible years now. The only thing that made it easier was that he was often away on business. She hated to think what kind of diseases he brought back to their bed, to her private garden. If she lived beyond this vacation, she was going to get herself tested for everything possible as soon as he was out of the picture.
She hadn’t planned for this to be the day she finally made her move. But her nerves were rattling, her muscles were tightening, and her rage was boiling. She had surpassed her limit of tolerance for her husband’s disgusting behavior, however high it had been before. And now she was poised to strike, like a lion stalking its prey.
The witnesses behind her may as well have not existed. A tunnel-like vision took over Ellie, and all she saw was Brian as he leaned over the railing carelessly, admiring the glistening water below. “Hey, you should check this out,” he called out to her.
How about you get a closer look, she thought angrily, staring into him with a ferocious intensity. She was remembering the time he’d given her a concussion for staying out too late with her friends. And the time he’d kicked her out of the car twenty miles from home without a cell phone. It had been below freezing that night, and she was hardly dressed to be walking such a distance in its chill.
Brian had been horrible to her for far too long, and she could no longer take it. Now, while his guard was down and he was utterly vulnerable, she knew her chance had come. She would pay for it, but she was willing to accept the consequences.
Without further hesitation, she charged forward.
Brian was caught off guard, and too slow to react. His wife grabbed him roughly by the shirt, around its side and back, and used all her strength to force him over the low railing. As he went over, he tried to turn sideways in hopes of catching himself, but the surprise had been too much. He tumbled away from the bridge, screaming in terror as he dropped.
Ellie watched with wide eyes, trembling and breathing heavily, as her husband met his sudden death. As soon as he hit the water, he vanished from sight. But she didn’t turn away so quickly. Ellie remained in place for several minutes, scanning the blue for signs of his body, but saw nothing.
When she returned to reality, she realized that the group of older woman had hurried back to the cliff side. One was on her cell phone (with the police, no doubt), while the other three talked excitedly, tears running down their faces. Ellie was almost as shocked as they were, but a surging freedom from within her was counteracting the effect. She felt better in that moment than she could have ever imagined. Brian was gone, along with his cruelty.
As Ellie made her own way back toward the cliff side, the frightened women shuffled closer to the trees to grant her passage. She looked over at them and smiled weakly, saying, “I finally did it. He won’t ever hurt me again.”
She then walked into the trees absently, making no use of the trails provided. After all, she was in no hurry to reach the parking lot. She was sure the police would just be there waiting for her.
Somewhere in Virginia, I crossed a natural bridge above a creek bed. I don’t know what made me think of it that day I randomly sat down to write “No More,” but it provided me the necessary location for Ellie’s revenge. Of course, some changes were made (like the raging river below), but the inspiration remained strong; in my head, I see that Virginia bridge when reading this story, only with slightly different surroundings.
“No More” was written back in 2013, right after “The Sinking” (in which a husband grows sick of his wife’s nagging and murders her). I decided I wanted to turn the tables, and have it be the abused wife fighting back. The result was something very short and sweet, like the stories inside Elmore Leonard’s When the Women Come to Dance (which I was reading at the time).
It is both challenging and very satisfying to write a story so brief, yet complete. I have yet to successfully complete anything else quite this tight and to-the-point.
"No More" is featured in the collection, Dead As Soon As Born.
Copyright © 2019 Aiden Merchant
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