By Gratia Serpento
Kenan watches his wife as she moves about the bathroom, brushing her teeth and readying herself for bed, quietly humming a Black Eyed Peas song as she always does. His wife is wearing old pajamas that have stains and holes, her dark hair tied up in a ratty bun, and she has mismatched socks on, exactly like she usually does. She’s curvy and thicker, with long brown hair and bright blue eyes, creamy skin with endless freckles.
There is not a hair out of place, nothing that is strange or peculiar, but still Kenan’s stomach tightens as he watches her from the bedroom.
There is something just… off about his wife. Perhaps work is proving to be a greater strain than he has originally thought, making him question the most normal things, but perhaps something is wrong.
“Criss?” Kenan calls out.
“Wuh?” his wife says, still brushing her teeth.
“How did we meet?”
The faucet runs, loud in their silence, as Criss spits and wipes her mouth. Her fingers stroke alongside her jaw as her eyebrows knit, meeting his eyes in the mirror. “Why are you asking?”
“Why, did you forget?” Her voice is a tease.
Kenan just shakes his head. “Criss, how did we meet?”
“Well, I went clubbing with some girlfriends, and you went clubbing with your boys,” Criss explains, slow and prolonging every word, still staring at him through the mirror’s reflection. “We started dancing, and then I got a bit too drunk and started talking about Pokemon, and you really liked that. You wrote your number on a napkin and snuck it into my pocket. Next day I woke up with a hangover, and texted you a bunch of random Squirtle GIFs. We’ve been together ever since… why are you asking?”
“There was something I said to you, on our very first date,” Kenan said, ignoring her question. “What was it?”
“That Squirtle was your least favorite Pokemon?” Criss chuckled, trying to get a little humor in the room and dispel the tension.
“I’m being serious,” he said. “I whispered it in your ear as I was walking you to your car. What did I say?”
“Kenan, what’s —”
“Answer me, please.”
“Tell me why.”
The more he looked at her, the more Kenan was getting uncomfortable. His instincts were right, he was sure of it. Something was wrong with his wife. “I told you something that no one else heard, no one else knows, and no one else gets. And I know you remember, I know you do.”
Her eyes widen and she rubs along her jawline, looking a little panicky. “I-I don’t remember. What —”
“I told you that people were like birds to me; always coming and leaving, getting close but always going, and that I questioned what was so wrong with me that everyone left. And you told me that penguins mate for life, and you couldn’t leave me, wouldn’t leave me, not in a snowstorm or anything.”
“Oh,” Criss’s mouth dropped in a gasp, and Kenan saw no recognition of the words in her eyes. Anxiously gripping her jawline, she lowered her gaze and quietly whispered, “That’s why she always gave you penguin gifts.”
“Excuse me?!” Kenan sat up from the bed, watching her carefully.
“I mean, that’s why I — that’s what, I, you —”
“Are you okay, Criss?”
“I’m fine, I don’t get —”
She turned to look at him, and he stared at her reddened neck, where there was a small peel along her jaw. When she caught his eyes, she frantically covered her neck, and realization dawned on Kenan.
“You’re not my wife!” He scrambled out of the room, racing downstairs and grabbing his phone. He went to dial the emergency number, but the phone was ripped from his hand and tossed across the room.
“Maybe I wasn’t her originally but aren’t you happy with me?!” his wife screamed. “I’ve done everything I could for you, everything she wouldn’t do! I did it all for you! I learned her mannerisms, I learned her voice, I learned everything she was! I don’t see why she was so special that you ditched me for her, but I tried! I tried and tried and why can’t I be good enough for you?!”
“Who are you!”
The woman stood there, chest heaving, and suddenly looked so dejected. So lost. Wordlessly, she grabbed onto her hair and yanked along the roots, her dark locks pulling from her scalp, quickly replaced with a golden blonde. She peels down her body and steps out of a skin suit, revealing a small, thinner body beneath. She plucks the blue contacts from her eyes, showing her true brown orbs.
Finally, she removes her face. Gone are the freckles, the rosy cheeks, the hooked nose, the soft, lovely face Kenan fell in love with. Instead, there’s a button nose, a smooth face, blanched cheeks, a sharp, angled face that Kenan remembered.
“Svenska?” He walks backwards, eyes wide as he stares at the scene. At the woman who was not his wife, standing about a bodysuit, contacts, and a latex face. Please, Kenan prayed, please let that be latex.
“Hi, Kenan,” his ex murmured. With blazing eyes, she pleaded, “Your wife didn’t love you like I do, she didn’t deserve you. Besides, you’re happier with me, aren’t you? Aren’t you —”
“My wife, what happened to my wife?”
Svenska’s face ties up, and she snarls, “It doesn’t matter! You have me! You were happy with me!”
“You killed her, didn’t you?” His mouth falls open with horror. “Did you wear her face?”
“I didn’t kill her, but yes, this is her face,” Svenska shrugs, holding up the perfectly preserved face. “I switched after your niece’s dance recital.”
Four months. It’d been four months.
Kenan’s stomach spasms, and he vomits on the floor. Svenska gives him a pitying look, but he races across the room, grabbing his phone. “This is absurd, I can’t believe you would do this to me! We dated for six months, and it’s been ten years.” He dials 9-1-1, saying, “You can’t do this —”
He slams against the ground, the phone knocked out of his hand. Svenska drops the vase, glass shattering as she jumps to grab the phone, quickly talking into it.
“Sorry, my kid was playing with my phone, no emergency!” She hangs up, and watches Kenan for a moment. Blood is sprayed from across his skull, but she knows he’ll survive. He has to survive. She’s given up too much for him to leave her so soon.
Svenska crouches down, rubbing her hand over his brow. He looks so peaceful, laying here, asleep. She plants her hands under his arms and begins pulling him towards the basement.
“Don’t worry, my lovely,” she whispers. “We’re going to have a wonderful rest of our lives, without the presence of her.”
Gratia Serpento is an Oregonian poet/journalist/writer who spends who days researching criminals for fun. She’s had works published with Havik, The Graveyard Zine, Wild Greens Magazine, Blue Things Zine, The Yard: Crime Blog among others. Her works on The Yard, are as follows, “The Canary, The Shadow and The Knife”, “Loraine“, “The Hitman and His Wife”, “The Robinsons“, “The Dead Girlfriends“ and “Vera Likely’s Endeavors” Check out her Instagram (@poet_serpento) for more.
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