Francine Garson’s work has appeared in a number of print and online magazines. Her flash fiction received a first place award from the League of American Pen Women in 2010 and a second place award from WOW-Women on Writing in 2013. She holds a master’s degree in college student administration and is a former law school administrator and independent college counselor. Today she works part-time, reads, writes, has mastered a few magic tricks, and attempts to play the piano. Her children are grown, and she lives in central New Jersey with her husband and lots of books. Learn more about her at francinegarson.com and follow her on Twitter at @francinegarson.
All Her Fault
by Francine Garson
It was all her fault. That’s what Alex had said, and he was right. Caitlin had gotten what she’d deserved. What did she expect? Alex had told her the postman lingered in his truck staring as she walked back to the house with a bundle of bills and a stack of circulars, his eyes glued to her jeans as her pockets moved up and down. Alex had warned her not to wear those jeans. Not for anyone but him.
“A married woman shouldn’t dress like that,” he had said. “Not in front of other men. Not for them.”
Then there was the cashier at the supermarket. Even though he was old enough to be her father, he’d had that look in his eye. That look, the one all men have. Alex saw it. Caitlin shouldn’t have worn her v-neck sweater. An invitation, Alex had called it. Come on, mister. Look at me. And when she bent over the counter to snatch up a stray quarter? Of course the man looked. Right down her sweater. Alex saw that too.
And what about at work? Alex had wanted to trust her there. That’s what he’d said. She couldn’t get into too much trouble as a kindergarten teacher. Could she? But then, when she was asked to represent the school at the state education conference, Alex wanted to know why. Caitlin was only twenty-four. She didn’t even have tenure. So why did the principal choose her? Did it have something to do with those pre-conference meetings in his office? Just the two of them. Caitlin and Mr. Schilling. Alone.
“What did you talk about?” Alex wanted to know. “I’m your husband, dammit! Tell me!”
“Reading readiness and study skills and…”
“‘And?’ And what?”
Caitlin couldn’t remember “and what.” Had her skirt ridden up over her knees that afternoon? Had she leaned too far over the printed schedule on Mr. Schilling’s desk?
And what about the time the janitor changed Caitlin’s flat tire in the school parking lot? That wasn’t a janitor’s job. Why did he do that?
“Why, Caitlin? Why?” Alex’s questions flew out of his mouth like angry bees.
Alex was right to be upset. To be angry. It was her own fault. Did she do it on purpose, or was it just her nature? Some sort of genetic trait like blue eyes or left-handedness? Caitlin didn’t know. Not that it mattered.
She pressed a shivery ice pack against her swollen cheek and looked down at the purplish yellow mark on her shoulder. She didn’t blame Alex. He was her husband. He loved her. Caitlin knew that it was all her fault.
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