When She Realized Their Relationship Was Over

Susannah van der Zaag
Susannah van der Zaag

Ava took a soaked dish sponge to the white subway tiles of the kitchen. The magenta droplets splattered up seven rectangles, and she watched as each swipe produced a watered-down smear.

“If that’s what you want, then fine,” she said. Her temples throbbed with pain as she looked at her husband. “Then fine.”

She dumped the beet chunks out from her juicer into her sink, and flipped on the garbage disposal. To muffle the sound of his voice, she let it run for a bit after it cleared.

“We’ve been disconnected for years,” he said. He moved from the bar stool behind the kitchen island and walked toward her. “This won’t work.”

“Sean, stop.” She placed her hand against the soft cotton of his white t-shirt and pushed him away.

He put both hands up and backed himself out of the kitchen. “I’ll have most of my things gone by the end of the day.”

Ava watched his legs disappear behind the grey wall as he climbed the stairs to the bedroom. His footfalls sounded on the ceiling above her.

She walked toward the utensil drawer and rested her left hand on top of the counter above it.
The quartz felt cool on her palm. She opened the drawer and looked at the engraved sterling silver silverware set she and Sean were given eight years ago. Using her right index and middle finger, Ava traced the initials on one of the spoon’s handle. She felt whiplashed, and she coughed, wet and deep in her chest.

“Ava, hand me the tape that’s in the cabinet,” Sean said from the top of the stairs, behind the wall. “Not the masking, but the duct that’s on top of your sewing kit.”

She coughed again and pushed the hair out of her face. She put her hand under her nose and walked toward the cabinet. Feeling around, Ava lifted up onto her toes and moved aside both Sean’s expired allergy medicines and her anxiety pills that she was prescribed a half a year into their therapy routine. She used to keep a few on her in a little yellow pillbox when she thought they worked. She’d throw it in her coat pocket when they’d go out, and discreetly outline its rectangular shape when she felt the urge to take one. She never finished the pill pack because she didn’t like how they made her feel. Her diaphragm fluttered, and the surge of the medicine made her flushed.

“Did you find it?” Sean asked from the top of the stairs.

Ava dropped back down onto her heels. She raised the roll of silver tape up in her hand. “Yeah, I found it.”

She walked up the stairs, using her left hand to hold onto the wall. Their bedroom was filled with sunlight, and Sean was standing in the closet. The cream slipcovered chaise was moved up against the window to keep the curtains from falling, and Sean had a pile of neatly folded clothes on top of it, as if at the doctor’s office.

“Where should I put this?” she asked. She thumbed at the tape’s edge to loosen its hold.

Sean turned around. He had dress pants draped over his arm. “You can put it on the bed.”

Ava walked to the foot of it and sat down on its edge, placing the tape to her right side. Sean had two boxes, one that read FRAGILE and the other, CLOTHES, on top of the mattress. She watched him as he folded his pants along the pleat, paying attention to how he stretched his arms beneath the fabric, placing it down into a box like he was putting a newborn into its bassinet. She didn’t want children, and she knew that angered him. The way he’d run his palms down his jeans, resting them on top of his knees, when he would bring up the topic to their therapist.

“I’ll be right back,” he said. He picked up the box with his dress pants. He had each arm underneath it, and the flaps were kept open.

Ava squinted against the sun from the window, and nodded.

She glanced up at the white crown molding, concentrating on the remnants of the yellow saffron paint she and Sean had originally chosen, but then painted over in a latte hue because he didn’t like it.

She turned around and split eye contact between the two boxes, then focused on the one marked FRAGILE. A breath left her mouth, and she propped herself onto her knees to look inside.

Sean’s grassy sneakers caught her off guard, and she placed them onto the white comforter, upside down. She dug deep, past his framed college diploma with the chip in it, and the lamp he purchased from the Grand Bazaar when they traveled to Istanbul together seven years ago.
She lifted up his four-slot watchcase and Nikon Df camera, revealing the base of the box. She pulled out a loosely bubble wrapped picture frame, and carefully unfolded its edges. Behind the glass, a still from the roller coaster Colossus appeared.

Ava remembered that day and it’s sticky air as she and Sean navigated through the maze of steel railing to the first car. Sunlight gleamed through the lattice canopy as they slowly rolled out of the platform, and Sean placed his thigh against hers after making sure the foam-covered safety bar was locked. She didn’t like roller coasters, but Sean did, and as they clicked higher, she pressed against him harder. He touched her knee during the last pull up, and she knew they were about to drop. He pointed his finger at a flash of light to his right and then a rush of air flew her hair back and she became weightless.

Screams echoed and the sound of the wood that was holding up the track shrieked as they fell into the center of the drop, and Sean grabbed her hand as they moved through two more sets of plunges and rises. After they docked at the platform, they walked toward their picture that was displayed on the third monitor. Ava’s eyes were tightly shut, the sleeves of her white t-shirt wrinkled up toward her collar, and she had a closed-mouth smile while leaning into Sean. His face smiled at hers, and his eyes stared at her mouth.

Ava touched the picture, and she outlined the lap harness with her index finger. She felt the tightness she felt from it pressing hard against her that day, in her chest. She wrapped the frame up, and placed it back into the box along with all of its contents, being mindful of the placement. She grabbed for the tape, and struggled for a bit before tearing off a long strip with her teeth.

She sealed the box, feeling as if she had seen something too intimate, a type of a personal parting, and when she heard Sean climb the stairs back up to their bedroom, she moved back to the edge of the bed, placing the tape by her side. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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