It was difficult to say how long they stayed in the closet after the house fell silent. When they emerged it felt like the door opened to a new existence, the world after an atom bomb, the molecules rearranged so that even its scent was slightly different: leaves burning in autumn, fresh dirt, mint.
Linda walked down the staircase ahead of Kiel, the baseball bat hanging limply from her fingers. Many things were gone that could never be replaced: the gray pearl studs her father brought her from the Dalmatian Coast, her grandmother’s crystal bowl that opened like a lotus, the small painting of the lavender fields in Avignon, the one her mother had to hang close to the ceiling because Linda, as a small child, would run her fingertips along the canvas where the thick drops of oil paint held the light so that they looked as if they hadn’t yet dried. All were lost, and in their place were shards of glass on the kitchen floor, cabinets and drawers hanging open, naked and exposed as children. The men had come through the door leading out to the deck, a door that now hung open to the dense, shape-shifting darkness of the backyard. Everything was quiet except for the roar of crickets and katydids.
“Jesus, I can’t fucking believe this — I mean, they could have killed us, they could have just shot us in the face, like boom, dead,” Kiel said. “Shouldn’t you call the cops?”
“Man, my parents are not going to believe this shit,” Kiel said, rubbing his palm along his forehead. He let out a short, harsh laugh.
Linda looked at him, another stranger in her home, another stranger who would leave her to this empty, broken house. She lifted up the baseball bat, shifting her weight to her back foot, knees bent, hands six inches from her chest. Kiel’s lips parted in confusion, his brows curved upwards as Linda swung the bat across the top of the granite island — a carton of orange juice hit the wall, pale streaks of liquid splattering against the cream paint, the pieces of an Italian ceramic bowl falling to the ground with the bright crack of a bell.
Kiel yelled, his forearms shielding his face. She responded by crashing the metal tip of the bat against the mirror next to the kitchen table. It shattered in a burst of light, a firework over a dark bay. Kiel ran into the street as Linda went through the house, her feet red and raw with blood, cracking through the static black of the television screen, breaking the cabinets holding wedding china, vases and picture frames becoming nothing more than glass and metal, knowing that she could not stop until there was nothing left, until she could hear the men and women applauding from the bleachers, telling her it was over now, the house was once again her own.
Rowan Beaird is currently teaching English in rural Japan. She was previously the Program Manager for Grub Street in Boston, and was the recipient of the Propper Prize for Poetry while getting her B.A. in English Literature from Kenyon College. She is originally from the suburbs of Chicago.