Beatrice heard her stiff joints crackle as she stood up from bed and began to creep across the hardwood floor, its chill not helping the arthritis in her feet. Those old limbs didn’t work near as well as they used to but carried her body across the short distances she needed.
She walked into the living room where she’d sat at opposite ends of the couch from her late husband in virtual silence for the last several years before he finally went home to meet his maker a month prior. How many times had she stared at his unfortunate face from that distance while he loudly solved the puzzle on that t.v. game show he obsessively watched? “Stupid bastard,” the woman mumbled to herself, thinking of Vaughn. “He was never any good at the bonus round either.” Thoughts of him brought bad memories and bile backed up in her throat. It was too early in the morning for such ugly thoughts.
Vaughn hadn’t always been such a schmuck. Some quality besides his hubris and those blue eyes must have originally attracted her to the man. His charm drew her in, but that charisma quickly morphed into plain conceit. A baby soon on the way meant she stayed with her husband and tried the make the best of things. “You’ve got someone to worry with besides yourself now, girl,” her mother told her. Bea knew it was the truth.
Little Leon loved his daddy, and Vaughn likewise doted on him. It was enough to keep Beatrice in the marriage, but her husband paid more attention to the television than he did her. He certainly spent more time at the office than home but more so for the company of his pretty blond co-worker than any task their boss assigned. Vaughn’s hinky actions became easy to read, and Beatrice wasn’t stupid. Heeding Momma’s advice, though, she stayed for the duration.
By the time Vaughn retired, their son was long gone. Leon had his own aspirations, and Beatrice wanted him to live the way she’d wished for herself – to travel, see the Eiffel Tower or those pyramids over in Egypt – to go somewhere besides here. She wondered if she’d stayed with Vaughn just to spite the man or if they simply shared the bad habit of one another.
A thick strand of her once jet black hair fell in front of her eye. It was now coarse and the color of steel but still accented her startling green eyes. Vaughn called them bewitching and once said she’d vexed him. She never believed that to be the case. Instead, truly the opposite. He’d tricked her with his charming ways and made her fall as much in love with him as he was with himself. “That narcissist probably took a hand mirror with him to his coffin,” she reported out loud to nobody in particular.
A big tabby cat was the only one there to listen, and it languished across the armchair, paying her only the slightest attention. “Ya probably learned those ways from him,” she told the feline. “Ya preen yourself all day long, and lay there pretending like ya don’t hear a word I say. Both a ya considered yourselves the center of the universe.” The old cat paid her no mind and closed the one eye it opened only to verify someone else’s presence in the room. It barely noticed Vaughn’s absence either.
“That’s okay,” she said. “Just ignore me. I’m used to it.” Beatrice sniffed derisively and looked out the window. The street view from the sofa where she usually sat pleased her. “I’ll perch right here, thank ya very much.” She half-heartedly chuckled. She normally amused herself that way, wouldn’t depend on anyone else to do it for her, even if it meant watching the world go by from the living room’s confines.
A satisfied smile crossed her wrinkled face, the skin soft but creased from years of sour expressions settling in on it. Hers wasn’t an unhappy existence. She finally had what she wanted — a quiet, peaceful life. She didn’t even have to compete with the television any more to get it.
*writing prompt “hubris/conceit” from Studio 30+ (photo: Wikimedia Commons)