Dread hit her low in the belly as soon as she padded into the room and saw him sitting at the computer.
“What are you reading?” she asked, although she knew. She recognized the header she’d added a few days earlier.
“You know what I’m reading,” he responded without turning around.
“How did you open that file? It’s password-protected.”
“Passwords don’t really matter if you leave it open,” he said.
Shit. She’d been writing until very late last night, and she must have forgotten to close the document. She couldn’t believe it. Other nights she’d gotten up three or four times to go back to the computer to check. All because she didn’t want him reading it.
“I didn’t mean to leave it open,” she responded lamely.
“Obviously you did, subconsciously,” he said. “You must have wanted my opinion.”
She hated it when he did that. He was always telling her what she thought, what she felt, what she meant. It didn’t matter what she said out loud, because he knew better.
“And honestly, I’m glad you did,” he said, turning to her.
She saw the look on his face and braced herself, tightening the sash of her robe. He was about to get mean. He always told her it was for her own good.
“I think I learned more about you in the past twenty minutes than in the past year,” he said.
“And what’s that?” she said, hating herself for rising to the bait.
“The meek little thing who turns out to be the Big Bad? It’s just… such a cliché. It’s been done to death a million times. Do you really feel so pathetic and powerless that you have to pretend to have this secret self hidden away? It’s… well, you know how I hate zombie movies, right?”
She nodded briefly, too angry to speak.
“Because if you hate your real life so much that you just can’t wait for a zombie apocalypse, and you want the whole world to burn down–well, that’s your problem, right?
“And I know you don’t like to talk about it but it’s pretty obvious you haven’t been treated well by men in the past, but this kind of gruesome… whatever… is just…”
“Thanks for your opinion,” she said tightly. “Just close it down. Stop reading it. And please stop talking.”
“I just need to know,” he said. “You weren’t planning to submit this anywhere, were you? Because people know that we live together. I wouldn’t want this to get around.”
“Stop talking,” she said.
“You weren’t planning on using any of my connections, were you? This is the kind of thing that people at a publisher, or a magazine, they pass around and laugh at, you know? And if people saw your name, and made the connection to me, it would just be really embarrassing. So just promise me this little novel is going to live and die on this computer. I’ll even delete it for you, if you want.”
He turned back to the computer, his hands hovering over the keyboard.
“It’s not a novel,” she said flatly.
“Oh, God, don’t tell me. A screenplay? You can’t be serious.”
“No,” she said. “More like a kind of a memoir.”
“That kind of found-footage Blair Witch Project crap that’s all over the place? That’s even more of a cliché…”
It was time for him to stop talking. And so she stopped him.
It wasn’t flattering, but it was gratifying how surprised he was. And it was careless and messy and stupid to do it at home, but it felt so good, just like it always did.
It was like all the times she’d tried to quit drinking, hoping that sobriety would help her conquer her other, darker impulses. But time after time she would surrender, would feel that delirious slide downwards, that sweet shattering moment when you let go, you give up, you bring it to your lips.